Glee is usually all over the place when it comes to plot, but as “Born This Way” reminds us, it’s also all over the place when it comes to themes.
The writers try to generalize complex ideas into a 90-minute episode, and there is never a solid, consistent message. First, let’s start with the idea the episode is built on, that you should love who you were born with. Fair enough. The writers go further and make it abundantly clear that Rachel getting a rhinoplasty would be the wrong thing and they also tell us that Emma taking medication for OCD is fine.
OK, so we have a semblance of a principle. It’s not okay to change your physical appearance surgically, but it’s okay to remediate a chemical imbalance. But they don’t go further than that and there are many holes to poke.
Why is using Auto-Tune all the time fine? It might not be a permanent alteration, but it supposedly (based the dialogue from the episode) shows that the people on the show (and Lady Gaga) aren’t proud of their singing voices unless the computer is enhancing it. What about more temporal appearance modification such as clothing, tattoos, and piercings? Is Lady Gaga dressing in wacky outfits and wearing lots of make up, obscuring her real appearance, better than plastic surgery? When is accepting medication not acceptable? How much chemical imbalance is enough to justify taking medication to change who you are?
As far as the whole t-shirt thing went, I’m confused that most people would choose physical characteristics and not something internal. Maybe it’s because I like to be introspective, but basic physical features on the face shouldn’t be the most pressing issue (brown eyes, the end of the world!!), especially for Rachel who apparently has no shame for being a bitch. Also, is Kurt ashamed of liking boys? I think the purpose of the shirts got lost in the shuffle.
Oh yeah, and the message of bullying–the writers should probably follow their own advice. Wasn’t Ryan Murphy bullying the Kings of Leon by spewing his bile at them earlier in the year? But you can kind of see why he acts like that. His quote, “They’re self-centered assholes, and they missed the big picture. They missed that a 7-year-old kid can see someone close to their age singing a Kings of Leon song, which will maybe make them want to join a glee club or pick up a musical instrument. It’s like, OK, hate on arts education. You can make fun of Glee all you want, but at its heart, what we really do is turn kids on to music,” reflects the self-deluded generalizations you see on Glee.
The sad thing is, I actually like “Born This Way” more than some of the previous episodes simply because the plot is generally coherent and doesn’t jump around wildly. Sure the theme made no sense, but the prom plot was fun and somewhat interesting.