I’m back to bitch about “Glee.” I don’t want to dissect the quality of the recent episodes, though I’m happy to engage in a dialogue about that via Twitter, but rather, I’m here to complain once again about my beloved Mercedes. I guess I feel a strange kinship with her, what with my own history as a big and beautiful black woman, and it stirs some residual anger on my end when Miss Jones (who Amber Riley plays with exquisite fire) is mistreated.
Quinn Fabray‘s very own Magical Negro. Following in the tradition of Jennifer Hudson in Sex and the City as Saint Louise from St. Louis and Hattie McDaniel as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, the female Magical Negro trope has traveled to television via “Glee.”
There were hints at the relationship before, particularly in the ham-handed and utterly unbelievable heart-to-heart about body image Quinn and Mercedes share during the “Home” episode, but tonight’s entry fully announced Mercedes’ arrival as McKinley’s High School’s Bagger Vance.
I once griped that Mercedes, despite her giant voice and sassy one liners, never shared (and was never given) a backstory. The official FOX Glee Wiki even backs me up on that, with Mercedes’ Backstory beginning with, “There’s not too much to know about Mercedes yet…”
Tonight, viewers found out Mercedes has a brother who recently left for college. We found that out as a device to allow Quinn to move in with the Joneses, thus rescuing her from living with her baby daddy Puck and his evil mom. How kind of Miss Scarlett to let Mammy tell her biographical details.
I speak from which I know. I was such a Magical Negro during adolescence that my senior yearbook portrait should’ve been a picture of Michael Clarke Duncan. I spent high school listening to my vapid “friends” drone on about imaginary boy problems all while failing to ask me if the pained expression on my face had to do with my own personal strife (it didn’t; I was just bored because my friends’ problems were insignificant). I became that default person you told your problems to. I gave great advice with a fake smile and didn’t even have Lucy van Pelt‘s business sense to charge a nickel for my services.
I’d like to think I’ve changed since then, but in reality, I just got better friends. In fact, I spent last weekend Magical Negro-ing it up. I threw a bachelorette party and bridal shower for Melea Andrys, who you might recall as my Daria Morgendorffer. Playing the role of Jodie Landon, I spent a weekend running errands, giving toasts to Melea’s glory and shucking-and-jiving to Michael Jackson‘s “Black or White.” I was such a Magical Negro that I got upset when the happy couple tried to take me out to lunch. My Magical Negro-ness was on such display that I’m pretty sure Rush Limbaugh wanted to play a song about me on his radio show.
But here’s what’s different: I’m a maid of honor. Melea and her science-loving fiance Brian said “Thank you” so many times I started to think I was trapped in an echo chamber, though I appreciated it each time. The line between being a good (black) maid of honor for a (white) bride and being a Magical Negro is thin but distinct. One hint: If someone views you as a Magical Negro, he or she usually doesn’t reward you with a Julia Barbie for your trouble.
Melea and her soon-to-be husband go beyond allowing me to have a convenient back story that enables their personal plots to progress. They actually ask me about my past. They – gasp – read this blog, and in fact, Melea is the one who pushed me to blog about tonight’s “Glee,” in effect making my blogging a Magical Negro move in itself. But Brian and Melea actually recognize and get upset about racism rather than silently practicing it while simultaneously pretending to be colorblind.
See, when someone genuinely likes you, it doesn’t feel wrong to do nice things for them. If anyone saw me last weekend, the pained look that graced my face so often in high school was nowhere to be found.
Mercedes and Quinn’s relationship wouldn’t make my stomach turn if we ever once saw them together enjoying each other’s company, either genuinely or to advance Mercedes’ backstory and bring depth to her character. Compared to Mercedes, Quinn’s character is so fleshed out, and that seems unfair given that she’s got the worst voice of the two and the show is largely about singing. I’m no idiot, though, the female Magical Negro is always good enough to fix your problems while washing your whites but is never stereotypically attractive enough to rival our caucasian heroine.
I know it’s not February, but here’s a quick Black history fact: June 19 is a holiday called Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves after the American Civil War. Many major cities (i.e. places with lots of black people) host parades and cultural events to celebrate the day. This year, I’ll be spending Juneteenth running errands and following orders; June 19 is Melea’s and Brian’s wedding day. My sick mind finds the idea of taking orders from a white bride on Juneteenth twisted in its hilarity, but rationally I know that there’s nothing I’d rather do. Part of that might be because growing up as a token means being a Magical Negro becomes your default personality, but I promise that in the wedding photos featuring the bridesmaids, that pained look from high school will be absent.