There are so many romantic pairings on Glee that keeping straight which guy is angry at which girl for cheating on him earlier in the season can be hard to follow. So, why is Mercedes the only main character who's never had a boyfriend for more than one episode?
Mercedes, who's played by Amber Riley, is one of the show's most talented singers, but she's never really had a multi-episode arc. Occasionally she fights Rachel for a solo or campaigns to keep tots in the school cafeteria, but her issues are usually wrapped up within the hour. On XHIBIT P, Lara Frater argues that this is because of her size. She writes:
In addition to typecasting fat women's romance and relationships, television shows also portray fat women's sexuality as being either non-existent or hypersexual. Lauren personifies the hypersexual fat woman; the fat woman who uses sex to get attention. While she might claim to be confident, Lauren desires to become famous by any means necessary, including degrading herself. As for Lauren, sexual discourse seems to be the prevalent theme in each of her appearances in the show, although her sexual history isn't sufficiently disclosed or addressed. In Never Been Kissed, Lauren wants to make a sex tape during her first time with Puck-a desire that eventually gets shot down when she learns that would be considered child pornography...
In contrast, Mercedes and Shannon [Beiste] represent the non-sexual fat woman. Amber Riley, who plays Mercedes, has an incredible voice-arguably the best-but can't get a date or love interest to save her life. As a character, Mercedes has yet to be developed. Unlike her voice, Mercedes' character is lackluster. Two seasons have come and gone, yet Mercedes remains the same character whereas other main characters such as Finn, Rachel, Quinn, Kurt, Brittany, Artie, Tina, Santana, even mean Sue Sylvester have changed and grown. Like many fat woman in TV and movies, Amber plays the supporting character, never the main, despite being a regular on the show.
Lauren's relationship with Puck has been controversial, but we actually like that (eventually) the show portrayed Puck's attraction to Lauren as normal. Lauren also seems to be confident about her body and her sexuality, not someone who'se using sex to get attention. As for the show's "non-sexual fat woman," it's frustrating that Mr. Schue can only kiss Coach Beiste as a weird favor — certainly he'd never consider dating her, even though they're close friends. But, is Mercedes being non-sexual really a problem?
On The Shameless Blog, Shaunta Grimes says she likes that Glee is sending the message with at least one character that it's okay for teens not to be on a quest to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. She writes that Mercedes reminds her of her daughter, who chose not to date in high school after (like Mercedes) one of her friends had a baby in ninth grade. Grimes adds:
Being a teenager doesn't always mean that your raging hormones make you ready to hook up with the first boy or girl or person who pays attention to you. Not only is that idea not fair to kids like my daughter, it's not fair to anyone. Choosing to have a sexual relationship in high school doesn't make you a hormonal basket case and choosing not too doesn't mean that you're a prude or unloved. Or unloveable.
It's true that all of the other major characters on Glee have had romantic or sexual relationships with each other and occasionally with someone outside their group. Is portraying one girl out of seven as not sexually active really discrimination? Would it be easier to take if she were thin? Or white?
Grimes' way of looking at Mercedes is interesting, but unfortunately there isn't much evidence that the character doesn't want to have a boyfriend. It definitely wouldn't be discrimination if Mercedes was focused on something else, but in recent episodes we've only seen her gossip, act like a diva, and sing a semi-offensive song about her love of unhealthy eating (though rhyming "Wheaties" with "diabetes" was pretty impressive).
There's still a good chance the lack of Mercedes in this season has nothing to do with race or size. There are so many characters in the cast that it's surprising the writers have been able to maintain multiple storylines as well as they have. Shows with ensemble casts often lose track of a character or two.
We'd be happy if Quinn and Finn decided to pursue their incredibly dull prom king and queen campaign at another school, thus freeing up screen time for Mercedes. But Glee already managed to make Kurt and his struggle with gay bullying the biggest theme on a number one show. The writers probably can't entirely eliminate two of the show's most conventionally attractive stars without angering the network. Hopefully they'll make time to develop Mercedes more, but whether she winds up with a guy or pursuing some non-romantic interest, it looks like it won't happen until next season.
Earlier: Sex, Fat Girls & Glee