Glee is a relatively new show that is able to blend commentary on social issues with excellent music that reaches across generations. This weeks episode is a case in point we saw issues of sexual orientation and homophobia, individualism and teen pregnancy. All of this was held together by the usual silly plot lines and an amazing soundtrack that had songs to appeal across the generations.
The Glee students represent just about every minority possible: homosexuality, disability, race, status, and religious minorities to name some of the obvious categories. The music ranged from Kiss to Lady Gaga with a torch song in between. Glee hooks viewers with the music so that they stick around to hear the message.
Openly gay character, Kurt, is harassed by the football players and has struggled to come out to his Dad. When his Dad starts to date fellow glee clubber, Finn’s mother, Kurt realizes that he is not the son his Dad wanted. In an amazing scene last night when Finn accused Kurt of decorating their room with ‘faggy’ items, Kurt’s Dad sticks up for him and tells Finn that he didn’t realize he was like ‘that.’ What an absolutely amazing and compelling message to get out to not only the young people watching the show but also the parents who are being drawn in by the music.
The same kinds of thing happen with any difference amongst the characters of Glee. What comes across loud and clear is that it is not ok to discriminate against anybody for any reason – especially in the glee club practice room. This kind of format for delivering these messages is so powerful. Showing all different kinds of people working together and learning to respect each other gives youth role models upon which they can build their own skills when it comes to handling differences.
It is also empowering for youth who may be represented by characters on Glee. The character Mercedes, who is a large teen, perpetually ends up playing second or singing backup to the main character, Rachel. However, when she joins the Cheerios and is pushed to lose weight she is able to fight back with support from the others. Artie, the paraplegic character, is shown as a full participating member of the Glee club – from dancing in his wheel chair to playing his electric guitar.
The messages and role modeling is likely even more important for parents. Certainly they may be led to a different way of understanding their children and may even be able to put some of that into practice. In particular, LGTB youth may benefit greatly by their parents watching this show. If nothing else, they may be able to see through Kurt’s eyes how important his father’s approval is to him and how Kurt struggles to please his father in other ways.
Most shows that attempt to deal with social issues in any measurable way can find itself overwhelmed. Glee is the kind of show that you don’t need to watch every week because the plot lines are really just a vehicle for the message and the music. The brilliance of Glee is the music. By picking songs from so many different genres and decades Glee can appeal to the masses. Some of the songs they have done are improvements on the original*. Plus they do interesting things like the mashup of the “Don’t stand so close to me” and “Young Girl” was fabulous. It is the music that keeps people tuning in to the show week after week.
In some ways Glee may be a utopia. It is not likely that you would ever find this type of talent or representation in a high school glee club. Again that just adds to the allure of Glee. You really don’t know what is going to happen in each episode. What you are assured of is great music and positive messages. Personally, I find this combination wonderfully subversive.
*For example, ‘Having my Baby” as sung by Finn (Corey Monteith) is great.