Every episode of Glee has a theme; and in one of their most recent episodes, Sadie Hawkins, the theme is female empowerment. The episode starts off with Tina, a glee club member, complaining to the “Too Young to be Bitter Club”, a group of girls who complain about being treated unequally, but the name in itself is degrading. She questions “Why are the guys so empowered to ask us to a dance, when we just have to sit around and wait, wouldn’t it be great if we got to choose?” She then proceeds to organize a Sadie Hawkins dance, where the girls can ask the guys. The main hegemony of the episode is introduced, where it is abnormal for a girl to ask a guy to the dance and that they are not allowed to do it any other time otherwise it is abnormal.
The girls are portrayed as models, the viewers are supposed to agree with them. We are supposed to agree with Tina, it is desirable to want to feel empowered, but undesirable to go against societies rules to ask out boys.
In a lot of ways Glee can be looked through an inflected oppositional reading just because the show itself tries to break away from the status quo. However, in Sadie Hawkins, the messages can be seen as preferred occluded reading because they are telling you what is normal and desirable under the blanket that the show is promoting feminist empowerment.
There is a scene where a couple of the glee club guys are walking down the school hallway, the girls are gawking at them, and they feel awkward. Artie and Ryder are having a conversation and Brittany interrupts.
Artie: “I feel totally powerless” Ryder: “This must be what the girls feel like all the time…” Brittany (annoyed): “It is”
These few lines exemplify radical feminism. The ideology being that, women have less power than men. The males feel the difference between having power as a male, whereas feeling powerless when put in a situation a female is usually in. What is worse is that the female reinforces that feeling is accurate. It amplifies the patriarchal system and the masculine hegemony.
Even when asking out the guys, Kitty, one of the cheerleaders in the glee club encounters backlash because she is seen as obnoxious. To refute this she states “I’m a mean, hot, bitch, who likes to get what she wants”, deducing that in order to get what you want if you are female, you are labeled a “bitch”, and she accepts it, as it is what she calls herself.
The girls, in this episode, never actually display any “female empowering” qualities, other than asking out their dates, but instead the men just keep saying that they are “empowered”. The even sing a female empowered song titled “No Scrubs” by TLC. But, by having the men tell them this, they still have all the power, and only if they tell the women they are powerful it gratifies it. Essentially, after the Sadie Hawkins dance is over everything will return to “normal”. At the end of the episode, it seems the females have become empowered and feel good about themselves. The “Too Young to be Bitter Club” gets cancelled, and a bunch of the girls are seen celebrating their newfound empowerment.
When a show such as Glee heavily promotes and endorses acceptance and being different, misogyny tends to get overlooked. The main characters are part of a glee club, and are considered outcasts; they are multiracial, transgendered, gay, bisexual, lesbian, handicapped, and have mental illnesses. Their targeted audience is assumed to be more cultured and accepting, which in some ways makes it easier to accept what is normal on Glee, because the viewers expect them to go against the social norms of society and promote equality. Being a show that is both trying to break away from the social norms, and at the same time ratifying misogyny sends mixed messages. It can make the viewers agree with certain anti-feminist ideologies without thinking about the actual message the show is trying to express.