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Glee and Discrimination

Posted Dec 15 2010 12:00am
The following post is a letter I wrote to the creator, writer, and director of Glee. Though it is one of my favorite shows I was recently very disappointed in the episode, "The Substitute" because of its discriminator and stigmatizing language and actions. Please check out the episode here   (http://www.fox.com/glee/full-episodes/674574657001) or on itunes and write to Ryan Murphy and Fox about your feelings.


This email is addressed to Ryan Murphy and anyone involved in the Glee episode "The Substitute"

Hello Mr. Murphy and staff,

My name is Linea Johnson and I am a mental health advocate. I am 25, and though not an adolescent anymore, work primarily with adolescents struggling with mental health conditions. I am also a consumer who lives with bipolar disorder.

I watch Glee every week and have always considered it a show full of great lessons through it's discussion of important and often controversial topics. I felt that you handled teenage pregnancy, bullying, and the struggles of being openly gay in high school extremely well. I feel there was so much to learn for students struggling with similar issues as well as so much to teach to those who enjoy your show but may not understand these lessons. On the whole I think Glee is a wonderful, strong and intelligent show.

My view changed a little on November 16th when I watched the episode, "The Substitute". Watching Gwyneth Paltrow, a beautiful and talented actress and one who many young girls admire, speaking ignorantly about bipolar disorder and mental illness was very disturbing. To use bipolar disorder as a joke accompanied by the violent image of tossing a baby is complete discrimination and ignorance. The level of stigma that this produces is extremely harmful for all those struggling with this very difficult illness and for those who know and love them.

Did you know that 1 in 4 families will experience a mental illness? 1 in 5 young adults will experience a mental health condition whether it is depression and/or anxiety or something more extreme like bipolar disorder. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for high-schoolers and young adults? I have no doubt that someone in your cast or crew has experienced a mental health condition, likely numerous individuals.

Shows like this are extremely harmful and dangerous to your public. While you are intelligently inclusive of most youth, this episode made it painfully clear that you are not supportive of a very large majority of the students. It is evident that you didn't consider the emotional states that young mothers, over-weight high schoolers, openly gay students, and many more experience in high school. Hasn't Curt experienced depression and fear throughout his bullying? Didn't Quinn have emotional distress during her pregnancy? Perhaps you should try to touch on this very serious issue and continue to teach powerful lessons.

I am very disappointed in Glee. Please make a change and produce episodes that deal with mental illness accurately and compassionately and include themes of recovery. Your treatment of bipolar disorder has lessened the impact of your other powerful lessons and made me question my interest in the show.

Thank you,
Linea Johnson
linea@lineacinda.com
www.lineacinda.com


You can contact Fox here: askfox@fox.com

And Ryan Murphy here:
Ryan Murphy (Glee creator, director, writer):
Ryan Murphy Productions
5555 Melrose Ave
Chevalier Bldg.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Phone: 323-956-5000
Fax: 323-862-2121
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