Gleecap: Diva Complexes and the ‘Asian F’

Harry Shum Jr. of 'Glee' (Photo: Fox)

Harry Shum Jr. of 'Glee' (Photo: Fox)

OMG, Gleeks. You probably weren’t aware of this until the previews for this week’s “Glee” started airing, but two of the main characters, Rachel and Mercedes… they have diva complexes. I know! It’s been so easy to miss over the past two seasons, but apparently there’s even some sort of rivalry between them, like they both want to be stars or something. I’m sure you, like me, were staggeringly intrigued by this brand-new story development that was highlighted in promos as the “ultimate showdown.”

Oops, sorry, my sarcasm meter accidentally got turned all the way up. Dialing it back… Okay. What I meant to say was that despite the previews failing to pique my interest by emphasizing a well-done (practically burnt, in fact) plot line, I tuned in because those same previews also briefly hinted at a Mike Chang subplot and that Schue would have a non-rap musical number. Double win.

I desperately want to insert a joke here that starts with “So an Asian and a ginger walk into a bar…” but I don’t think “and they stalwartly shouldered the burden of stereotypes heaped upon them by their elders” makes for a hilarious punch line.

Mike and Emma’s plights were quite different, but we learned this week that both characters have controlling jerks for parents.

Mike’s trouble started when he got an A- (otherwise known as an “Asian F”) in chemistry. His father promptly complained to Principal Figgins that Mike was either on drugs or too busy with glee club and his girlfriend Tina. Figgins noted that “Tina Cohen-Chang and her vampire ways have no place in this school,” but ultimately Mike got to keep his extra-curriculars and his lady love in exchange for chemistry tutoring.

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But Mike initially appeared to crumble under the pressure of coaching Booty Camp with Schue as well as preparing the football players for their mandatory West Side Story auditions. His weakness was evidenced by his sweaty, angsty face during his own audition, as well as by his hallucinating that his father and Tina were talking to him during rehearsal. His dad essentially thinks dancing is a waste and any future that doesn’t include Harvard is shameful.

But Mike had a secret ally. Turns out Mama Chang wanted to be a dancer, but her parents wouldn’t let her take lessons. She wants her son to be happy, so she’s going to help him tell his dad about his role in the musical (which he totally snagged thanks to working on his pipes over the summer in addition to his sweet moves).

Emma’s parents are just as hardcore as Mr. Chang, but instead of focusing on academic and professional perfectionism, they apply their energy to bizarre social bigotry. Specifically, “they’re ginger supremecists,” as Emma explained to Schue after he unknowingly invites them to dinner. It appears that their rejection of non-redheads may be the root of Emma’s OCD, which flared up big time after her parents’ visit. Schue, who is on a streak of telling people off, defended Emma and seems ready to help her however he can.

While my sarcasm meter is in check, I can’t help but let my grumpypants level climb for just a sec while we look in on the student election front.

Now that Brit’s running against Kurt, she and Santana have established that her platform will be that the school needs a girl in charge. So they staged an elaborate flash mob pep rally in which Brit shimmied around the school in a tiny vinyl skirt. Now, I know NBC was selling sexy bunny costumes as “empowering” for women (RIP, “The Playboy Club”). Is Fox one-upping them by showing teeny boppers that the fast track to positions of authority is to don thigh-highs and garters?

Basically, no matter how awesome the dancing was in that number, the slut-tastic look of it completely undermined the grounded, surprisingly insightful layers added to Brittany’s character last week.

As for the dueling divas, all you really need to know is that Mercedes’s ego erupted in such a way that she rejected the musical directors’ offer to share the lead role with Rachel. She quit New Directions (via a dream sequence of a reworked Dreamgirls number) and went to join Shelby’s team.

So Rachel gets to be Maria, just like she wanted! Except that before she was offered the role, she assumed Mercedes’s allegedly killer audition would win her the part, and she threw her hat in the student presidential race. Against Kurt. Her new BFF. They both want to beef up their resumes to get into performing arts school, and now they’ll be stepping on each other’s toes to do it.

More to sing about:

Best musical number: I wasn’t a huge fan of any of them, but “It’s All Over” from Dreamgirls had fun costumes and had lots of featured solo lines.

Best Brittany line: “Oh, so you’re cool with flushing McKinley High’s future down the magical poop-stealing water chair?”

Best Santana zinger: When she called Kurt “Jimmy Fallon’s butch daughter” I think she may have actually meant it as a compliment.

And what fell flat:

Worst musical number: I know it was supposed to evoke tingly “Fame” memories, but “Out Here on My Own” only made me think of Mary Catherine Gallagher’s climactic moment in “Superstar.”

Musical theatre party foul:
Kurt’s sentiment was understood when he referenced the Wrath of Sondheim, but shouldn’t it have been the Wrath of Bernstein? Of course Stephen Almighty (as I like to call him) was the West Side Story lyricist, but Leonard Bernstein composed the thing – he deserved a shout-out.

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