I watch a lot of interesting things on TV. When people ask me what shows I’m watching right now, I usually hesitate to answer because I know that the moment I state what I watch I will be judged. Now, nothing that I enjoy is “bad,” but it also wouldn’t be considered “great” TV. It’s no Breaking Bad (which I tried to get into, but it was just too intense.) Television for me isn’t about following an intense or heavy plotline, but more about the story, the adventure, or if there are specific characters that are really interesting.
So last night I was catching up on Glee. I would use the excuse that I just like the music, but I’ve realized that’s a complete lie. I like the characters and I like the story (let the judging commence). Anyways, Glee is a show know for attempting to break stereotypes of all sorts. From gender stereotypes to those against people with disabilities. They also have a fairly equal ratio of male to female characters which is, sadly, extremely rare in television and movies. Whether you agree with the content of the show or not, they do all of these things without sounding like a walking public service announcement, which I respect. (If you want to see a show that does this poorly, watch The Fosters.)
But the other night I was slightly offended with a certain word choice used by one of the characters Marley. Now, I love this character, she’s normal and pretty without it being obvious, and she has a good voice. In the never-ending drama that is Glee (and every other TV show to be completely honest), Marley’s boyfriend cheated on her and now he is trying to atone for the mistake, but he’s being very sporadic about it. Sometimes it seems like he’s trying and than other times it seems like he doesn’t care.
To describe his behavior, she says that it’s “schizo.” Sadly, many people who read this will be like, “What? Schizo isn’t bad, it’s just describing someone acting sporadic or crazy.” And what’s most heartbreaking about this is that it truly shows how far we haven’t come in the fight to de-stigmatize mental illness. For this wording to appear on the show Glee, it’s even more disheartening.
While some people won’t bat an eye to using the word “schizo,” this phrase is short for the mental illness, schizophrenia, which is a terrible and absolutely crippling illness. It causes people to lose control of their own minds. It’s debilitating. And it saddens me that the writers of Glee, the actors, the director, and everyone else present for the filming of that scene didn’t blink an eye over the use of that word. While Glee strives to be inclusive with gender stereotypes, sexuality, mentally and physically handy-capable people, they don’t seem to care about the stigma of mental illness.
Now, I’m not asking for people to boycott or for anyone to get up in arms over this, but I would hope that it causes people to think of the words that they choose to say. Using certain words perpetuates stereotypes and stigmas. It’s harmful to humanity and it’s harmful to everyone who suffers from a mental illness or has family who are suffering. I’m not asking for the writers of Glee to add a character who is suffering from a form of mental illness, but that they choose their words more carefully.
I would say that this is something that everyone strives to do. Words are powerful and when some words are thrown around like it means nothing, it has damaging consequences. One such word is the “n” word. There are many reasons to not use this word, but I personally don’t use it because it is debilitating, hurtful, and dehumanizing.
I doubt anyone of importance is going to read this (i.e. people who work on Glee), but I felt that it needed to be said. Television is a powerful medium and the words spoken on it are carried to millions of people. It has the ability to push the envelope and to preserve ideas- whether they are good ideas or bad.