Vision Malevolent #7: Pierce Hawthorne and X-Pac Heat

Hey, Vision Malevolent is back. It’s been so long since I’ve written about TV that I actually forgot what my last article was about. It’s kind of like I walked into a posh store, head aloft, tried on the most expensive South Park the store had to offered, and walked out with it still on by accident. You could say that. But I certainly wouldn’t wear a white dress to court. Not with that fucking hemline. And not that ridiculous paper towel pattern, either.  Blugh.


The quicker-picker upper. I mean the dress.


But I’ve still been working on EE stuff. For the last month of so, I’ve been earnestly outlining a comparative analysis of the second seasons of Community and Glee. A whole month…


Then the fucking Onion Guy published the same fucking thing.


But I push forward, because he has to deal with petty nuisances like deadlines, and word restrictions, and readers, whereas I can do whatever I’d like, and what I like always manages to be about 5500 words.


This week, I’m going to sever part of that swelling behemoth of an article to focus on a particular aspect of Community, one that arose whilst I was outlining it: the vilification of Pierce Hawthorne and Chevy Chase. And I’m going to talk about how this hoopla surrounding him displayed a very particular brand of wrestling folklore: the fabled X-Pac Heat.


Pro Wrestling parlance is just one of the many subbaculture language-games to find mainstream use, but it stands as one of the first and most enduring. And you hear the term “heat” come up more than anything. It’s the greatest all-purpose word since the Brits invented “bollocks.” In wrestling, “heat” specifically refers to the reaction you get from the crowd, either the vitriol or the adoration. It comes up in all kinds of ways:


  • “My word! He certainly got a lot of cheap heat by insulting the city he was in.”
  • “Well, I’m not cheering. And you’re not cheering. And  no one around us is cheering… so why does it sound like the whole arena is cheering?
  • “Breaking news: that popular new rookie everyone on the internet loves accidentally tripped over a veteran’s bag, causing said veteran’s Wall Street Journal to become covered in baby oil. The rookie now has a ton of heat on him in the back and he’ll be out of the company in three months.”
  • “Triple H thought he’d get a ton of heat by climbing into the coffin of his rival’s ex-girlfriend and fucking the corpse. It was too close to real life and the fans were nonplussed.”


For all the variations, you can generally break “heat” down into two categories: how well a guy gets along with the other wrestlers in the back (the second example), and the reaction he’s getting from the audience (the other three). ,generally, heat is more naturally associated with how much hatred a heel inspires. Generating heat is the first step in a heel’s success, the ultimate goal being the translation of that heat into PPV buyrate and gate receipts. Basically, hate = $$$, and hate to a heel is like attention to a Salahi: check your dignity and your decency at the fucking door and just get some.


But when it comes to wrestling, things are never as simplistic as they seem. At the risk of offending a petulant Al Snow and his geometrically groomed goatee… some heat you just don’t want. Because being a proper heel in wrestling is a delicate balancing act. You need to be reviled, obviously, but in a way that the fans subconsciously wish you were on their side. And when you turn face, if you did your job properly the fans will flock to you. That’s the game; control their reactions, anticipate their emotions. Which means that above all else, the crowd needs to react to your character’s actions and words, but not you. Never you.


But for Sean Waltman, it was him. All him.


“X-Pac Heat” was named, naturally, after the wrestler X-Pac  and the peculiar way he was resoundingly hated by wrestling crowds. Because it wasn’t just the normal heat you’d find in wrestling. He was the embodiment of the worst kind of heat possible: they hated him by his very existence. They hated his essence. Simply put, they hated him so much, and in such a way, that they just wanted him to go away… and you never want that.


I mean, I don't get it. But they did, in fact, hate this guy.


It really is a strange phenomenon with X-Pac, better known to the world as Sean Waltman, better associated with creeping the fuck out of us by his vicious sexual congress with pre/post/?-op Chyna.. His career began in earnest as the 1-2-3 Kid, a cherubic faced johnny-come-lately that scored improbable upset victories over established superstars. He continued with this character until he left the WWF in 1996: humble, with limited mic time, and babyfaced.


For instance, back then only three fingers pointed to his basket.


Sean Waltman himself had become friends with the most popular wrestlers in the WWF at the time, including champions such as Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. HHH maneuvered his way into the group as well, as sort of a test run for the way he maneuvered his way into the McMahon family. Together, they were known as the Clique, and their stranglehold on the company brought the WWF perilously close to collapse.


As “Syxx” in WCW (being the sixth person to join the now, and also 1+2+3GETITLOLWINKWINKINTERNETWRESTLINGCOMMUNITY) and then as “X-Pac” upon his return to the WWE(F), he was the polar opposite of the character he played in his first run in the WWF. For instance, he grew that dreadful thing on his face in the first picture, which consistently hovers in the no-fly zone between “putrid hobo beard” and “puffy pedophile goatee.” And he was obnoxious. Relentlessly obnoxious. It was his character and it worked in the context of the NWO, but it constantly straddled the dangerous line between heat and outright hatred.


When he returned to the WWF in 1998, it was as a part of HHH’s revamped version of DX. The group enjoyed immense popularity once they turned face, enough so that they all enjoyed a large amount of residual success after the group split. And really, for all that’s said about Waltman, he wasn’t that bad. He was a pretty good guy (at least comparatively to other wrestlers), worked a decent-to-great match (when healthy), and he had a moveset that included some interesting stuff.


But his most grating tendencies were still prevalent. He was unbearable. The way he pranced around the ring was jarringly spastic. His interviews were adequate at best, and nauseating in general, in large part due to his completely disenchanting voice. It was gravely but still cracked at times, and underwhelming when he had to show some range. Oh, and also spastic. He was just a consortium of frenetic brashness. Seriously, it was so amazing how much he sucked that, well… we had to put a name on it. One that’s stood for over a decade now.


Which ends first, DC Talk's hiatus or the term X-Pac Heat?


Considering his size compared to the other major wrestlers at the time (though still large compared to the normal wrestling fan), it’s tempting to point out that he was probably most akin to what it would look and sound like if a random smark was thrown in the ring. But the important thing is that the general consensus is that X-Pac was wholly detestable, and it got to the point that it didn’t even matter if he was a face of heel. People hated him regardless. And in the worst way possible. To the point where it broke their suspension of debelief;  hell, people didn’t even want to bother attempting a suspension of disbelief. They just hated the fucker’s guts that much.


And thus, we have the term X-Pac Heat.


I saw plenty of it in the wake of the mockumentary/hospital episode of Community, when the critical community simultaneously invented and lamented Community’s “Chevy Chase Problem,” then discussed the bejesus out of it. And the whole thing was fucking imbued with X-Pac Heat.


A captious, detached critics version of it, but X-Pac Heat nonetheless. For playing a character that upset the balance of the funniest show on television, Chevy Chase was the most hated man on TV. Until he was unceremoniously dethroned by the Arby’s Good Mood Food guy.


Colin Meloy or Ben Gibbard: You Make the Call.


I became as intrigued by the earnestness of the attempts to “solve” this crisis as the problem itself. There was one podcast I ended up coming across that contained some of the most refined balderdash I’ve ever heard. I’ve purposefully forgotten it’s name, but the dreadful palaver between the two dudes and the girl on the show, criticizing the Dungeons and Dragons episode (“Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”), was stunningly bad…. surely this was expertly fermented balderdash.


A screencap of the podcast.


Most of their nuclear bollocks was impertinent, but it was magnificent drivel. One dude suggested that the show would have worked better if Shirley had played the villain, instead of Pierce, because of some nonsense reasoning involving Christian outrage over D&D in the 80’s. The other two replied in such fervent agreement I’m almost positive they were defective Japanese robot prototypes.


Even overlooking the fact that Shirley wouldn’t oppose the game because a boy’s life was at stake, or that, as the passive-aggressive Christian archetype, she would avoid such a thing, or that the whole premise is stupidly fucking insular… the question they raised was a brilliant one that concisely pinpointed the dilemma:


Did Pierce Hawthorne work as the villain?


And further, why is he the villain? Does there need to be a villain? Is it undermining the show? Is Chevy Chase forcing them into a corner? Do they hate Chevy? Does anyone like Chevy? Has anyone ever liked Chevy?


A face only Bill Murray's fist could love.

The discussion about Pierce Hawthorne’s character arc had been steadily growing before reaching critical mass after “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking.” There was genuine concern that the character had taken the show hostage, subduing it’s charm and undermining its storytelling. There was theorizing about whether the character of Pierce Hawthorne was becoming specifically based upon Chevy Chase himself, fueled by rumors of backstage dissent. The belief was that Pierce was being written to mimick the notoriously aloof and caustic Chase.


The bottom line is that critics and, more importantly, fans were seriously perplexed and bewildered by the character. And it was at this point where I believe it became a variant on X-Pac Heat. Because while it’s indisputable that Season Two Pierce Hawthorne was designed to make us uncomfortable, that he was supposed to become much more dislikable… a lot of people became genuinely discomforted by him, and personally disliked him. More importantly, to the point where it was breaking the 4th Wall and undermining suspension of belief…. the great symptom of X-Pac Heat.


But I think the whole thing was hogwash. And for two big reasons.

#1: Don’t Blame Chevy


First off, the whole Chevy Chase aspect in all this was preposterous. Not to sound like a godawful formulist here, but Chevy Chase as an actor has no bearing on this at all. Most of what I’ve read regarding his particular role in all of this seems like speculation and conjecture.


For instance, that Pierce’s behavior in “Celebrity Pharmacology” was a roman à clef about Chase’s behavior behind-the-scenes. At this point, there’s plenty of evidence throughout Chase’s career that suggests that his sardonic austerity is just normal stasis. It’s nothing more than that. Certainly nothing Dan Harmon and staff would completely upend their show over.


Unless Chevy Chase, in real life, was a affable but clueless fop producing real life variations of The Two Conquerors a year ago. And if Chevy Chase and has progressively shifted over the last 12 months towards being a bitter old man making lairs out of office supplies and pretending to be people’s estranged fathers. If that’s the case, I’ll concede. Otherwise, equating Chevy Chase with his divisive character is lazy, reactionary criticism. Bringing Chevy Chase into this was a logical but empty attempt by critics to identify the underlying causation.


It’s especially displeasing because it more than anything seems like an attempt to make a difficult “problem” tangible, and thus easily fixable. Choose easy target, eliminate target. Pretty lame.


And a bit shocking; it’s almost as if the meta-ness of the show is making us think ourselves into corners, even though we’re fully aware of it the whole time. The answer is actually a simpler version of the Chevy Chase Problem: Pierce seems like Chevy because Chevy is just natural with that type of character. The show was famously particular in it’s casting. The performances are meant to seem almost predestined. Sort of a meta-psych. Or, just like Psych.


I'm sensing that... your character actually did go too far this season. Honestly. :/


But, more substantively, it’s a moot point anyway. The big reason it’s all foofaraw is because…

#2: Pierce Hawthorne’s Character Arc Was Natural


Chevy Chase’s behavior is inconsequential: Pierce Hawthorne ended up this way all on his own. His character evolution is, essentially, a deviation… but a natural progression. Season 1 Pierce Hawthorne influenced Season 2 Pierce Hawthorne more than Chevy Chase ever conceivably could.


No, the real problem was that people, of the real and critical caste, appeared to be turned off by Pierce the character. And the issues all lie within the show itself.


So, on the subject of the character arc and why it’s technically agreeable… there’s actually not much disputation there. Most agree that the arc itself had some structural problems, but that it’s core is totally logical and understandable. The death of Pierce’s mom, the group’s conscious efforts to exclude him, and his trampoline-related injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers… It’s all there.


It’s a bit understated, and I felt the connection between them all could have been a bit more explicit. I also though that the episode where Pierce’s mother died had some pacing issues, and that will come up in the next few Vision Malevolents. But for now, all that stuff is there and requires very little processing to explain Pierce’s actions.


So the question becomes, why the anger? I think there’s a few reasons.


For one, Community has always had an elevated reality, but pretty grounded. So Pierce’s often outlandish behavior in this season was unsettling to many. Because while the show often flaunts the implausibility of the plot and action, the characters themselves generally stay believable. Even when you have Jeff ripping his underwear off in a pool game with an ornery old man in front of a large crowd of people… ehhh…


Oh, right... that.


Alright, maybe that was the worst possible thing I could have bring up. And there are a number of those, actually. But however silly, the behavior of the characters rarely cross the line into cartoonish. Pierce sometimes has, this season. And the show’s episodic character arcs almost always end poignantly. This season, Pierce’s rarely had.


The D&D episode was the apex and a lot of people cite it when talking about the character coming off-the-rails. But a lot of that has to do with production of the episode. Pierce’s impromptu lair and Ernst Blofield performance was elaborately and creatively shot. It totally dissolved the suspension of belief for many. It didn’t seem like something that would happen at Greendale, and, because it’s segregation at that time from the main action of the episode only enhanced it’s jarring nature for some.


Additionally, that episode was a hybrid of genre exercise and original story, and so Pierce’s behavior was at the same time totally congruous with the show, yet could still be confusing for the audience. What I mean is that most episodes make a clear delineation between genre exercises like “Contemporary American Poultry” and regular episodes that simply fall back into single-camera sitcom. In some cases, there might be juxtaposition: an episode having a normal storyline as well as a subplot that is genre specific or parody. But generally everything is well delineated.


But “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” was a twist on this; it seemed like a regular episode but was in fact a genre exercise, a fantasy. And most people probably understood that from the beginning, the the grandiose opening sequence; but the subdued nature of the action of the episode itself, all taking place at the familiar study room table, was just familiar enough to make the archetype dark overload character Pierce became a little strange. It was as overt as Jeff’s action hero archetype in “Modern Warfare,” honestly, but in an episode that wasn’t so blatant. So Pierce stood out.


Here's a picture that could have saved you the last 1500 words.


I thought it was a pretty shrewd bit of writing, and a pretty great comedic setup. It was the kind of layering humor snobs love about Community. There’s a standard comedic situation: someone takes something not-so-serious very seriously, while everyone else is just having fun. Community subverted this by taking something fun, having people take it really seriously , and then having someone take it even more seriously than that. And there’s the added quirk that by taking it so seriously, he was actually not being serious about the underlying issue of a classmate’s suicide.


In this instance, Pierce’s behavior simply fits an esoteric kind of episode. So what of his villainy in general, not attached to an episode of that nature?


This goes into the very essence of Community, and how people relate to the show. Again, at it’s very core Community is a realistic show. There’s so many little tidbits that anyone who has ever gone to college can appreciate. I’ll touch on specific examples in the upcoming VM’s, but it’s these kind of things that makes Community so appealing. There’s a level of coherence to the show that almost naturally draws you to suspend disbelief and watch it as if it weren’t a show.


But you still need certain aspects of fiction. You still need something to cause conflict.


Mr. Thursday Night


In season one, Senor Chang served a crucial purpose. He was the de facto villain, even if it was sort of a utilitarian antagonism he practiced. He would often present an episode’s plot point, from which the storylines would jump off. In that role, he was a foundation for the show, a stabilizing factor, no matter how much people hated him.

and many vociferously did hate him. Chang was disliked based on the way he treated the main characters, but also because of Ken Jeong’s performance. Jeong was excoriated for his frantic, loud acting, which seemed out-of-place in Community. And because Jeong has essentially played one character his whole career, people began to equate the two and wondered if Jeong was, in fact, the problem.


Doesn’t that sound familiar?


Because, like Chang, Pierce seems incongruous. In a show about accepting your life situations and, more specifically, accepting the people around you as friends, he’s alarmingly unrepentant about his juvenile, destructive, selfish villainy. But it’s necessary; he been driving the plot. And pretty well, too.


But the actual behavior, the sheer jerkiness of Pierce, is the main problem for most. It’s also the most abstract. It’s hard to adequately explain the way people are displeased by the true awfulness of Pierce’s conduct, becuase it’s a basic, essential reaction to such behavior. It fits within certain episodes, it has purpose, it makes sense given what he’s gone through this season… but it’s still unsavory. It’s natural to be repelled by it.


It’s much more disconcerting than Chang,, though, because Pierce is a main character. He’s established as one of our TV friends. It’s weird and discomforting for him to so openly hate and sabotage his friends. It adds a level of confusion that makes the vitriol he inspires that much more intense.


But should it be  X-Pac Heat?


Absolutely not.


Pierce’s character forces us to examine the true darkness in people, even in the ones we like. He is a visceral character. It reminds me of something Kevin Barnes said in an interview a few years ago about the preciousness of indie rock, about how it purposefully avoids dark impulses. Now, he was talking about the sexual, but I think it applies to this Pierce Hawthorne issue. Community is very much in the indie comedy mold, appealing to the same 30 Rock-Parks and Recreation crowd. And Pierce embodies the unashamedly selfish, those that consume and take and covet without conscience. He’s an impulsive character on a show that thinks.


And he truly does embody the archetype, obviously at times to the point of cartoonishly manifesting as it. He does so on a show that pointedly repulses this behavior. He acts in a way that threatens the emotional basis of the show. He’s… a pure villain.


Thus, he doesn’t deserve X-Pac Heat. He deserves real heat. He deserves the heat his character was designed to foment.


Or, rather, he did deserve real heat. Now that the arc has reached a somewhat underwhelming climax in “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking,” we will probably revert to the old Pierce: sardonic, inappropriate, a bit depressing, but relentlessly watchable.


The question that persists is whether or not the gang should continue hanging out with him. Or, why do they still hang out with him? To me, it fits in with the ethos of the show. Sometimes, your friends in college are wankers, totally obnoxious and they make you wonder whether it’s worth it all. But you stay with them, because… they’re your friends. Not because they are the only brand name actor on your show. Because they are your friends.


But I didn’t come here to talk about Community.


I came to here to talk about how much I fucking hate Holly Holiday.


YESSSSS, it was about Glee all along!!! HAHAHAHA


And how last week’s episode of Glee was their worst yet. Mainly because of her. But I can admit that the animosity towards her has nothing to do with X-Pac Heat.


It’s Cena Heat.


In the wake of the dreadfully scatterbrained “Sexy,” Holly Holiday, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance as her, was pretty divisive. The Onion guy, who I almost always never agree with on Glee matters, and whom I still consider persona non grata for giving the Rocky Horror episode an F, was pretty spot-on. Tom and Lorenzo at Project Rungay, whom I NEVER disagree with on Glee matters, left me aghast with their inexplicable fawning over the character. It was a weird week.


Make no mistake, though: in a series brimming with missteps and lost opportunities, Holly Holiday is the most egregious error of them all. She’s bursting at the seams with Cena Heat, at least from the critics that rightfully excoriate her presence on the show.


So, what is Cena Heat? Cena Heat is the converse of X-Pac Heat. You could probably call it Hogan Heat, actually, since he basically invented it (and since Cena’s basically a modern rehash of the Hulkster), but the scenario is the same. (In fact, The Rock is probably the generation gap between the two. When the crowd turned on him they turned hard. Oh, and Cena is a pale facsimile of The Rock, as well.)


And unlike Pierce Hawthorne, this heat is very much deserved.


Basically, it’s when you just don’t get it. It’s when a wrestler, a face,  is pushed so hard, presented practically as flawless and invicible, that the crowd… rejects it.


Some common traits is the wrestler showing very little weakness, often comes across as pandering to the lowest common denominator. The wrestler often has a nonchalant, overconfident personality, one as repellent as the heels he vanquishes if not more so. And he vanquishes the heel a LOT (in the ring and especially in interviews), to the point where you stop investing in the storylines. The wrestler of Cena Heat brings people out of their suspension of disbelief, in order to ask…


“What is it that’s so great about this guy?”


Again, if my description doesn’t work, just picture Hogan and Cena.


The two dressed up for the occasion. No, seriously... this is dressed up for them. Oy.


With Hogan, there was always a small but fervent amount of fans who simply hated his character, even in his heyday. He was a simplistic worker in the ring, often formulaic, and blatantly devoted to style over substance. More than that, a lot of his matches were preposterous. The famous “Hulking up,” the most famous no-selling in wrestling history, was a trigger for a small chorus of boos depending on the venue. But Hulk was still pretty good, regardless; his welcome extended into the early 90’s, when even the most ardent Hulkamaniac started to notice that his character was pretty much a selfish asshole.


Cena’s a bit different. He started as a pretty interesting and effective heel with a “white rapper” gimmick, and when he made the switch to face it was welcomed. He couldn’t wrestle that well, but he was excellent on the mic and had a charmful energy to him. Even after he won the title at Wrestlemania 21, the majority of people were still behind him. He was new and, more importantly, it seemed like his time. He was written really well into his title run.


Things started to seriously change several months into his reign, however. The smarks, the internet wrestling community… they never really liked him much to begin with, and certainly not since he turned face. But now they openly despised him. His act’s reign at the top got old quick. And it was the same Hogan stuff all over again. Rival chanting became a recurring theme in all this major matches. That is, one part of the crowd would chant Cena’s name, while another part of the crowd would chant his opponent’s name in response. No matter who the opponent was. And don’t even get me started on what happened when he took his shirt off to start the match.


A Google Image search would make most people wonder if he EVER wears a shirt.


He was booked strong. Super strong. Over beloved wrestlers like Kurt Angle. His in-ring ability was pretty dreadful, to the point where smarks started to vociferously boo during his matches, like when he would repeat moves from his limited arsenal, or when he would resort to lame, simplistic rest holds for no reason. And his interviews, while always entertaining, were troublesome. It became hard to take his angles seriously because he was never bettered in an interview. He always got over on the heel. He always got the best lines, the coolest catch phrases, he could always interrupt and completely bury a guy’s character simply for a cool soundbite. He could break kayfabe, but it could never be broken on him. In short, he always made the heel look foolish.  In shoter: it was The Rock all over again.


In fact, a major problem was that Cena never seemed like a new personality, like a unique character. He seemed like some sort of Rock-Hogan hybrid draped in disgusting atomic neon clothes.


Unfortunately, when he does wear a shirt, this is what he wears...


So: Cena Heat involves being forcefed to the public, having an annoying character that were somehow supposed to find irresistible, and not being very versatile.


Holly flipping Holiday to a T.


Obviously, the ubiquity is the first place to start when it comes to Cena Heat. It’s the first and most noticeable problem, But with Cena/Hogan Heat, it’s a bit more complicated. It’s not just about taking over a show, it’s about being forced upon us, to the point where the audience feels disenfranchised. Where the audience feels like we’re not even given a choice.


Obviously, that’s pretty much the same for characters we accept but, again, it’s all in the presentation. Cena, Hogan, The Rock… at some point with Cena Heat the conceit of it all becomes transparent to us. We start to ask ourselves, “Why am I supposed to like this fucking idiot again?” And, obviously, the fact that you can;t escape this person makes it exponentially worse.


So, Holly Holiday… well, it’s pretty obvious that Ryan Murphy fucking worships Gwyneth Paltrow. He was going to push her to the moon for as long as she’d stick around. When it seemed like a one episode commitment, Holiday was at least presented a bit more tastefully. Yes, it heavily favored style over substance, but it worked because there was a clear concept. Holiday was the teacher that tried to be cool, but ended up coming off clueless and desperate. And, like any guest performance, she was given heavy airtime… within plot. She was fit into the world of McKinley High.


In “Sexy,” the turn happened. We were going to get a lot of Holly Holiday, whether we wanted it or not. The show became less about fitting a new character into the show’s world, and much more about completely orienting the world to the character. Despite singing the same amount of songs as she did in “The Substitute,” this time the songs seemed forced. She was no longer a player… she was elevated. The show was centered around her, more than simply reacting to her.


Hey, how did those two nobodies end up in shot with the great Holly Holiday?!


The relentless focus on her practically made Will expendable, and came off more like Ryan Murphy’s public apotheosis of Paltrow than anything related to a legitimate television show. It was graceless, and totally upended the process. The most shameful part in all of this is that classic Cena Heat involves the overexposure of the top guy, the face of the company, the champion. Gwyneth Paltrow is a fucking guest star being given cast regular priority. That’s actually a classic symptom of X-Pac Heat… it’s only when the character is pushed this hard, placed upon a pedestal, that it ascends to Cena Heat.


And, oddly, can’t even say that she was driving the action, like Pierce Hawthorne. She was simply there because the show wanted her to always be there.


Not enough for TrollMurphy


And, of course, it also comes down to character itself. Cena, Hogan, the Rock… all had the same highfalutin arrogance to them. They often come across as believing themselves above the fray, and why wouldn’t they?  The only weakness they display is perfunctory. This is the case with a lot of faces. But what makes Cena the more appropriate example is that he tries to affect some sort of populist relatability in his character. He tries to come across as just another fan.


Just like Holly motherfather balderdash Holiday and her “cool teacher” persona. She tries to seem like just another teenager, one that somehow managed to become the teacher. Unfortunately, “Sexy” makes apparent that she learned nothing from “The Substitute,” the episode where she supposedly embraced the idea that she was in a position of authority and had to act like it sometimes. She’s actually even worse in this episode, even more insufferably juvenile, self-absorbed, and deliberately inappropriate. She’s probably the most unabashedly solipsistic character we’ve seen in a while.


Alright, maybe not.


The parallels to Cena are a bit tragic. Both dominate the conversations they engage in; like Cena, Holiday rarely is bested in verbal discourse, even against Sue goddamn Sylvester. Again, i must point out: she’s a goddamn returning guest star. and she gets over on Sue! And like Cena, she tries to display some kind of everyman appeal, and both come off as alarmingly annoying and pitiful. But the most unfortunate similarity is that they both seem strangely abnormal.


There’s something about the smirking brashness of Cena. It’s just unnatural. He often comes across as a dilettante, a personal trainer with a lot of Crest Whitestrips and just enough moxie to make it as a pro wrestler. In that way, he really does seem like a fan who made it big. Holly Holiday’s much more problematic, though. Her haughty, detached demeanor submarines scenes, sucking the life out of almost every fiber of them. She doesn’t connect with any of the other characters, she bounces off of them, careening through their world like any loudly brazen guest star… except this one is given priority over everyone else on the show. Every scene became about her.


And that persona, of being so brash and saying outlandishly inappropriate things and placing herself squarely above every conversation she’s engaged in… well, that sounds just like Sue Sylvester, doesn’t it? Holly Holiday is basically a Sue Sylvester homunculus. A she comes across as a diluted, charmless version of Sue, without the vulnerability that’s always latent underneath Sue’s behavior, and without the innateness with which Jane Lynch simply owns that character.


Holly Holiday is just a vapid, vain nuisance. Her flaw? That she’s too cool to have a meaningful relationship with a man. Seriously.


But not too cool for this creature of the night.


Obviously, a repressed, desperate idiot man-child like Will eats this up, delivering some of the creepiest of creepy WillFaces. But  unless you instantly bought into her character, or are simply amused by snarky lines like a kitten chasing a feather on a string, I can;t imagine someone watching this could stomach her. I just fundamentally don’t understand it.


It's almost like you have to spend every second of Glee preparing for Creepy Will Face... AND THAT'S NO WAY TO LIVE!!


I should point out that Gwytheth Paltrow the actress, and John Cena the man, have no bearing on this. Cena, as it turns out, is probably the most inherently likeable person that has ever held the top spot in the WWE for this long… ever. He might actually be the only one. You don’t hear anything about backstage posturing… he’s still one of the boys. The other wrestlers like him, and when you’ve been the dominant #1 for five years in wrestling and you still get along with the boys as well as Cena does… well, that’s unprecedented. Likewise, Paltrow may be playing a wholly insufferable character, but her actual performance is commendable. It’s not her fault Ryan Murphy giddily canonizes her.


Actually, Murphy’s fingerprints are all over the deficiencies of this episode.


The Brittana subplot was unfortunately confined in this episode, which is a shame because I’m not sure it even existed outside the internetuntil this episode. Brittana was a popular concept in the fandom, but I’m not convinced the casual Glee fan gave it any thought beyond the specific episodes it was mentioned. And in “Sexy,” we found out were were supposed to care about this relationship and then abruptly feel something during that resolution wedged into the final act. Oy.


And Murphy’s direction was opprobrious. That scene where Holly, Brittany, and Santana sit indian-style and talk through “things,” obviously in a cool way because Holly’s really cool, had this really bizarre circling camera movement throughout the whole scene. It was distracting, and took me right out of the scene. There was no intimacy there, just dizziness. It reminded me of that Mr. Show sketch Coupon: the Movie, that had a brilliant satirical trailer where a family eats dinner whilst talking about the coupon. It’s a drab conversation, but the camera is constantly in motion, circling the family endlessly to create false drama. As satire, it’s awesome.


But I don’t know what the fuck Murphy was doing there.


There’s other issues that continued with this episode, like the increasingly godawful and arbitrary song selection, the complete disregard for any budding storyline (not inconsistency, mind you, just the act of not following through on anything), significant pacing issues that made the whole show seem alien…


But more than anything, it’s a circumspective issue. Because a serial show, a show with a connected storyline, needs to think about things in terms of seasons. With Community, the show only needs to worry about immediate concerns, with passing notation given to extended ideas. Community behaves like a serial, but really it’s episodic; the confluence of episodes makes it seem serial.


Glee is full on soap opera serial, and yet here we are, on the day of Regionals, and does anyone care? Last year, Glee was considered to be mindless entertainment, and drew the antipathy of so many clueless wankers (I’m looking right the fuck at you, Pitchfork). But those that actually watched and understood the show realized that Glee was intelligently written, and exquisitely structured. Sectionals was a masterpiece; Regionals was heartbreaking. Both seemed like real events. We anticipated them because everything led up to them.


I wonder what Glee considers more important right now, Regionals or Holly Holiday? Well, for John Cena,  the boos inexplicably faded. With Holly Holiday, it doesn’t matter.  I’m J. Michael.


3 Responses to Vision Malevolent #7: Pierce Hawthorne and X-Pac Heat

  1. Ducard says:

    You’d think you would’ve proofread this.

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