Episode 18: Shatter

Ryan Sheely and Matthew Wrather consider the Lady Gaga episode of Glee.

Sheely and Wrather discuss Gossip Girl and Glee, touching on listener feedback, shipperdom, set theory, technology, the meaning of Gaga, and Rachel’s mama drama.

(We’re still figuring out what to do when Glee goes on hiatus. Email us your thoughts about what we should do with the show over the summer.)

There will be no spoiler warnings and there will be many naughty words. If either of those things bothers you, don’t click!

→ Download TFT Episode 18 (MP3)

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Recommended Reading

Samuel Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape

Overthinking It Podcast, Lost Supplement: Unplugging the Island

David Simon, et al., The Wire, Season 2

Urban Dictionary, “Shipper”

Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste

Wikipedia, “Set Theory”

Kid Cudi, Kanye West and Common: Make Her Say (Poke Her Face)

9 Comments on “Episode 18: Shatter”

  1. Kater #

    I recently came across these podcasts and I’ve been enjoying listening to them for the last few episodes of each show. I’m surprised you didn’t like the Bad Romance performance! Though I can’t argue that it sounded more like a karaoke-ish sessin (albeit, a fantastic one) than a Glee club song necessarily, I just enjoyed the hell out of it. It was nice hearing a big song that didn’t feature Rachel for one, but it was just really fun. And in a way, I think, it’s also a nod to Gaga that they (the characters, not just the showmakers) did it this way.

    Moreover, though, I’m surprised you made no mention at all of one of the big plots in the episode: the Finn-Kurt living situation. (Also, I heart Mike O’Malley!!) There’s the obvious drama of it, of course, but what I find interesting is how more and more we see that Finn is the normal real-life person who’s stuck in the midst of a musical. How his mom, Kurt & Burt broke the news that they were all moving in together (rather than asking) was straight out of the drama of a musical–yet Finn, the regular guy, reacts like any of us would: “And *this* is how you’re telling me?” It’s like this a lot for him, really–he’s the real guy stuck in a drama and not always sure how to handle, which explains a lot of his actions (or lack thereof).

    Re: Pokerface, a friend of mine read an interpretation of it that I think is spot-on. This song isn’t the kind a mom & daughter sing together at all, but it IS the kind of song two friends might enjoy singing together for fun. And that’s where Rachel & Shelby are at–they don’t have a bond, not yet, but they do have a lot in common as singers, wannabe stars, appreciators of the arts and music and the flair for drama. In the reverse of Finn, they became musical characters suddenly finding themselves in a real life situation, and also like Finn they didn’t know how to handle it.


  2. Matthew Wrather #

    Thanks, Kater. I agree that our discussion was a little cursory. Ryan was getting on a plane to Africa LITERALLY THE SECOND WE GOT OFF THE AIR.

    Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But we were pressed for time.

    Mike O’Malley is kicking serious ass as Kurt’s dad — it’s one of the better written and acted characters on the show. And, I think, an important figure for American culture at the moment. He recognizes the limitations of his own perspective while simultaneously recognizing that he is in some sense trapped within it.


  3. stokes #

    Rather than the urban dictionary definition, I’d recommend Henry Jenkins Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. I don’t think he mentions shipping as such, and a lot of it is pretty out of date by now (I mean, it came out in 1992 — the internet has changed a lot since then), but it gives a sense of what’s at stake in fandom generally.

    Personally, I would argue that properly being a “shipper” is distinct from sitting alone at home watching a show and wanting two of the characters to hook up. At a minimum, you would have to go out on the internet and enter in the debates about these kinds of things on a chatroom (or argue with your friends about it around the water cooler, if that’s more your speed). It’s not just fantasizing – it’s making an affirmative statement about what the show is/means. Writing fanfic and vidding are obviously more extreme versions of this, but it’s all on the same continuum. Rather than vicariously living out the character’s desire, the shipper puts her/himself in the place of the author. Shipping is a form of postmodern textual criticism.

    It’s probably less black and white than I’m making it out to be. I’m sure that some of the interest people have in advocating Scully/Mulder or Finn/Puck or Smoke Monster/Polar Bear is purely prurient… but what’s really interesting and compelling about it is the other part.


  4. Dez #

    In re shippers: I don’t think that most people on the internet that identify as shippers are shippers for everything (like, “I won’t watch this show; there’s no one on there I want to see hooked up”). In a lot of cases, it’s one specific fandom and one specific pairing that they’re really die-hard about (the examples of hardcore shipping that come immediately to mind aren’t X-files, but rather Harry Potter and Twilight. Those people take this shit seriously).

    Also regarding the choreography on Glee, it never struck me as being bad per se, but rather as a reasonable representation of what a school with crap funding for the arts would logically look like. In the Midwest you see a lot of this kind of thing: the sponsors and directors and whatnot for these programs are mostly amateur and just wing it. If you have one person who’s had some training at all then you’ve got an advantage over the local competition (like Shelby for Vocal Adrenaline, who alludes to having some kind of professional experience). Or they’ll give all the hard moves to the one kid in the show that’s the best at it (like giving all the really interesting moves to “Other Asian,” Mike Chang).


  5. Gab #

    @Kater: (Not related to Glee) Is that Codex in your avatar?

    And you took the words right out of my mouth about Finn, too.

    That whole scene with Finn, Kurt, and Kurt’s dad was one of the best in the series so far- and from the moment Finn and Kurt first get in the room alone to the last shot of Kurt by himself.

    I took issue with “Poker Face” as the selection because I think it promotes abusive relationships (and the abuse goes both ways), and I was kind of unable to get past that when listening. And the part about being “motherless” isn’t even part of the original song, either- the lyric is “I’m marvelous.” I actually think if the original lyric HAD been what they changed it to, I may not hate the song so much on its own, since it would actually be about how the singer is in these abusive relationships because she never had a good female role model in the first place (or that whatever role model she had in place of her mother did a crappy job); and it thus would have worked much better in the show- it had direct and demonstrable tie-ins from the episode itself, like the first costume Rachel had; and there are other examples from the series as a whole, I’m sure that could have tied into an “I’m this way because I didn’t have a mommy” theme. As it stands, though, I was uncomfortable the whole time they were singing it.

    I thought “Bad Romance” was a much better fit than “Poker Face” because the lyrics serve more directly as the kids singing’s message to the audience- they’re singing to society, more specifically their school. Again, this song in itself seems to promote abuse, but in this context, it makes sense, because the kids want to be accepted by the school for all of its awesome AND dark parts. They don’t campaign to stop the football players from beating EVERYBODY up, they just don’t want to get beat up themselves- thereby implicitly saying the beatings are okay on some level. And they are, if you think of them as government’s control of violence- the football players beating people up serve as the strong-arm of the law. So the glee club members *do* want a bad romance, they want it with WMH because they want to be included in all of the “ugly” and “disease” and stuff and thus SAFE from it. They want to be on the operating side of things, *in* the system, not on the outside, and the “romance” is the system itself.

    Imo, at least.


  6. bianca #

    As someone over the age of thirty and a bit of a rocker, I am a bit disappointed that the show was promoted as “the Lady Gaga episode.” There was an equal number of very well-performed Kiss tunes which fit well with the theme and episode plots. Absolutely no one has discussed the cultural impact of four tall, butch Jewish men wearing make-up and high heels.


  7. Gab #

    Bianca: I thought the way they worked “Beth” into the plot felt extremely contrived. Well-performed, but very forced. And I was surprised they actually *didn’t* do “Rock And Roll All Night.” ;p

    A little Kiss trivia: Their highest-reaching single to-date is still “Beth,” the ballad. This reminds me of how Aerosmith’s first- and only- #1 single to-date is “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.”

    ::done rambling::


  8. Kater #

    @Gab–yes, it is Codex! :D And nice interpretation of Bad Romance there, too. In a more easy observation, I found it very fitting that Santana was the one belting out the ‘I don’t wanna be friends!’ line, considering her sexual MO and reputation.

    @bianaca–I would’ve been interested in hearing more about that, too, because I know very little about KISS. Your post alone just increased my knowledge base on them.

    Also, gah, how many words did I somehow miss typing in my first post? I hang my editorial head in shame.


  9. lee OTI Staff #

    I haven’t seen this episode of Glee, but I did listen to their rendition of KISS’ “Beth.” What struck me the most about it was how different the polished Auto-Tuned delivery of the lead vocal compared to Peter Criss’ shaky warbling. To me, that was always part of the appeal of the KISS version; the guy could barely hit those notes–he’s the DRUMMER for chrissake–but he sings from the heart.

    More often than not, I try to defend Auto-Tune, but this is not one of those instances. The Glee version was too perfect and compares poorly to Criss’ charmingly flawed delivery.


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