In Defense of Glee
I don’t watch Glee regularly, in the way that people obsessed with Mad Men watch Mad Men, but when the option to watch Glee arrives, I always do. As a part-time viewer, I’ve watched the development of its cheerleader lesbian relationship, the reveal of Puck’s taste in “non-traditional” women, and the triumph of cute redhead teacher over germophobia. And from my slightly remote view of the show, I have to say that it is special. Here’s why:
1. It’s funny
I remember the first episode, when Rachel neurotically made a joke about trying to get famous on YouTube. I thought, “A prime time TV show made an internet joke, and it felt relevant.” From there on, I have raised Glee above fellow tween shows in my esteem. Even when the show gets all ‘American Idol meets Intervention,’ at least Jane Lynch brings it back to earth. When Becky, the character with down syndrome, is upset that she isn’t elected prom queen, “like in the commercial,” Sue Sylvester just comforts her by explaining that the commercial is just advertising, and all advertisers are manipulative alcoholics. Now that is topical, critical and witty.
2. It champions homosexuality to a fairly mainstream audience
I doubt that even the most fundamentalist Christian 14-year-old girl can resist watching Glee. It’s just so shiny and full of song! In that sense, it’s a pretty cool primer for young kids who might not know much about what homosexuality other than what their youth group leader says.
3. It seems ambivalent about its task of presenting “morality” to teenagers
One of the most bizarre episodes of Glee is the one about alcohol abuse. Here’s what happens: The Glee club is asked to sing a song about the dangers of alcohol to the whole school. The kids realize that they’ve never been drunk, and before they can sing the song they need to see what it’s all about. They throw a big party, all get wasted, and have the time of their lives. “Alcohol RULES!” is what they leave the party thinking. They continue drinking during school, and make a freaky drank that they share before performing their anti-alcohol song. It makes them all barf onstage. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to hate drinking or just think it was fun w/ funny/uncomfortable consequences by the end. Not your average after-school special for sure.
4. The music has “that” quality
Yeah, yeah I know the music scenes on Glee are super awkward and forced and it’s really annoying when the teacher raps. But that said, there is something just dumbly fun about about a really talented, pretty young person singing a classic pop song. It’s the same thing that makes American Idol so addictive for moms. It’s cheesy, but the pure, sweet sincerity makes your hair raise a little.