- That moment when you see a guy walking through the subway with a tribal tattoo with a phoenix bursting from the flames on each ankle.
- When you read a really personal Facebook status that a friend posted in an obvious fit of passion and a bid for attention.
- The point in any Saved by the Bell episode where Slater calls Jessie “Mama.”
The feeling you feel quivering in your diaphragm that makes your internal organs recoil into themselves is second-hand embarrassment. It’s claustrophobia inside of your being at the humiliating and often unself-conscious act of another. It is what happens when empathy and schadenfreude have a baby. No one wants it, but we have all felt it. Maybe it was during the last episode of the Jersey Shore, when Dina showed her cooka (am I spelling that correctly?), or when you saw your cousin’s back fat at her recent nuptials or perhaps even when reading this or this. It doesn’t matter. The best way to survive it is to keep breathing and try to go to your happy place.
Second-hand embarrassment is the reason I have to stop watching Glee. It is no secret that this Panda loves musicals. I have devoted my entire life to the love of breaking out into song and dance. And now Leah Michelle and Chris Colfer are ruining that for me. This season’s premiere episode was so embarrassing that I had to watch it through splayed fingers. No effing way in this world will you ever catch a bunch of high schoolers performing a show choir number in the middle of their cafeteria. Or see the new guy doing the Carlton with a bunch of cheerleaders in the middle of the quad.
This cringe-worthy hour of television pains me on multiple levels. First off, when do they practice? I can tell you that I have been in more Madrigal, show choir, musical theatre and cabaret situations than you can shake a stick at and I have NEVER in my life worked with twelve other people and had a performance-ready number complete with choreography without at least a couple of rehearsals. Secondly, I loved Nip/Tuck and was super-stoked to have another Ryan Murphy show on the air. When it started, it was a little dark and a little creative. Obviously, now the show has all the depth and imagination of a solid blue baby pool. Thirdly and most importantly, I am a huge supporter of arts in the schools. I think they are vital and I personally would have been lost without them. So, I love that Glee has put that back on the national stage. But reproducing a bunch of trite pop songs isn’t really art, is it? Especially without Glee ever showing all the hard work that actually goes into creating a real musical number.
This past episode was way too much for me. I felt so uncomfortable, I thought my stomach was going to go hide under my bed until the whole thing had passed. Second-hand embarrassment happens to all of us. You can be a victim at any moment. But I’m taking the first step to prevention. Glee’s getting taken off my DVR puts me one step closer to overcoming second-hand embarrassment once and for all.