Tag Archives: Glee

For Glee’s Lea Michele, A Nose is a Nose is a Nose is a Nose

by Amanda Walgrove

Last week’s episode of Glee preached the self-acceptance of mother monster Lady Gaga’s single, “Born This Way.” Creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk used the hour-and-a-half special to cram in as many subplots as possible, advocating various avenues of self-love in coming to terms with sexuality, OCD, and physical imperfections. Revisiting a recurring reference of the show, Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele) finds herself struggling with the option of rhinoplasty, even though her idol, Barbra Streisand, refused to go under the knife.

The bossy, ambitious, and charmingly vulnerable Rachel gets served her own “Marsha Marsha Marsha” moment when she receives an accidental blow to the nose during a dance practice. Considering her deviated septum, a doctor suggests that it would be a good time for a “vanity adjustment.” Donning an impressive schnoz of his own, he reassures Rachel that his daughters had their noses done at sixteen and describes the cosmetic surgery as a “rite of passage for Jewish girls.” A conflicted Rachel, who has been consistently proud of her Jewish roots and concerned about her intended Broadway career, weakly offers, “But Barbra…” to which the doctor replies, “She’s also one in a million.” In other words, this is the norm, and Barbra, an unachievable ideal, is the exception.

At first, Rachel agrees to go through with the surgery, using the excuse that it will enrich her talents and help the glee club at nationals. In truth, Rachel wants to look more like Christian Barbie doll beauty, Quinn Fabray (played by Dianna Agron). Adding a real-life layer to this diverse comedy, Agron herself is actually Jewish, whereas Michele (born Lea Michele Sarfati) is of mixed ancestry. When Rachel shows the composite photos of her future nose to her fellow glee club members, she excitedly refers to them as “less Hebraic and more Fabray-ic.” Of course, Rachel doesn’t receive the support she desires. Self-described “hot Jew” and former love interest, Noah “Puck” Puckerman chimes in to say, “Every year girls show up to my temple after their sixteenth birthday and look suddenly slightly different…but they’re not as hot.”

With hormones raging, Puck has been known to associate a “Jewish” look with attractiveness. In the Season 1 episode, “Mash-Up,” he first became interested in Rachel after his mom pressured him to date a Jewish girl. Thus ensued a kitschy dream sequence in which Rachel came into his room through the window wearing a shining Star of David, stirring in Puck the feeling that they were destined to be together because of their religious ancestry: “It was a message from God: Rachel was a hot Jew and the good Lord wanted me to get in her pants.” Presented through the same lens of religious observance, Puck has also said that his family celebrates Simchat Torah by ordering Chinese food and watching Schindler’s List. Murphy and Falchuk have taken many liberties in representing complex societal archetypes on Glee and Puck’s adolescent Judaic enthusiasm is just one example among the mix.

It isn’t until her good friend Kurt stages a “Barbra-vention” that Rachel decides to cancel her appointment. Kurt delivers an inspiring speech, crediting Barbra with redefining the Hitchcockian ideal of blonde beauty and warning Rachel not to spit on that legacy. Additionally, Puck throws in that the supposed cosmetic “rite of passage” is not as important as upholding the nasal legacy: “Your nose has been passed down from generation to generation as a birthright. It’s a sign of the survival of our people.”

While Rachel could have opted to change her appearance in order to have her “ideal” nose, she removed herself from the societal pressure and, in true Rachel fashion, continued striving full-force towards that other ideal: Barbra’s “one-in-a-million” success story. Channeling the legendary singer, Kurt tells Rachel that she herself is one-in-a-billion and if she were to get a nose job, she would be letting down all the little girls who will look at her beautiful face one day and see themselves. An avid Barbra fanatic herself, Lea Michele told US Weekly last year, “I’ve always been proud of my body, my Jewish nose and all of that.” Michele also told the New York Daily News that she never thought there would be a place for her on television, citing her very specific look as a combination of Jewish and Italian ethnicities. But what the twenty-four year old actress described as specific may have just provided her with more universality than she thought. Be it be a Jewish nose, a bubbly personality, or an unforgiving desire to realize some elusive dream, Michele brings qualities to Rachel that are undeniably relatable.

Whether or not you find yourself to be a fan of Glee or this episode’s insipration Lady Gaga, both preachy vehicles have rapidly expanded into widely recognized media commodities, with intentions of speaking directly to a young generation. In an episode devoted to self-love in the face of societal differences, seeing Rachel embrace her nasal prominence in the name of a Jewish icon was endearing. In a famous 1977 interview, Ms. Streisand credited her deviated septum with producing her unique voice, saying, “If I ever had my nose fixed, it would ruin my career.” So besides chutzpah, how does one account for the commercial appeal of Lea Michele, forerunner Barbra Streisand and fictionally Broadway-bound Rachel Berry? Perhaps they were just born that way.

A Gleeful Take on Religion

By Lisa Krysiak

This week’s episode of Glee was in stark contrast from last week’s hilariously over-the-top ode to Britney Spears. It delved into the difficult topic of religion, exploring three different categories of religious belief through its characters.

The first category, exemplified by Kurt and Sue, is people who reject religion based on their dissatisfaction with an imperfect world.  When Kurt’s father has a heart attack, his Glee club mates offer to pray for him, but Kurt resents God for the difficulties he faces for being gay.  He denounces religion and asserts that he doesn’t believe in God, “when he makes me gay, and then has his followers going around telling me it’s something that I chose. As if someone would choose to be mocked every single day of their life.”  He rejects their offers of prayer for his father and isolates himself in the process.  Sue, disappointed that her childhood prayers for her mentally disabled sister went unanswered, says she does not believe in a God that would allow someone she cares about to face such adversity.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are people who believe because they get what they ask for.  Finn finds new faith in a “Grilled Cheesus,” a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the face of Jesus. He begins to pray to the sandwich, asking to win a football game, get to second base with his girlfriend, and be reinstated as the quarterback.  Whenever his wishes come true, his faith in “Cheesus” gets stronger.

Finally, there are the people who find a sense of identity in religion, like Rachel and Mercedes, whose religions are a central part of their lives.  Rachel, who was raised by a gay Jewish couple, is concerned that her boyfriend Finn’s newfound devotion to “Grilled Cheesus” will pose a problem for raising their future children Jewish.  Mercedes, who sings her Church choir, sings Kurt a moving version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” to convey a sense of community.

Throughout the episode, Glee varyingly portrays religion as useful, reassuring, or oppressive.  Inspiration (or lack thereof) might be found in today’s lunch, or in the face of a life-altering experience.  But more than anything, it accentuates the conflicts that the three different religious types have when faced with a crisis (Kurt’s father’s hospitalization).  Kurt is so distraught for his father that he views his friends’ prayers as an attempt to push religion onto him.  It is never fair to force religion on anyone, nor is it right to try to force someone into believing something they don’t.  But, Kurt eventually realizes that his friends’ prayers are simply a way of showing support for him and his dad at a time when they cannot offer much else.

The characters’ experiences also exemplify a common dichotomy.  Some people question their faith in troubled times, asking themselves “Why would God do this to me?” For others, times of need are when their faith is strongest.  Exceptional circumstances provoke the deepest kind of soul searching and battling personal demons. Having a higher power to believe in can be a source of comfort or a place to lay blame, which in itself can be a coping mechanism. Glee allows for both possibilities.

Read Moment‘s exclusive interview with Nancy Falchuk, mother of Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk.

Good Jewish Fun

By Symi Rom-Rymer

With weather in the 90s and a three-day weekend to look forward to, it’s no time for a heavy post.  So instead, here’s some fun Jewish TV mind candy:

I thought I’d kick things off with a sketch from the early years, “Jewess Jeans.”  A parody of the then-popular Jordache jeans commercial, Rhonda Weiss (played by Gilda Radner) skillfully plays with our notions of what it means to be both Jewish and sexy.

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