“The Substitute”

Here’s what you missed this week on Glee:

  • That music that plays while Figgins and Shuster get sneezed on is the New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak, a late 19th century Czech composer who wrote the symphony after a visit to the United States. The scene shows the beginning of the fourth movement, a piece that should be interesting to movie soundtrack fans because the opening bars sounds just like the theme from Jaws and the rest of the movement sounds just like the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars soundtracks.
  • Will and Mike’s performance of “Make Em Laugh” is a move-for-move copy of the original movie version in Singing in the Rain, except in the original, Gene Kelly dances by himself
  • In a flashback, Holly Holiday gets Kurt’s English class to sing Conjunction Junction, the most famous of the Schoolhouse Rock! cartoons, which aired in the 1970s and 1980s, in an attempt to educate children through song. It should be noted that the Holly Holiday version is much racier than the original cartoon, which featured a moustached train conductor “hooking up words and phrases and clauses.”
  • Sue’s rise to the principal’s office offers commentary on the modern American Presidency, particularly that of Richard Nixon, who she identifies as her idol and whose portrait she hangs in the principal’s office. Sue makes this clear when, at the end of the episode, she says, “in my time as President,” and Will corrects her, “principal.”
  • Sue’s character, in the series and this episode in particular, has many similarities to that of the late President Nixon. She is paranoid, introspective, and aggressive. She seems to act without any regard for moral scruples, using her own ambition as her compass. Sue’s obsession with destroying the Glee club and declaration of the “war on junk food” are waged with the same personal vendetta that Richard Nixon had for communists and Vietnam War protesters.

  • Mercedes’ protest against the removal of the Tater Tots can be seen as a representation of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, who were in opposition to Richard Nixon and the rest of the so-called Establishment. Mercedes fights against Sue’s Tater Tot ban, while the counterculture argued against the Vietnam War and the rigid moral constraints of society. Though claiming crusading against an unjust society, both the Tater Tot and counterculture movement involved young people seeking freedom to behave irresponsibly and partake in either unhealthy food or sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.  
  • This conflict between freedom and restriction also manifests itself in conflict of Will and Holly’s teaching styles. Holly claims that her strategy of allowing kids free reign to make bad decisions is a perfect way to deal with this new generation. “These kids feel special, they have a voice!”, she argues to a bewildered Will Shuster, who probably realizes that every generation of kids has felt just the same, and argues for more responsible teaching methds
  • You, like me were probably wondering what the hell a “Le Car” was after Sue claimed that Mercedes (irony?) vandalized her valuable and collectible “Le Car” by stuffing Tater Tots in the exhaust pipe. Le Cars were small hatchbacks built by the Renault auto company in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. In my opinion, they’re very ugly, but apparently they’re rare enough now to be collector’s items.
  • Renault5tl.jpg
  • Sue’s lines about “pardoning” Will and saying that “you can’t force public opinion” are also references to the end of the Nixon presidency
  • Holly Holiday’s portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln at the end of the show spits out a bunch of falsehoods about the Lincoln and his personal life. She describes Lincoln as “probably gay” and “bipolar” and Mary Todd as mentally unstable. Though some people, most notably psychologist C.A. Tripp, have argued that Lincoln was a homosexual, most historians believe that he probably wasn’t. He had a close emotional relationship with his friend Joshua Speed, whom he shared a bed with for many years as a young man. However,  men sharing beds was common on the American frontier in the 19th century. It is more likely that Speed was a person who Lincoln found himself emotionally close with. Though he experienced a few bouts of depression over his lifetime, it was by no means a constant struggle throughout his life, and he showed no symptoms of manic-depressive disorder. Though traditionally portrayed as an insane, dominating witch, Mary Todd was not insane and recent scholarship has portrayed their marriage as a generally happy one.

Thoughts? Teenage Dreams? Disagree with me on anything? Know why there were so many Singing in the Rain references this week? Leave a comment!

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