Glee – You’re on Notice

Shuffling out of my bedroom still half asleep, I’m greeted by my bright-eyed tween with her usual morning after questions.

“Did you watch Glee?”

It’s our Tuesday night assignment. She can’t watch Glee ’til we’ve watched Glee and screened it. And she might explode if she doesn’t get to watch it, today. She’s as “hopelessly devoted” to Glee as I was to Grease when I was her age. Only more so.

I hug her tight and she stands on her tip-toes, arms around my waist. The tip-toes are to make herself taller than me. It’s new, and she can’t stop doing it. We look at each other eye to eye.

“We need to talk about Glee.”

“Was it appropriate?” She asks, hopefully.

“Well, most of it was okay, but there was a part that really upset me.”

Her face drops. I call her father and brother into the room. Todd and I talked for hours the night before about how to address this and I can’t say we’ve really figured it out.

“Riley, you know how sometimes kids with Asperger’s, when they are having a hard time, they can be misunderstood and people think they are brats?”

She nods.

“I mean, even Dad and I didn’t get it at first, right? When you were little?”

She waits for more.

“Well last night on Glee, there was this new character, who behaved really badly, and said because she had self-diagnosed Asperger’s, she was entitled to act like a brat.”

“What did she do?”

“She insulted the Glee club, and even though she wasn’t talented, she felt she should be the star of the show, and she was really mean and rude.”

Todd adds, “She might not have really had Asperger’s, we’re not sure, but was using the diagnosis, as an excuse for her bad behavior.”

Riley looks back and forth to each of us.

I continue, “And we really were mad about it, because it’s not fair to stereotype kids with Asperger’s like that. You have Asperger’s and you would never act that way. You are never cruel. You don’t think the world owes you favors. That’s one of the reasons I love writing about you, because it gives people an understanding of how sweet kids with Asperger’s are. You’re a great ambassador for Asperger’s.”

Neither child knows what an ambassador is, so we explain the concept, while inwardly I question whether that’s a bit much to put on a child. Will I ever feel like I’m not winging the parenting thing? Ugh!

Seth nods along, affirming his sister’s awesome ambassador worthiness.

Riley listens intently, then says, “Maybe the writers didn’t mean to depict Asperger’s in a bad way.”

That’s my kind hearted girl, always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Todd says, “Maybe not. And maybe they’ll take the story line further and explain more about what Asperger’s really is in future episodes. We don’t know.”

Her face suddenly twists up with worry.

“Can we just assume they aren’t talking about me?” she asks, her voice rising a couple of octaves.

The second agreement from The Four Agreements pops into my mind. Don’t take anything personally. Could I just assume they aren’t talking about Riley? Could it really be that easy?

Somehow I feel I have to protect her from what the world thinks of Asperger’s. She’s not rude. She’s not lacking empathy. She’s not robotic. I hate those stereotypes. And I’m not sure Riley really understands the repercussions for kids like her if negative stereotypes about Asperger’s are propagated unchecked in our society.

But then again, I know how pushing against something makes it bigger. Why not just let Riley do her thing, and continue to touch the people she touches, and change perceptions in her own little microcosm, one heart at a time?

Finally she looks at me with tears in her eyes and squeaks out her worst fear about the whole thing,

“Are you not going to let me watch it?”

This is where I want to put the powers that be at Glee on notice. Seriously. Ryan Murphy? Brad Falchuk? Ian Brennan? Dante Diloreto? (My daughter told me your names. She has everything about the show memorized). It’s really unfair to make people who are so vulnerable the butt of your humor. What’s next, kicking puppies? You better redeem yourselves or I’m leaving your viewership and taking a whole lot of people with me. The autism community is a big one, and it’s a divided one, but I think we can all agree, don’t mess with our kids. And BTW? We have lots of friends. 

I look at Riley and tell her, “We’ll keep watching it, and we’ll keep talking, okay?”

She sighs big. Relief all over her face.

She loves you Glee.

Keep that in mind.

Glee’s Depiction of “Asperger’s” DISGUSTING

“I have self-diagnosed Asperger’s so I can pretty much say whatever I want…I’m pretty much like a diplomat’s daughter.” Then the character proceeds to be an obnoxious no talent brat.

Yo Glee. WTF? My kid’s not going to understand this. She’s going to think this is how people view her. Thank God Todd and I screen the show before ever letting her watch it. We’ve spent the evening discussing what we’ll say to explain this to her. Better hearing it from us, than from one of her friends, or anyone else.

My daughter has better manners than almost any child you will ever meet. My daughter would never act the entitled brat. We can’t even figure out what the point was for the character to even be on the show.  I’m so sick of Asperger’s/autism being the Hollywood flavor of the week.

Riley described Glee Live over the summer as “the best day of her life.”

I hope the show she loves so much, the show about outsiders finding a place to belong, doesn’t wind up being the thing that makes her ashamed of having Asperger’s. I hope Glee doesn’t break her heart.

Gleeked Out

Rather than have a birthday party this year, Riley chose to see Glee Live. She loved it so much. She was right in there, screaming along with the crowd. She was dancing. It was the kind of loud which makes your ears ring for a while after you leave. There were fireworks with huge BOOMS! We had to take escalators, big ones. There were steep steps to navigate up and down. There were crowds to negotiate through. There were insults from Sue Sylvester on a big screen between acts,and Riley roared with laughter, at being called a sucker, etc. Those of you with kids on the autism spectrum might appreciate the significance of tackling all these things. Of escalators and steep steps, and depth perception issues. Understanding sarcasm and that kind of humor. It would not have gone over well just a couple of years ago.

Our seats were waaaaay on the side, the furthest you could go without being behind the stage, and often we could see backstage. For instance, we saw Artie (I’ll call them all by their Glee names) hop out of his wheelchair and walk down the steps. We saw Kurt, do a lot of arm stretches, and bounce around working out the adrenaline just before the curtain went up. Kurt, BTW is taller than I expected. He seems like a very petite thing on the show. I mean, he’s thin and all, but not as short as I thought he would be. He did “All the Single Ladies” and it was awesome.


Brittany did her Brittany Spears number (without the snake) and she is an incredible dancer. That number was as racy as it got, and it wasn’t too bad. Quinn and Sam did their sweet little version of “Lucky.” Rachel was technically perfect as ever. They all were good, but Mercedes is the one who rocked the house. At one point she stood alone on a tiny platform at the back of the auditorium and really belted it out.

Behold a couple of our barely recognizable pics. They don’t even bother to tell you not to take pics anymore. So many cameras flashing all over. It’s a losing battle.

Santana and Mercedes

 

Kurt and Blaine

I’d like to pause here to mention we got a large popcorn to share, and some waters, and I got a draft beer. My beer caused a woman seated near us a lot of angst. She kept staring at it, giving me side glances, seemingly appalled that a mother, would sit there having a beer at a Glee concert with her family. It was perplexing, and I wondered what her story was. She seemed very conservative in her dress, and so did her friends. Like the Mormons accidentaly stumbled into a Glee show. I whispered the sitch to HT and he gestured the “slushie” move, and that made me laugh and reassured me I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t drink much. I go weeks, even months without having a drink, seldom have more than one, and never have more than two, but growing up in a family where alcoholism was an issue, the question sometimes haunts me.

Bless her concerned little heart. She must have had a reason for her discomfort. The woman and her friends left early.

Okay….where was I? Back to the show!

Riley swooned over Puck(the one with the mohawk). She’s had a crush on him for a while and several months ago gave her dad a heart attack, explaining her infatuation. “I like bad boys,” she told him. And then he died.

Blaine was just as yummy in person as he is on the show. All the Warblers were there. Santana and Mercedes blew the roof off River Deep Mountain High.

The whole thing was way overpriced, but it meant the world to Riley. The kid who cried when she was five at a middle school theater performance, because the applause were too painful for her sensitive ears. There was a time I wondered whether we would ever be able to do anything fun as a family. I know I say this every time, but I am still in awe. Still so grateful. I’ll never take it for granted. Here is a little video of the show. Well…it’s really of our two, enjoying the show, which was the show, for me.

Glee

There is a sweetness in the air today. Seth got up early and hung out with HT while he got ready for work. They had breakfast, while Riley and I slept.

I came downstairs to a fed, happy boy. HT had already left. Doggies wagged with glee at my appearance.

Glee.

Last night on Glee, there was a first kiss. It was between two teenage boys. Hats off to Glee for the handling of this. It has been a slow, steadily progressing relationship between the two characters on the show. Both are upstanding, honorable, and very sweet young men.

When I think about images of gay men in the mainstream media, what comes to mind is raunch. The television loves to show snippets of gay pride parades, it’s always a guy in a belly top and daisy dukes, or drag queens vamping for the camera. They tend to be dancing in the street, half-loaded. I don’t begrudge anyone their fun, but those images don’t represent most gay people.

When I was a teenager, I remember seeing a movie where a young Will Smith kissed another man. I was very uncomfortable. I think my hands actually flew up to cover my eyes. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d lived in a small town my whole life. I didn’t personally know any gay people (actually I did, but I didn’t know it about them yet).

It took going to college, where my RA had a gay uncle and gave all of us a good education on how hurtful throwing words like “queer” around was, and after that, living in a major city hugely affected by HIV. I met a person who would become a dear friend, whose family was forever changed by one of them having to hide his bi-sexuality. I volunteered with children affected by HIV.

The AIDS quilt covering the entire National Mall in DC literally brought me to my knees. Panel after panel, after panel, after panel… put together by people who loved someone who had died. Sons. Husbands. Friends. Daughters. Lovers. Little peoples’ daddies. I was not prepared for seeing that quilt. Faceless silent volunteers handed me tissue after tissue. No words between us were necessary. No words would suffice.

Gay rights are human rights, civil rights. At this point my knee jerk reaction to homophobia is the same as it is to racism. I have no tolerance for it. But I do remember what it was like to be uncomfortable in that movie theater so long ago. Ignorance is ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know. But the world is changing.

My kids love Glee. We TIVO it, and screen to see if it is okay for them to watch. Often it is too sexually explicit, so they only get to watch bits and pieces. They have all the CD’s. They have mad crushes on some of the characters. They talk of Glee all the time.

Riley is not awake yet, but when she comes downstairs she’ll be greeted by me and her brother and two dogs happy to see her. She’ll lean down and nuzzle Jingle and then look up at me. I guarantee, the first question she’ll ask is, “Can we watch Glee? Was it appropriate?”

I’ll smile at her and say, “Yes, baby. It was.”

She Has Buckets of Empathy

Today was the first day of this season’s Girls on the Run. I had the lesson prepared, my flashcards at the ready and was enjoying leading the new group. Seth usually hangs out in the gym while we meet. Smack in the middle of our session he came running over to me, holding his mouth. He made it to the trash can where he proceeded to be sick. Repeatedly.

We needed to leave.

The other coach heroically stepped in and winged it, and offered to drop Riley off later.

As soon as Riley got home, she ran upstairs to check on her brother. Then, she brought a picture of his crush (Diana Agron from Glee) and taped it to his pillow to make him feel better.

This girl, is not without empathy. She has such a big heart.

Our little man may not be feeling so hot, but he sure is well loved.

P.S. Don’t Seth and Diana make a cute couple?