Why I Am Not “Glee-ful”

May every "loser" be this fortunate

I know this blog is specially geared for divination / spiritual topics, but I felt very compelled.

My first impression of Glee was, “Oh look, a High School Musical for grown-ups. PASS!” But, my older sister who I’m close to and who is obsessed with this show, made me promise to watch it.  So, I did.

Before I begin, I would like to make it absolutely clear that I have no problems being uncool. Aside from my Rammstein and Dead Can Dance collection, I also love ABBA and The Mamas & The Papas. I own a copy of The Best Of Loverboy, I’ve played D&D, wrote for the school paper and do not own a Smartphone.  Whatever.  I really genuinely do not care what other people think of me in terms of “coolness.” As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing cooler than just being yourself, whatever that is.

I also love musicals.  I love theatre, I love music, and I absolutely cannot resist a story.  So, wouldn’t it also make sense that I would be happy to join the Glee club, too?  I could get past the cheesiness (I own a copy of The Best of Loverboy, remember?), I could get past the high school setting – I loved Buffy.  But, for the life of me, while I’m watching this show that most of my very close people are unnaturally besotted with, I am feeling sick to my stomach and I could not figure out why. I watched all the episodes available on instant streaming expecting something, looking for something, and bothered by some invisible element that I just couldn’t put my finger on until recently.

Granted, I think the characters are flatter than Texas plains who are either formed into pathetic stereotypes for blatant tokenism or just banal.  I found only 2 that were consistently likable: Mercedes and Kurt, even though the latter is horrendously stereotypical.

Seriously, not all gays are into Versace and Rogers & Hammerstein.  Case in point: Rob Halford, vocalist of Judas Priest.

Everyone seems to be depicted is either a sadistic demon with a heavenly heart (yin/yang is one thing, but really?), a “Cyrano,” completely under / misplayed, inconsequencial, or just an idiot.

You mean to tell me after all those months, an educated school teacher wouldn’t think anything was weird about his pregnant wife not being excited or mentioning about her first baby kicking in her belly or see his wife naked at one point to learn that she wasn’t pregnant?  Yeah, he falls under “just an idiot.”

But, even then, I can still play along. The fact that it’s a musical show makes it unrealistic, anyway.  Lots of things are “unrealistic” (whatever that means, if possibilities are truly endless) but absolutely irresistible: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Antonio Banderas…For myself, I find the characters hard to connect with and given the context, I’m kinda glad I don’t.  Still, as much as I don’t like them, I don’t think the characters are the problem.

Storyline’s not really the problem, either. Formulaic, predictable, and sometimes just silly, but still, I can play along with that, too.  Why the show’s so addictive is simply because we, as human beings, don’t like unfinished business.  It seems to me, especially in America, a guaranteed successful storyline usually has to do with emotions or justice.  After all, the two most popular sections in a newspaper are the crimes and gossip pages.  Another guarantee of success is catering to the dislike of cliffhangers or ambiguity. Seriously, people were ready to take to the streets and riot because of The Sopranos ending!  With Glee, even I found myself wanting to know what’s next.  Not because I cared so much about happens to that mean, stupid, or inconsequential character, but because I like closure and the storylines play upon my own sensitivities to justice and emotion.

So, nope. The story’s not the problem, either.

Performances a problem? Quite the contrary.  Anybody can see the talent is absolutely unmistakable. Granted, no doubt all of those “naturally talented” kids probably spent their entire lives taking dancing lessons, acting lessons, singing lessons, music lessons and most likely sacrificed most of their potentially normal upbringings to be able to put on these…uh…nominal, casual performances, but still, only a stone could be unmoved by the first time they performed “Don’t Stop Believin’” or when Rachel (ugh) sings “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”

I had to laugh when they finished “Rock The Boat” and pronounced, “We suck, don’t we?”  Really. If my own high school’s rendition of “Grease” sounded half as good at the time, we would’ve been moved to Broadway.  Those scenes where they “didn’t have any choreography” probably took them days to practice…which, technically, would make them choreographed, wouldn’t it?

No, what I realized what troubles me about Glee is dangerous depiction of financial class and consumerism.

I say “dangerous” because it depicts poverty in a very adverse manner, which would cause anyone not conscious of what they’re watching to get a very counterfactual impression of what it really means to be broke.

The principal’s principle role is not to commence justice or play any real part in the human drama, but to constantly whine how “there’s not enough money.” “We don’t have the budget.” “We can’t afford this, we can’t afford that.”  And so, the audience is fed this “truth” that we are witnessing the trials and tribulations within a poor – not average, poor — institution with an added, “and the only reason why big bad Sue gets what she wants for the Cheerios is because she’s mean,” but that’s whole other ball of wax…

So, we are prepared to watch this underfunded, underprivileged school try to make the most of their meekly means.  Glee advertises itself as a story of the “Have Nots.”  So, we watch and wait to see how they can pool their collective spirit and talent together to rise above the odds and we’re rooting for them cuz we love an underdog. “Yay! Go underprivileged, unusually talented tokens of society’s oppressed misfits!! You can do it!!”

How many people can truly recognize that very impressive $50,000 lighting rig in the rehearsal room?

Or that those designer, custom tailored costumes probably cost more than what most people make in a month — each?  How many people who have no performance experience understand that an average auditorium is NOT equipped with hydraulics and pyrotechnics and that the insurance alone would bankrupt an entire district? Go online and find out how much a single spotlight costs, you’ll be surprised — I think I counted five or six of them on the set.  And those LCD screens that show the pretty colors in the background?  They would cost more than the entire school. 

This is Glee’s depiction of “poverty.”

Ironically, in one episode, they hold a car wash to raise money to rent a handicap-accessible van to get to their competition, which they probably could’ve acquired through charitable means at no cost.  But, we’re supposed to believe that the Steinway and stage runways are standard issue.

What’s the big deal?

When the recession hit, there were more publicized murder/suicides than there have been in decades.  Entire families were slaughtered not to be saved from some pathogenesistic apocalypse, but because the thought of living without that second car or moving from a three-bedroom house to a 2-bedroom apartment was so completely unbearable, they chose death, instead.  This is what I mean by “dangerous.”

When the public is taught that living without is not living at all and we see no distinguishable differences to show us between poverty and luxury, we are at the mercy of the merchandise.

Glee’s writers and producers feed the audience a poisoned apple, sliding this capitalistic undercurrent beneath the illuminations of human spirit and artistic beauty.  And it’s not just to a little cult following, either.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds are putting lives on hold to go to this “Happy High School of Hope” and get so caught up in the unity, the song, the choreography, the colors, the lights, and glitz that we forget that it’s glitz.

I love glitz! I’ll say it. I love a grand production and I’ve got black and white shoes with little stars on them and I paint my nails with glitter.  I have no issue with glitz-blitz.

But, glitz is glitz and poverty it is not.

A normal high school auditorium. Note the lack of hydraulics, pyrotechnics and LCD screens...

When a script is plagued with the broken record repeating the “we don’t have the money,” song, as we are shown the lap of luxury, it becomes disturbing. I know TV is vehicle best used to kill IQ points and insult our intelligence, granted, which is what I think is part of its appeal.  However, in this economic climate, under these politically charged circumstances, Glee is delivering a mixed message that can potentially have dire consequences, with a smile.

Don’t get me wrong and don’t worry; I won’t be outside the studio shouting out and protesting with a picket sign.  Matter of fact, I guarantee I’ll be watching the next season when it’s available on Netflix, because my bird likes it (you should have seen him dancing to “Anyway You Want it,” oh my goddess!) and I don’t like unfinished business.  Most of all, I really, really, really do not believe in censorship.  If I don’t like something, I won’t keep others from enjoying it. We’re all entitled to our choices.

All I want to say is, as with any media experience, whether it be literature, music, film, tv, what have you, by all means enjoy!  Just understand what you’re experiencing.


About T. Ray

Writer, visual artist, student, musician, and "armchair nutritionist." She currently resides in Vegas with her jenday conure and two beloved rescue cockatoos. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Society of Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi). While pursuing her degree in Journalism/Media Studies at UNLV, she continues to contend that all things come down to food and Star Wars. Contact: verteram@unlv.nevada.edu
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