Does Glee Have a Mumbling Problem?

Friday, November 04, 2011

First of all, you look magical and amazing, but, I don’t understand what you’re saying. So if you want to make it in this land, you really need to speak English. —Brittany S. Pierce
And thus began “Pot o’ Gold,” the first new episode of Glee in a while. The line was spoken by resident space cadet Brittany to Rory, a transfer student from Ireland played by Glee Project co-winner Damian McGinty. McGinty brought a refreshing new flavor to the proceedings—kind of like minty mutton—but his brogue, spoken softly and swiftly, did indeed devolve into a jumble of mumbles. So the writers worked that into the plot, having Brittany assume Rory was a leprechaun who grants wishes and speaks incomprehensibly. But what's Brittany’s excuse for speaking that way, too?

The mumbling on Glee has long been an issue, and it’s an ironic one, since this is a show about kids who want to perform on stage—where DICK-shun is CREW-shul. And yet everyone seems to suffer from this running-at-the-mouth syndrome with alarming regularity. The problem is Glee’s trademark dense blocks of dialogue and snappy retorts, fired off at high speeds with sassy attitude. What suffers is audience comprehension.

I’ve broken down “Pot o’ Gold” line by line, and identified the show’s worst (and best) enunciatiors.


The Worst Offenders

Brittany, played by Heather Morris, is probably the show’s most marble-mouthed character. She both sprints through her absurd lines and speaks them barely above a whisper. For example, her next line after the one quoted above was, “How’s your first day at school?” But it sounded more like, “HowardSternisgayit’scool.” Later, I had to listen to her speech about Lord Tubbington twice to even get close to understanding that she wanted her cat to poop candy bars.

Quinn, played by Dianna Agron, spent much of the episode plotting to win Baby Beth back from Shelby by planting Botox in her bathroom and hot sauce in her kitchen. But during glee club rehearsal, she accused Mr. Schue of, uh, something, while they discussed Mercedes' departure from New Directions. I think she was saying, “Kind of hard not to blame you, Mr. Schue.” But after playing it back several times, all I can hear is, “Cararharhhrhooo, Mr. Schue.”

Rory, played by Damian McGinty, got plenty of guff in the episode, but seriously, dude. Slow. Down. His first encounter with Finn, during which he rattled off Finn’s resume, was the diction equivalent of a scoop of mashed potatoes. I seriously couldn’t even make out Finn’s name. He said, “Finn Hudson,” but it sounded like, “Van Johnson.” Also, there was something about “tong-quicheing your girlfriend.” Is that when you serve your girlfriend a slice of quiche with a pair of tongs? At least his performance of "It Isn't Easy Being Green" was clear.

Kurt, played by Chris Colfer, is also a repeat offender, though he was largely comprehensible this week. Still, he came perilously close to swallowing his words when he mentioned his “Banana Republic Mad Men collection.” (It sounded more like “myahmyum collection.”)
Those are the worst of The Garblers. Now onto…


The Best Enunciators

Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch. No one has to execute feats of verbal gymnastics as difficult as Sue’s, and yet she always takes the time to savor each and every word of her caustic threats, speeches, and put-downs. Also: She speaks up! Way up. Yay, Sue. Thank you. The writers put a lot of effort into those words; you give them the respect they deserve.

Blaine, played by Darren Criss, manages to speed through dialogue effortlessly, yet always seems to get his mouth around every word. In his showdown with Finn, his message came through loud and clear: "No show choir is just one person. It's a team."

Santana, played by Naya Rivera, has to deliver some of the cruelest and most calculating dialogue on Glee. But she never lets her anger get the best of her. Consider her dress down of "richy bitch" Sugar Motta: "I've seen what you can do, and what you can do is stand in the back, sway, and sing very, very quietly." Roger that, Santi!

Puck, played by Mark Salling. Yup, Puck. Just cause he's an antisocial delinquent teen dad who wants to sleep with the married women whose pools he cleans doesn’t mean he can’t speak clearly. Puck got a voice over this week, and deservedly so: "I live large and dream big; but the problem with dreams is, there's always some naysayer to crap all over them." Kudos, Puck!

What do you think? Am I just a hard-of-hearing old man? Or do you have trouble understanding what Glee's characters are saying, too? Are there any other shows with this problem that you can think of? Sound off (with clarity!) in the comments.

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