Naked, despite its name, wasn’t an episode about nudity, it was about how you see yourself, and about being vulnerable.
At times it was over the top, and it occasionally strayed a little too close to tacky, but it got its point across – that beauty is more than skin deep, that there is more to you than your body, that vulnerability is more naked than being naked. Still, it could have probably done it with less skin on display, although for once on a television show it was generally the men being objectified – not only did the New Directions boys wander around topless most of the time, Rachel’s band was shirtless too. It was a clever little way to flip stereoptypes where women are usually the ones with flesh on show and men are the ones doing the objectifying.
Naked also showed that Glee can do continuity. Some of these storylines have been building since Makeover, and I would argue that one – Sam’s – has been building since he was first introduced.
Sam’s body has always been commented on, almost from the moment he joined McKinley – Kurt focused on his hair, everyone has mentioned his lips, from Santana’s Trouty Mouth to Blaine and Tina’s lusting last week in Sadie Hawkins, and when he ran for student council along with Blaine, Sam was made over to look more serious. And when Sam became a stripper to make money for his family, he was proud of his body and what he could do with it – feed his family. Blaine, on the other hand, way back when Sam said the glee club should use their bodies to win a competition, was highly against using your body to get ahead.
In Naked, Sam’s body issues turned into something negative. His body became the only good thing he saw about himself – and the only good thing he thought other people saw about him. His obsessiveness saw Sam became controlling and singleminded, until Blaine made him see that academic ability, which Sam felt he lacked and so caused him to focus on his looks, is not the only thing that matters – people love Sam because he’s kind, and passionate, and believes in what is right, and works hard, and fights for what is his, whether that’s his family or glee club. Covering up for the Men of McKinley calendar was a physical representation of how Sam realised his body was no longer the only good thing about him.
Sam and Blaine’s friendship has fast become my favourite thing on Glee. Way back when (during Pot O’ Gold), I spoke about how Glee had become more about the couples and less about the friendships – and I‘ve always thought that while the romances were nice, it’s the friendships that made Glee special. This season, Glee has redressed that balance, not just with Sam and Blaine, but with Kurt and Rachel (even though I feel Kurt gives more in that friendship), with Rachel, Quinn and Santana, with Marley and Unique, with Blaine and Tina (although Tina’s crush is currently getting in the way and is fast heading from funny to just horrible characterisation), and with Kurt and Blaine, whose friendship we’re not currently seeing but who told each other they were best friends and are hopefully repairing their friendship in the off screen moments.
Meanwhile, Rachel was considering taking her clothing off for a role in a truly horrendous sounding film, but the prospect of going topless did made Rachel face up to who she is now. Back when Makeover was shown, I ranted about how Rachel turning into a sex kitten, or Slutty Barbie to use Kurt’s (rather cruel) words, was not a sign of her growing up or becoming more mature. Instead it was just a cheap attempt to look older, just resulting in Rachel thinking looks were more important than substance.
The results of Makeover came back to haunt Rachel this week, literally, as the ghost of her old self turned up to remind Rachel of who she used to be. Two Rachels was a bit much for me, but it’s good to see that Rachel realised she hadn’t left her old self behind just by fluffing up her hair, putting on a tube of mascara and wearing tighter, lower cut tops and barely there skirts. Once Rachel let her old self back in, she became a new Rachel – one who is growing into a woman, but realising that she doesn’t have to leave all of her old self behind to do so.
While we’re with Rachel, she did receive some help from Quinn and Santana, who tag teamed Rachel to make her realise that she didn’t have to take her clothes off to be a grown up. It also gave Glee the opportunity to introduce Santana to New York – Santana’s proclamation that she thought New York was a good fit for her was clunky and completely unsubtle. I guess Santana will be moving to New York very, very soon.
Back at New Directions there were a few other characters having body image issues. First up were Marley and Jake, the former is still dealing with her bulimia (I assume), while for both their body issues were also to do with how exposing your soul is harder than exposing your body. This week, I actually thought Jake and Marley were very sweet, and I liked the way their relationship was portrayed, although as far as I’m aware they’ve only been on about two dates and are now ready to proclaim their love for each other. In Naked, Jake and Marley were doing something even braver than going naked, they were showing their vulnerabilities. When they sang A Thousand Years, you could see Marley coming to the realisation that beauty that is more than skin deep, an important lesson for anyone, especially someone with an eating disorder (and I think this is as far as Glee is going to delve into the issues behind Marley’s bulimia). And Jake singing Let Me Love You was beautiful (even though his voice went a bit throaty and Kermit at times), and showed not just his vulnerability, but was also a plea to Marley to let herself be vulnerable around him.
And finally, there was Artie, whose body issues stemmed from the fact that he looks different to everyone else, because whenever people look at him they also see his chair. I was proud of Artie for standing up for himself against Finn, and saying he didn’t want to be in the calendar, and I was even prouder of him when he decided he would be in the calendar, with Sam’s support. Artie has always had self-esteem issues, but they’ve never been delved into as much as everyone else’s and are always resolved pretty quickly (see this season’s Christmas episode). I think Artie is gorgeous, and I’m glad Becky told him so at the end, putting a smile on his face.
I love, love, loved the big group number at the end. It was joyful, hopeful and about New Directions finding their groove again individually and as a group. Big group numbers are what Glee has always done best, and, although the faces in this one were different from the much loved group numbers of seasons past, the feel was the same.
As a side note, if Tina and Mike aren’t happening, can I have Tina and Ryder instead please?