Saturday, November 14, 2009

Glee 1.09: "Wheels"

“It’s what I had left over from my pool cleaning money. After I bought dip. And nunchucks.”


As someone who practiced disability law for a semester in a law school clinic, there were quite a few things about “Wheels” that irritated me. If I were licensed to practice law (I should be by mid-December) and could easily transfer that license to Ohio, I’d be suing McKinley High for all the ADA and Rehabilitation Act violations going on up in there. Oh, and McKinley High would have to be real, too. Details, details… Overall, I’m glad that this episode put a spotlight on what disabled kids have to go through, but in fact, the episode almost didn’t go far enough. The fact is, McKinley High probably wouldn’t legally be allowed to be in the handicapped-inaccessible state we see that it’s in.

Before dealing with the accessibility issues, however, Glee opens by dealing with money issues. Quinn is unhappily watching Cheerios practice, and Finn finds her and tries to cheer her up. It turns out that it’s more than just getting kicked off the Cheerios that has Quinn upset. She got an over $600 bill from the OB/GYN for that sonogram. She expects, actually demands, that Finn get a job and help her pay for it. Normally, I’d find this perfectly reasonable, even cheer her on for it, except for one tiny problem. Finn isn’t actually the father! She’s totally taking advantage of his sweet nature and making women in general look like shrill, manipulative shrews.

Principal Figgins isn’t exactly on his best behavior, either. He’s refusing to pay for a handicapped bus so Artie can go to sectionals with the rest of the Glee Club. Figgins is flirting with danger with that move. Even though protection against discrimination in extracurricular activities in the ADA isn’t as iron clad as protection from discrimination during the school day, and McKinley High might have a financial hardship defense (although, like Will mentioned, the amount of money they give the Cheerios might call that defense into question), I still think Will should have warned Figgins of the potential liability here. He might have bought it. Plus there’s the even bigger issue of the lack of handicapped ramps. Not smart, Principal Figgins, not smart at all.

Will suggests to the Glee Club that they hold a bake sale to raise money for the bus, but the suggestion isn’t exactly met with enthusiasm. Artie tries to put on a brave face, but a solo performance of “Dancing With Myself” shows that he’s really hurt by his teammates’ lack of concern. Will is disappointed in the Glee Club, and he gives them a big talking-to. Not only are they going to do a bake sale to raise money for the bus, they’re each going to spend three hours a day in a wheelchair to understand what Artie has to deal with. And they’re going to rehearse a wheelchair number. Although I’m not sure if I appreciate how much this episode tries to mine comedy out of the kids struggling to use their wheelchairs, I do like Will’s approach to the issue. It’s high time these kids started thinking about people other than themselves.

The other number Will wants the Glee kids to learn is “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. He immediately gives Rachel the solo, but Kurt protests. Kurt thinks he can sing the high F in the song, and he wants the solo. Will brushes off the request, which is a little hypocritical, but at least that hypocrisy does get addressed. Kurt tells his dad about his disappointment, and being an awesome dad, Mr. Hummel goes right to Principal Figgins, even if he doesn’t really quite understand what the solo is or why Kurt wants it. He tells Principal Figgins in no uncertain terms that he will sue the school if Kurt is discriminated against due to his sex or sexual orientation. Will realizes that after making all the fuss about accommodating Artie, he needs to be fair to Kurt too. There’s going to be a “diva-off” between Kurt and Rachel, where the rest of the Glee kids will decide who gets to sing the solo.

Quinn and Puck end up with the brunt of the bake sale responsibility. Puck finds Quinn in the home ec room trying to make cupcakes. This quickly devolves into a pretty adorable food fight. I don’t quite understand why almost every romantic moment in this show feels similar…this kind of reminded me of the Emma/Will chalk dust and mustard moments, but it was cute, so I didn’t mind. Finn, however, most definitely did mind when he walked into the room to see Quinn and Puck covered in egg, flower, and sugar, and looking like they’re about to kiss.

Meanwhile, Principal Figgins has (sort of) embraced Will’s crusade for diversity and reasonable accommodations. He tells Sue that she has to hold truly open try outs to replace Quinn on the Cheerios, and Will is going to oversee it. Neither Sue nor Will are thrilled about this, but for different reasons. After sitting through several horrible audition performances, Sue finally sees someone she’s willing to take on as a Cheerio. A girl named Becky who has Down’s Syndrome. Will is shocked and thinks Sue must be up to something nefarious. It turns out she really isn’t though. In one of the few actually poignant Sue moments in the series, it turns out Sue herself has a sister with Down’s Syndrome. She’s feeling so charitable she even writes a check to put in some of the handicapped ramps the school so desperately needs. I like that Sue is getting some more dimension.

Puck has overheard snippets of Finn and Quinn arguing over money, and he ends up confronting Finn about it. I think this comes from two places. One, he wants to see his baby girl taken care of properly, and two, he wants Quinn for himself. This turns into a knock-down-drag-out wheelchair fight in the hallway that has to be broken up by Will. It does however, give Puck an idea for raising money for Artie and maybe helping out Quinn, too. Puck decides to put his skills at, as he puts it, “lying and crime” to use. He lies to Sandy to get some pot and bakes small amounts of it (just enough to give people the munchies, apparently) into the next batch of cupcakes. The cupcakes sell like wildfire, and the Glee Club earls $1200.

Puck tries to skim a little money from the bus fund to give to Quinn to help pay for her medical care. Quinn thinks it’s an extremely sweet gesture, and she apologizes to Puck for calling him a “Lima Loser.” She doesn’t, however, want to take the money that’s supposed to help Artie. Finn manages to ruin the moment, though. With Rachel’s help, he has found a job. Rachel put Finn in a wheelchair and used that to guilt a manager (played by Jeff Lewis from the awesome web series “The Guild”…go to now!) into hiring Finn. Quinn is thrilled that Finn has gotten a job (she obviously doesn’t know about Rachel’s part in it), and she leaves Puck standing alone.

There’s some romantic angst between Artie and Tina, as well. Tina tells Artie that since she’s been forced by Will to use a wheelchair, she has new found respect for Artie. Artie takes this as a cue that she might be interested in him. He calls the whole thing off, however, when Tina reveals that she’s been faking her stutter. He just can’t comprehend that she has voluntarily chosen to push people away when he doesn’t have a choice. Kurt also has a big choice to make. His father received a threatening phone call due to Kurt’s coming out, and although he’s trying to be supportive, he isn’t handling it well. Kurt realizes that things will only get worse if he makes a big show of singing a woman’s song, so he throws the diva-off. It’s an interesting, and sad, juxtaposition how he is forced to confine himself when he wants to sing a song about having no limits.

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