So, Glee ended its run of perfect episodes for its fifth season this week. In my opinion, “The End of Twerk” represented the end of much more goodness than just Miley’s favourite dance move. However, it’s way past due to talk about that, plus I’m pretty sure we can move past it, and get back together next week to discuss what’s coming. The one thing I cannot get past, and which has actually been bothering me ever since last season, is Marley. Her character is one that I am so pet peeved by, that I need to write something on the subject before I explode, and what better week to do it than this?
The girl came in as a vulnerable, beautiful soul, whose genetics made her cringe, and thus caused her to suffer from body issues. She was bullied by Kitty into developing an eating disorder that caused her to faint at a show choir competition. It was a huge deal, yet everyone seemed to forget about it as soon as the Glee Club was back on track for Nationals. So, Marley went on with her life, apparently being treated for her anorexia and whatever else she was suffering from, but not enough for it to impact her life in any way other than her eating habits.
Then, feeling just a little bit more confident, she began a relationship with bad-boy-turned-good Jake, and in spite of all expectations, he turned out to be pretty decent. He requested nothing from her that she couldn’t give him. He supported her in her struggle, and he gave her his love through it all. However, eventually the guy got horny, and as any teenage boy would do, he tried to get into her pants.
That’s the short version. From there it goes to the guy becoming a cheater, and the girl singing a sad, blameful version of Wrecking Ball to him. Everyone hates Jake now, and they’re right to a certain extent, but there’s much more in between the lines that they’re ignoring. If Glee’s gonna teach a lesson through an example, it should really think of what it’s saying, but unfortunately some details seem to have slipped its creators’ sight. So, let’s dissect this plot, if we may. Let’s analyse it and see who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s just plain wrong in this story, and maybe that way the damage won’t be too big.
So, yeah, Jake slept with Bree, but not exactly because he was horny. Yes, he’s hormonal, but who isn’t at that age? He’s used to having sex all the time, and his relationship with Marley has been complicated in that sense and many more. Nevertheless, he also cheated because he was feeling other things. Like he said to the girl, relationships (at least for him) are about trust. They’re about building a link with someone else that will eventually lead to beginning a family with them (I’m not even talking about kids), but why else do you get with someone if not to dream of being together forever? Yes, there’s hook-ups and sex buddies, but those aren’t relationships in the sense I’m talking about.
So, the guy was feeling frustrated, and in all righteousness. He had been waiting all this time, being supportive and patient, loving Marley, and learning to do so for who she was and not what she did in bed. Yet, she didn’t seem to care at all. She didn’t want to have sex, and that is absolutely understandable, but she also wouldn’t talk about it, she wouldn’t even think about the subject or discuss it with Jake without freaking out. What’s more, leave sex out of the table, she just wouldn’t dare to break out of her comfort zone in her activities or wardrobe. In fact, when asked in Glee Club to put on a show as Gaga, she had a meltdown and went on stage as Katy because she wouldn’t dare to wear a shell bra.
So, I’m not saying everyone should expose their body and bang anyone they encounter. In fact, female sexual liberation means precisely that women are allowed to choose whom they get intimate with and when they do it, which also means they can choose not to have sex at all, and it would be fine. I’m all for celibacy when it’s a choice made from the heart, for respect of the principles you believe in, or the religion you feel will get you salvation or peace of mind. However, Marley isn’t doing it for any of those reasons. She’s being close-minded, overly vulnerable, even dangerously so, and she’s blaming Jake’s absolutely understandable request for all of her issues.
Yes, the guy was a jerk because he cheated. However, he also shouldn’t stick with a relationship that in spite of his biggest efforts isn’t going anywhere. He shouldn’t do it even for the sake of love simply because the other half of it isn’t ready to be intimate, neither physically nor mentally. If anything, Marley needs a good friend, not a boyfriend. He also shouldn’t be blamed for going to Bree for a quick lay. After all, that would be gender-reversed slut shaming.
However, the one thing he should have done was break up with her before making any of those decisions, or at least afterwards. He loves the girl, and you could see it in Jacob’s brilliant performance last week that he was hating himself for cheating, so if he knew it was a mistake, he should have done something about it. Yet, we have to keep in mind when judging Jake, precisely what we think so much of when considering Marley: they’re confused teenagers, and as such they screw up.
Still, Marley shouldn’t blame him for her problems. The girl has real issues. Great issues. Deep, dangerous issues. She could very well fall back into an eating disorder or worse if it was real life. The fact that everyone ignores what is happening to her, and treats her like everything’s alright, is enabling her psychological self harm. She’s basically cutting her self-esteem with thoughts, and bleeding inside, and no one’s doing anything about it cause they’re afraid of coming across as unsupportive and intransigent.
The worst part is, she feels threatened by the mere idea of getting better, of opening up to someone and talking about her fears. She shouldn’t rush into sex just for the sake of recovery, but she really should talk to her mum, or Mr. Schue, or Emma or at the very least her boyfriend about what she’s feeling if she’s ever gonna get past it. She should have told Jake why she wasn’t ready to show her body in the auditorium, or let him see it in private. She should discuss those things, so that he could help her get better. That’s the point of a relationship and all that trust Jake was talking about. Instead, Glee acts like her struggle is a stand on the defence of celibacy. It even has her singing a song that points the finger at Jake and ends with him being the bad guy. The show moves on with the matter, just like it moved on from her fainting in the middle of song, and everyone goes along with it.
I have to say too, that I understand the difficulties of producing a TV show. I study at university to make them someday, and I know it’s hard to do everything you want on them, especially across seasons. So, maybe bringing in Marley’s mom isn’t a choice, or putting together a plan for the girl’s storyline throughout the season hasn’t been possible. The problem is that Glee thinks of itself as a lesson teacher, so it is constantly preaching about this and that. Thus, sending a message like this, where it’s ok not to try and face your fears cause feeling afraid is right, is absolutely and irresponsibly counterproductive. I’m not trying to demonize the series, because I applaud most of its efforts in discussing certain subjects and being a guide for a very troubled demographic. What I am doing is just asking for them to think about this character and the message they have built around it.
I am requesting they turn it around before it influences young girls and boys irremediably into the wrong. I trust they aren’t doing it on purpose, but that’s simply the constant danger of being a communicator. Everything communicates, and you have to keep that in mind and be very careful about it. Maybe this message will help doing just that to some extent. Maybe it’ll impact positively, and help Glee do so too. That’s my hope, and I gotta believe in it. Do you agree with me? Please comment below, and I will gladly discuss the subject. Dialogue is the best thing that can come from a situation like this.
Luis Ruiz – @LuisR_Ruiz