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Dec 5, 2009
TRIGGER WARNING: This post is about a scene of domestic violence and includes a graphic description.
The show Glee is a favorite topic lately in the sexual health world. It seems like the general consensus is that while it has its issues, it’s a step in the right direction because it’s a sex-positive show.
Even as its issues seemed to pile up, I still really liked Glee. Until last night when I saw the latest episode, "Mattress," on Hulu.
This latest episode of Glee contains an alarming scene of domestic violence. What’s more alarming is how un-alarmed most people — including all the characters on the show — seem to be.
So here’s what happened:
Terri, Will’s wife, has been pretending for a while now that she’s pregnant because she is afraid her husband will leave her otherwise. In this scene, he finds out, and confronts her — using violence and intimidation based on his size and strength.
Yet somehow, Will definitively comes across as the victim, and Terri as the scheming, manipulative person.
So I did what any incoherent, raging person would do in my place and googled "glee mattress violence." And thankfully I came across the blog "this ain’t livin’: [everything] is a feminist issue." And the blogger "meloukhia" says it all a whole lot better than I could. Seriously, read the entire article.
“Mattress” marked the Unmasking of the Deceptor; finally, Will learned the truth about Terri’s pregnancy. And what happened? Did we have a touching scene in which she confessed that she was worried Will was going to leave her, and she thought she was pregnant and she panicked when the doctor said she wasn’t? Did we have A Serious Conversation in which they talked about what was happening with their marriage? (Perhaps as a warning and sobering counterpoint to the doomed marriage Emma is about to embark upon.)
No, we did not.
We learned why Terri is so frightened of Will. We learned, in fact, that Terri had good reason to be terrified of Will, and to be afraid of the consequences of confessing the truth about her pregnancy.
We had domestic violence. We had Terri in the kitchen, cooking (of course, that’s where women should be, right?) and Will stormed in. There was screaming. Things were thrown. Terri was backed in the counter, trapped, physically overpowered by Will. He grabbed her wrist, quite harshly. And screamed some more.
“You’re scaring me,” she said, and Will kept right up with the violence.
The scene ends with Will, Righteous Deceived Will, storming out of the house.
“Come back,” Terri sobs.
This is a scene that plays out every day in households all over America.
And we’re supposed to view Will as a sympathetic character?
Evidently we are, because the rest of the episode featured him. We never saw Terri again. And everyone made sure to sympathize with poor Will and his tough family life, because of course Will didn’t mention the fact that he physically and verbally assaulted his wife.
I know some people might think I am overreacting, but I am going to just go ahead and say that this actually IS a big deal. Every time a moment of domestic violence is treated like it’s not domestic violence is inappropriate and wrong. Especially when it’s on a TV show that a lot of people watch and that is supposed to be sex-positive. This was not "borderline domestic violence." There is NO SUCH THING.
Like meloukhia says,
Glee, you have just crossed a line you cannot come back from. I thought that line had already been crossed, but I was wrong. The minute you depicted domestic violence and cast the abuser as the hero of the piece, you went irrevocably to a Dark Place. There is no redemption from here; I don’t care how Will’s character is being set up and how he is supposed to be read, in this episode, he was a Wronged Man and a Tragic Hero who assaulted his wife.