Last night Glee's heavily-promoted Madonna episode aired and it definitely lived up to the hype. The focus on female empowerment was great, but did the ladies of McKinley High learn it's best to be "like a virgin"?
The episode started with Rachel asking the other girls in New Directions how to handle being pressured into having sex. None of them have a good answer, as each reveals she's being mistreated by a guy in her life. Says Tina: "We just have to accept that guys don't care about our feelings." Mr. Schuester overhears the girls and tries to help them out, but Quinn gives him a lesson on patriarchy, explaining, "The fact is women still earn 70 cents to every dollar a man does for doing the same job. That attitude starts in high school."
Will and Emma discuss why the girls feel like they have no power, and Emma remarks, "Look at their role models — you've got Britney Spears and her shaved head, Lindsay Lohan looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, Ann Coulter..." Ouch. Last week's Jessica Simpson joked seemed a little out of line, but she has a point about these ladies.
Elsewhere in McKinley High, Sue tells her Cheerios she wants them to emulate Madonna to improve their routines. She starts by abolishing last names, encouraging them to date younger men, and blackmailing Principal Figgins into playing Madonna songs over the P.A. system all day. To accomplish this mision, Santana decides to deflower Finn, who is slightly younger.
Taking a cue from Sue, Mr. Schuester assigns the glee kids Madonna songs to teach them about respecting women. The cast was clearly just as excited about this episode as the fans were. All the performances were fantastic, from the girls' corseted rendition of "Express Yourself" to Rachel and Finn's "Borderline"/"Open Your Heart" mash-up, with students dressed up as various Madonna reinventions in the background.
When Emma asks Sue why she can't hear the music in her office, Sue explains she cut her intercom because,
You don't deserve the power of Madonna. you have none of her self confidence, her power over her body or her sexual magnetism. Simply put, you have all the sensuality of those pandas down at the zoo who refuse to mate.
Emma decides to take control of her body by having sex with Will. Jesse apologizes to Rachel for pushing her into sex and says they can wait as long as she wants, but she tells him she's ready to have sex. Likewise, Finn decides to take Santana up on her offer after he realizes Rachel and Jesse are still dating.
All three couples sing "Like A Virgin" with their partner, but it turns out they're just fantasizing as they try to decide whether or not to go through with it. Each looks terrified as they stare into the mirror, but finally Rachel says, "I'm ready."
Then for one commercial break you're left to consider the possibility that in the "female empowerment" episode we'll actually see a high school girl make the decision that she's ready for sex, then do so without getting pregnant (there isn't room for two pregnant teens) or dying a bloody death in the next scene.
But then you're reminded that this isn't cable and you can't send the message to teenage girls that you can be a "good girl" and not a virgin. Though Rachel said "I'm ready" before leaving the bathroom, when she opens the door she announces she doesn't want to have sex. First she gives a bullshit explanation about how acting against her teammates wishes would be like "sleeping with the enemy," then adds, "I'm truly not ready to do this."
For both Rachel and Emma, their moment of female empowerment actually comes when they decided they don't have to have sex, which is much more appropriate for a PG show, but still kind of disappointing. Should Rachel and Emma have had sex with their respective dudes? Probably not. Though Rachel thinks she's in a committed relationship, we know Jesse may be using her. It probably wouldn't make sense for Emma either, since she still has all the same issues that prevented her from sleeping with Will last week. Still, it was interesting to see two female protagonists decide that they were ready to have sex, and hopefully someday they'll get to (without getting shamed or knocked up afterward).
As the male lead, it was OK for Finn to go ahead and lose his virginity, but thankfully this wasn't handled like it would have been in some American Pie-type teen movie. After having sex, Finn gets upset and tells Santana, "I don't feel anything because it didn't mean anything." It was a nice contrast to the lines in the beginning of the episode about how sex is "different for a girl" and boys don't care about girls feelings to show that teen guys aren't necessarily robots on a mission to lose their "V card."
Will realizes that while he's been trying to teach the guys to respect the girls, he's been disrespecting Emma. He says he shouldn't have agreed to sleep with her in the first place, and he should probably add making out with Idina Menzel shortly after their first date in last week's episode to that list.
At the end of the episode Jesse transfers to McKinley High and joins New Directions, ostensibly for Rachel, prompting Mercedes and Kurt join the Cheerios because they're tired of not getting lead parts in glee. After performing "4 Minutes" with the cheerleaders, Mercedes and Kurt say they're staying in New Directions too and perform "Like A Prayer" with the glee kids and a gospel choir. If you're one of the many people whose DVRs cut off the final number because American Idol ran long, you can watch the whole episode on Hulu.
Glee: The Power Of Madonna [Hulu]