Is Wemma an abusive relationship?

But it is hard to watch how Mr. Shue uses Ms. Pilsbury’s mental problems as a means to control and abuse her. Neuro-atypical people  or people with physical disabilities are far more likely to be the recipients of all kinds of abuse. Except, this isn’t how glee is portraying. The show is not making some larger statement about the infantilization and lack of body autonomy that so many people with disabilities contend with on a daily basis. No. Will is the ‘good’ guy. He is nice. He cares for her.

via How I’m dreading the new episode of glee… « biyuti.


40 thoughts on “Is Wemma an abusive relationship?

  1. I obviously thinks so! I mean, you remember that scene in Born this Way when he is trying to get her to eat that unwashed fruit? He spends the entire episode bullying her about her health.

    And whether or not she has health problems isn’t the issue, the problem is how the show portrays will as the person who decides what these problems are and how they should be fixed. Emma loses all agency.

  2. While I appreciate the points the author, above, is trying to make, I have to disagree on several issues (as well as the overall tone, I suppose). I’m just going to comment on one, though:

    I have to say that Will has so NOT been pressuring Emma for sex — Emma herself has repeatedly tried to push herself into physical intimacy and Will has certainly been all for that, but he’s been very accommodating of her fears and inability to move forward. Does he want to sleep with her? YES GOD YES. Of course he does. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people who are in love and find the object of their affections desirable want to have sex. And Emma loves Will. And Emma has expressed the desire to overcome her “ick” with sex — she certainly wants warmth and a certain level of physicality (she kisses him, sleeps in the same bed, tells him he’s “super hot” in a specifically sexualized way). I think Will has shown as much patience and restraint as anyone who is not asexual could show; and he is not asexual. Emma may be, but if so, she needs to figure that out and make some decisions, because that is not the relationship Will believes he has signed up for, long-term.

    I’m not a huge Will fan, and he certainly doesn’t get everything right, but I think “abuse” is a serious claim to make against someone who has displayed care and love and patience — even if he is also in need of education and prone to making mistakes. There is NOTHING to suggest that, given some basic education (and direction from Emma herself), Will would not do his best to do right by Emma.

  3. I disagree with pretty much everything in this article. Will might not handle all of Emma’s issues correctly, but IMO he hasn’t ever been abusive. That’s an unfair claim to make IMO. In “Born This Way” he was trying to get Emma to see that she has a problem, and I thought the intent of that was fine even if his methods were flawed. “Tough love” might not have been the correct road to take in that episode, but I have no doubt that his heart was in the right place. Since Emma was crying in the previous episode about not having a handle on her OCD, I completely understood Will’s frustration when she all of a sudden decided that it was her cross to bear and nothing could or should be done about it. IMO, all of Will’s behaviors were completely understandable and human in that episode.

    I also haven’t seen any evidence that Emma has expected any of the men in her life to “fix” her. She just wants them to support and love her, and I think Will has done a decent job of that over all. Sure he still has a lot to learn, but “Asian F” proved to me that he’s willing to do just that.

  4. But since the author obviously hates Will and I love him, I’ll probably just have to chalk this all up to a major difference in interpretation as well as person preference. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

  5. I really don’t understand how Will can ever, ever be seen as the good guy or moral voice of this show, so the whole argument kind of falls apart for me.

  6. @sara Well, given that the reason I hate Will is *because* he is an abusive asshat it isn’t quite about personal interpretations. I’m not interpreting his acts from a lens of, “I hate him, thus I must find ways to discredit him.” Indeed, before Blaine got on the show, he was my big Glee crush (’cause Matthew Morrison is damn fine and has a great voice).

    And never been abusive? I’m sure you also think that everything that went wrong in his marriage is all Terri’s fault… Has nothing to do with the fact that Will is basically a Nice Guy ™.

    And do you not remember why Will allows Karl to be with Emma? Because he appears to make her better. This is almost exactly what he says in the Rocky Horror episode.

    @dontturnitoff Abuse is a serious claim. But abusing people is more serious. Everything Will does is about controlling Emma, particularly through how he handles her neuro-atypicality. And his niceness, not only to Emma, is a tool he uses to control the people in his life. He never actually listens to the women in his life or the any of the Glee kids. But his inability to listen to people or respect them is always excused because he is ‘nice.’

    Sure, he is well-intentioned. But this good intentions don’t stop him from being an abusive, white supremacist, cissexist, misogynist, ableist douche bag. He is the perfect embodiment of white liberalism, which is all of the these things.

    Anyway… I didn’t necessarily expect anyone to agree with me, given the larger social understanding of disability.

  7. Well I’ve always seen Will as a decent albeit very flawed person, so some things just come down to POV. I don’t understand how people can think otherwise, but such is the beauty of art. I would never call Will the moral voice of the show, though. I also wouldn’t call him abusive.

  8. I work with people with serious mental illness and their families. I actually think this brave story line is one of the few that Glee has gotten right: how a mental illness can hold a person, and his/her loved ones, hostage, and that havoc for all ensues when the illness goes untreated. I think Will has had every right both to try to help Emma as best he can, by encouraging her to get professional help, and confront her that he is sick of walking on egg shells around her illness. This is not abuse, this is a loving and necessary reality check of the highest order. And Will also has every right to walk away if Emma decides not to get help (although I know that’s not how the story arc will go). So far Emma has been willing, made the decision herself after Will’s confrontation, to seek help, although Glee hasn’t said much about treatment beyond the episode where she saw the psychiatrist and started some medication. And she outed herself in BTW as someone with OCD, a huge step towards decreasing stigma. I also have to admit that, while Will is not my favourite character on Glee, he is necessary for the story lines, and I don’t get all the hate directed at him. As Sara said, “different strokes…” However, abuse? With respect, no way.

  9. My two cents worth:

    I like Will. I genuinely do think he’s a good guy. I’ve written in the past that I think Glee is actually Will’s story, because almost everyone else seems to have some magical powers that get them through, and Will just does not have magic.

    But I need to take on board that a lot of people see him as racist, ableist and homophobic. Not going there with race right now, but as a neuro-atypical queer, I don’t feel it, but I get that it’s there. But it’s there for me like in the corner of my eye, it’s there. He’s like Finn, really. Will is a person with an awful lot of privilege but wants to do the right thing. If he thought he was doing the wrong thing to Emma, he’d be horrified with himself. Without Will, Emma wouldn’t have got counselling or medication for something that clearly caused her a lot of hardship. And Will has tried to change himself for her too.

    And the fact is, only Kurt ever tried to educate him.

    Now, let’s talk about how horrible Emma’s parents are. They’ve had her whole life to wise up and they are awful.

    And as much as I love Emma, she’s the worst guidance counselor ever. What are her qualifications? What if a kid had come to her about OCD?

  10. But it IS down to personal interpretations because not all of us see Will as an abusive butthole or even a controlling one. The way I see it, Will has been a decent boyfriend to Emma so far this season. He made mistakes in “Asian F” in particular, but he also proved to me in that episode how much he truly loves Emma and wants to be good to and for her. I’ve also never seen any evidence that he’s a white supremacist or a misogynist. IMO, we ALL view this show through some sort of lens.

    Will was not a perfect husband to Terri, but I will ALWAYS think that she was the abusive one in that relationship not Will. I won’t get into the Carl thing except to say that I think he redeemed himself there eventually. I’ll never defend his original actions.

    Also for the record, I understand disability to a certain extent given the fact that I’m disabled(albeit in a VERY mild form).

  11. I don’t really see Will as homophobic .I don’t think he necessarily understands homosexuality given his straight white male privilege, but I’ve never seen any evidence that he hates, is uncomfortable with, or is prejudiced toward homosexuals.

    Anyway, I agree with almost everything that Joanne said. IMO, intention counts for A LOT when it comes to being a “good person” or not. We could argue all day long about whether or not Will’s methods for helping Emma were good or not, but I still think the fact remains that his heart is usually in the right place.

  12. If ANYONE is abusive, it’s definitely Emma’s parents. At least Will genuinely tries to help Emma instead of calling her “freaky deaky.”

  13. I suppose one thing to note is that I’m approaching this from a social justice standpoint. Not just criticizing glee for the hell of it.

    Maybe you don’t see Will as being homophobic, but you should be able to see how he is heterosexist.

    Also… In SJ circles, intention doesn’t count for much. It is about impact, not intent. Yes, I think Will’s intentions are usually good… However, missionaries during the more colonial times also had good intentions but their impact was the destruction of cultures.

    In terms of Emma and his behaviour… I recommend doing some reading in the the disability activist critiques of cure culture. And about the widespread abuse perpetrated under an ableist notion of ‘healthy.’ Joanne basically implied that people have an obligation to their loved ones to be healthy. No such obligation exists.

  14. I don’t think people have an “obligation” to their loved ones to be healthy, but Emma has clearly shown that SHE wants to get better, and that SHE wants to get to a place where she can have sex and live a mostly normal life. It’s not as if Emma is completely satisfied with her life and Will is trying to force her to change. She cried to him last season about how her OCD was controlling her life.

    I also happen to think that Will has been good for Emma for the most part, so I think this really does come down to POV.

  15. While I respect the opinions in the article, I wholeheartedly disagree. As someone who has sought treatment for OCD compulsions, and seen the effect they have on loved ones, the storyline (although abbreviated) is pretty accurate. I don’t see Will’s behavior as abusive, more a result of feeling helpless at seeing a person you care about suffer. You can look at the results of his behaviors and see that they have benefited Emma.

    It’s rare, at least in my experience, that someone will reach out for help unabated or slightly pushed. Because it is habitual, the norm is the disease and therefore mentally it takes an outside entity to point out that there is a healthier lifestyle. Will was that entity for Emma. And as we can see her parents are a trigger for her, and I think it was noble of Will to stand up to them, and comfort her (which it seemed clear she appreciated). I think the real legitimate “abuse” is from within the family, not Will. I mean he will have his faults he’s “human” (to the extent that any TV character can be I guess) and not a trained therapist.

    But I guess I just take a slight offense at the thought that his wanting to help her feel better is labeled as a bullying or abuse, kind of irks me, in that something done out of love is trying to be degraded. I wouldn’t call my husband an abuser for wanting me to feel normal. Loved ones may not have the gentlest or best way of saying things but they often have the best intentions.
    Just my opinion I guess.

  16. Also nope, I don’t think Will is heterosexist either. Sorry. We just have completely different interpretations about his character, so we should probably just agree to disagree.

  17. The history of psychiatry is certainly rife with abuse and ignorance. It also contains stories of amazing and effective treatments that have allowed people to live connected and well lives. I totally respect a capable person’s right to refuse treatment for an illness as long as they accept that it might understandably drive people away. Emma clearly suffers and deserves a better life, whether through conventional medical-model treatment or some other means. With all due respect, I do not see her as differently-abled, I see her as ill and suffering.

  18. [personal insults deleted — DG] it is not a abusive relationship and Will does take advantage for her issue with germs! he is trying to help and she wants his help! she clearly wants help, she knows she cant do it on her own! Emma wants a normal, to start at family so he is helping her!! Not having a go or anything, well sort of am but why would you write an article about this or even agree with this!! Will has been so patient waiting until she is ready for sex!i do understand you were you are coming from sort of but please it is not a abusive relationship!! Sorry if i sound like im shouting i just love WEMMA, its a good article just not on the right thing!

  19. “I do not see her as differently-abled, I see her as ill and suffering.”

    And this is where you go wrong. How you perceive her, or how Will does, *doesn’t matter*. She is the only person who gets to decide how to frame and understand her neuro-atypicality.

    In Born this Way, Will basically forces her to accept the label of OCD when she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to identify that way. It is her choice. Yes, at other points she does mention that she wishes to address her neuro-atypicality, but she should have been allowed to seek treatment and get better on her terms, not Will’s.

  20. I guess what one person considers abusive another person can see as trying to be a good friend. Again, different strokes.

  21. Given how Emma had always shown that she wanted to get better and improve previously, I had no problem with Will’s intentions in “Born This Way.”

  22. I’m sorry but I don’t get it. Will is the most non abusive character. He tries to help Emma and be supportive of her because he loves her. There is nothing wrong with his behavior towards Emma. Even in “Born this Way” in the faculty room I clap what Will did with the unwashed fruit. He was trying to show her that she needed help and she took that step thanks to him. The important point is his actions towards her for getting help was not for him it was for her to help her for herself because he would do anything for her. That was his action in Rocky Horror letting her go because Carl was making her better. Everything Will has done was out of concern and love. Letting someone go they love is the unselfish and loving thing they can do. I applaud Will. He’s patient towards her and accept her for the way she is. Like he told Rachel once. One day you will find a guy that will love the things you hate about yourself and this a perfect example of this.

  23. Please don’t throw around the words “abusive relationship” so lightly. As someone who watched her mom get the crap kicked out of her, sexually assaulted and emotionally controlled by my father for 15 years I can tell you what an abusive relationship is. Will and Emma at it’s worst is co-dependent and at its best mutually supportive and loving. Emma needs to bring Will in for some couple’s counseling. Has Will screwed up royally in dealing with a person with a mental illness? You bet your ass he has. But give the man a break please, dealing with someone with OCD requires a learning curve and he is still trying to figure the whole thing out. As hard as it is to have a mental illness try loving someone who has one. My fiance is Bi-Polar and most times I am so happy to be with him but sometimes I just want to run for my life and never look back. BTW, almost all the romantic relationships on Glee are dysfunctional in some way or another. I could write an entire Women’s Studies term paper in regards to the inequality of the Santana/Brittany relationship.

  24. Quick reminder.

    It’s awesome to express our opinions and insights and to chat wildly about stuff and somehow learn and grow through all of this. It is not awesome to call people names.

    New moderation policy will follow. I’ve had enough of people using my blog to say uncivil things.

  25. Biyuti, by your definition of sinister “white liberalism,” pretty much anyone who is in a relationship with a (straight)(white)(male) (any combination thereof, but all three, forget about it!) is in an abusive relationship.

    At which point, I become bored by this line of “reasoning” and the debate in general.

    [edit again – DG] No matter how “well intentioned” your agenda may be (hey, how can you argue against someone whose line is “social justice,” right?), it seems to me like skewering a lot of people for no more salient reason than the skin, class and/or anatomy they were born into. Does Will need to be more aware of and sensitive to issues of diversity and the varying needs of others? Absolutely. But don’t we all, whether we are cisgendered, heteronormative and neurotypical or check every box on the “WAYS I’M DIFFERENT” questionnaire.

    Basically, I think you give Will too much credit and Emma way too little.

  26. Well said, Dawn! The person of this article is mis-using the term Abusive. I too have seen what real abuse is and Will/Emma’s relationship doesn’t even come close! No relationship is perfect but to sit here and say that Will is abusive is just uncalled for on SO many levels. I do think too that people forget that this is just a show and not real life characters.

  27. I have Misophobia and Emetophobia. I have been with my Husband for 6 years now. I minored in Psychology in College, while majoring in Criminology. And I’m a massive follower of the Will & Emma relationship. Needless to say I think I’m slightly qualified to have an opinion on the subject.

    I adore my Husband, he is a good man. But he is CLUELESS when it comes to dealing with me when I’m having trouble with my phobias. So, he basically just ignores it for the most part. He has never asked me to get help, and he even goes out of his way to heed to my outrageous demands. (hand washing, sanitizing, cleaning, sleeping in a guest room if he’s sick, and many many more)

    And though part of me loves that he stands by while I delve into my illness, a bigger part of me wishes he was more like Will. I wish he would confront me, make me take responsibility for myself and my phobias. I wish he would tell me that I needed to seek help, give me a little push in that direction….because then, maybe I would get help. But I won’t do it on my own.

    Do I think Will is perfect? Not at all. No one is. Do I think he is controlling of Emma? Absolutely not. I think he wants her to be healthy and happy. Every single one of his actions toward her indicate that. He may have been overly pushy in BTW. And I don’t think he should have put a label on her. Because honestly, her problems can’t be contained in one single term: ‘OCD’. She has a lot more going on there. But I think that label was just a result of the subject matter of that episode. Sometimes I think we have to step back and remember that this is a TV show and some things are just thrown into a characters storyline for the sake for that episode.

    And just to touch on the subject of Will’s marriage to Terri. Will was 100% just as at fault for the horrible situation as Terri was. He wasn’t a good Husband to her, just as she wasn’t a good Wife to him. Lesson in life, not everyone is meant to be together. And sometimes that someone you’re with brings out the worst in you.

  28. Pingback: So about the whole Wemma bizness… « biyuti

  29. I don’t know that I’d qualify Wemma as abusive, but as a person with a disability I am horrified to see his actions being applauded by commentors here. I find that far more chilling that anything Glee has ever done with this.

    My god.

    For the record, it doesn’t matter how “hard” a person’s disability is on their loved ones. It’s about a million times harder on them, and *nothing* justifies mistreatment. And yes, deliberately triggering someone’s OCD is never, ever okay.

  30. “And yes, deliberately triggering someone’s OCD is never, ever okay.”

    But some of us think this is debatable, and IMO that’s okay. This whole issue is very controversial, and I can understand why some think what Will did was right, but I can also understand why some feel that he was wrong. What some see as mistreatment others see as Will trying to be a good friend and using tough love. Both opinions are valid.

  31. @Julia

    Will has never done anything wrong just try to face her issues instead of hiding from it. I think that is commendable. Sorry if that disturbs you.

  32. “Both opinions are valid”


    Some things are wrong. Some things cause harm. Triggering someone is one of those things.

    And, since this conversation is now triggering me, I’m out.

  33. I’ve talked to a few people with OCD, and at least a couple of them thought what Will did was perfectly fine and even necessary. That’s why I said both opinions are valid.

  34. I have OCD and I would love to have someone who cared about me like Will. I am disgusted how people can throw around a term like abusive relationship so easily when they have no idea. Unless you have OCD or dealt with someone with OCD you don’t even get what you’re talking about. I wish I had someone who cared like Will.

  35. I’m coming out of ninja stalker mode to leave my two cents. Personally, I feel neither this way nor that about Will. However, I think claiming he is abusive is overdoing it. Imho, from the very first episode (making new friends by the dumpster Kurt?) Will has been painted as the naive good guy that wants to be helpful/savior but doesn’t have the first clue how to actually be either. He is consistently too blind to see the actual problem or, even worse, thinks he knows how to fix the problem so he jumps in head first and usually produces cataclysmic results.

    In my experience, this is actually a fairly realistic character portrayal. In an effort to be helpful, people try to give advice about something they know nothing about all the time, and the people that have gone through something similar usually just want to slap these opinionated interlopers. Mental illness has some of the worst offenders in this category. Ever hear someone tell a person battling crippling depression that “it’s all in your head, just think happy thoughts”? Or that a person with a phobia should just confront it head on, and they will be over it? Yeah, those people didn’t pay my E.R. or ambulance bill after trying to confront my phobia of rollercoasters caused me to have a severe panic attack. Point is, these people are trying to help but they either have no clue that what they are doing or saying is the complete opposite or their comments are born out of anger and frustration in having to deal with the situation that they just can’t understand.

    Emma has gone back and forth on her stance concerning OCD. Will has tried to be forceful (unwashed fruit) and direct (counselor/wanting her to realize that OCD is a problem), but he has also sat down and polished every individual grape for her. Does he want sex? What person in a romantic relationship of their nature doesn’t? Is he frustrated by the lack of progress and the “one step forward, two steps back” nature of her problem? Who wouldn’t be? As an RN, I frequently see the frustration in both patients and family members when it comes to dealing with illnesses that have no easy or quick solution. In some ways, dealing with an issue like this is like constantly wavering between the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s never pretty, usually heartbreaking, but occasionally it has moments so unexpectedly great that it takes your breath away.

  36. That’s how I’ve always seen Will too, Lele. Luckily for him, his interference has usually benefitted Emma. It could’ve easily gone the other way, though. I guess sometimes stuff like this depends on the individuals in question. It probably helps that Emma seems to really trust Will, and she knows that his heart is in the right place even when his methods are flawed.

  37. I do suffer from OCD as well as having had bouts of clinical depression throughout my life, having been blessed with screwy brain chemistry. I have had psychiatric treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling. My OCD reached a pitch where I was suicidal, but I still needed an outside impetus in order to seek help.

    I wanted to comment that triggering is in fact a huge part of cognitive behavioural therapy. Will blundered in with that unwashed fruit, but Emma exposing herself to her triggers, making tiny steps like, say, touching an unwashed grape for ten seconds, then stepping back to analyse the effect of that on her anxiety – that is the heart of the CBT treatment. Ultimately, it equips the OCD sufferer with a tool for managing anxiety and for accepting that anxiety is a part of your makeup. It’s about ownership. Understanding that you can be irrational.

    OCD is a lifelong, tormenting and disabling illness, Control ebbs and flows depending on your life circumstances. The one thing I have to ask of my loved ones is that they don’t enable me in my anxiety and irrationality. Will was extremely clumsy, and he asked too much of Emma too soon, but he wasn’t wrong in his approach. I’ll worry about his being abusive when he enables Emma’s illness, when he stops feeling helpless and starts to enjoy his role as the Great White Caregiver.

    It’s actually the generalisations of the ‘social justice discourse’ that are making me feel uncomfortable here. Glee has actually made a good faith effort in its depiction of OCD, the impact on Emma and her loved ones, and the responses from Will that may not be comfortable, but are certainly not abusive or bullying. There’s nothing comfortable about treating OCD. It is in fact about confrontation. It is about triggering. And it is about honesty: with yourself, with others. Will is clumsy, but he’s not wrong.

  38. Pingback: Glee 3×11 Spanish teacher « biyuti

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