Like Denhart (and Klein), I am a fan of Glee. Heck, I’m a fan of almost anything resembling a film musical. But I also have begun to question the content of the show. The stereotypical characters, I expected; after all, most mainstream television shows and films that center on teenagers employ stereotypes, e.g., The Breakfast Club, Can’t Buy Me Love, Bring It On, Welcome Back Kotter, Saved by the Bell (Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life are exceptions to the rule). In any event, I suppose what I did not expect from a narrative that features high-schoolers is the treatment (or perhaps glorification?) of such subjects as performance-enhancing drugs, adultery, and statutory rape.
In last week’s episode, “Vitamin D,” the glee-club students combat fatigue and their overrun schedules with pseudoephedrine, over-the-counter uppers. The result? Extraordinary “mash-up” performances by both the boys and the girls (mash-up: the merging of two songs for “an even richer explosion of musical expression”). Ultimately, yes, the person who doled out the drugs is fired. And, yes, glee-club coach, Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison), is reprimanded for failing to foster a safe environment, and for further punishment, he must now work alongside his nemesis, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). The students, however, are rather gently slapped on the wrist: no one is sent to detention, no football or cheerleading privileges are taken away, and no one must forgo regional glee-club competition for his/her actions.
More significantly, what is showcased here–while the students are (knowingly) hyped up on the pills–are solid performances: flawless vocals, tight choreography, and complementary lighting enhanced by matching costumes. Even Mr. Schuester and guest-judge Emma (Jayma Mays) agree that the students’ mash-ups far surpass anything they’ve seen before. What message is this sending?
Also, (somewhat) troubling is that Glee essentially begs its viewers to root for adultery. By positioning Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) as the shrewish/crazy wife and Emma as the innocent, doe-eyed object of Will’s true affection, the show forces the viewer to side with Will and Emma and, therefore, encourages an illicit (although more believable) love affair.
Additionally, what is Glee doing with Puck (Mark Salling)? Described on the show’s website as “an arrogant football player and a bully,” Puck is also, we might add, a pool boy who enjoys having sex with his classmates’ mothers. We first see this in a flashback and then hear it verbalized on the football field. To one unsuspecting opponent, Puck trash-talks, “Hey. I had sex with your mother. No seriously, I cleaned your pool, and then I had sex with her in your bed. Nice Stars Wars sheets.” Funny, but wow.
Don’t get me wrong: the show relays several positive messages:
- spend your career doing something you love and excel in,
- coming-out to your parents may less painful than you think,
- football/cheerleading isn’t the be all and end all, and
- musical numbers can still entertain, uplift, and signify emotion in ways that mere dialogue cannot.
However, there are certainly some questionable themes currently happening in Glee as well. What else am I missing?
(PS. Special thanks to the husband for talking through this topic with me.) =)