Monday, February 25, 2013

Vocality, Gender, Sexuality and Cyborgs in "GLEE" with Xavia Publius

On February 7th, in Brown Bag form, Xavia Publius presented hir honors thesis research on vocality, gender, sexuality, and cyborgs in the popular TV show, “Glee.” Ze is a member of the senior class and the second LGBTQ Studies Minor to graduate from Colgate! Xavia put together an engaging presentation that featured television clips from the first seasons of “Glee” to explain the theory behind them in a more relatable way.

Xavia explained the varied ways that “Glee” has created gender neutral spaces and challenged the gender binary. Beginning with the first episode, rather than highlighting a heterosexual couple as the female and male protagonists of the series, “Glee” instead introduced Finn, a student and football stud, and Mr. Shuester, the Glee club director, as the leading characters.

In another scene that Xavia showed the audience, Glee club members assumed one another’s identities in a dream sequence. Men were dressed as women, women as men, women as other women, and men as other men. This technique portrayed characters exploring the spectrum of identities, suggesting to the viewers that gender and sexuality can be fluid constructs, rather than strict and fixed entities.

Finally, one season featured a collective scene that combined three simultaneous and independent sub-scenes of couples singing to one another.  By way of cutting and pasting, the merger resulted in a blurring of the lines as it became more difficult to discern who was singing to whom, thus opening the possibility of any gender singing to any gender.

This summary only scratches the surface of Xavia’s work! While “Glee” has its flaws – Xavia mentioned during the question and answer portion of the Brown Bag that “Glee” has a record of ignoring and silencing the transgender experience – the television series lends important examples of looser gender norms through its characters, themes and media techniques.

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