Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Gleeks" of Nature: Notes from a Former 'Glee' Fan on Why the Show is Terrible...and Must Stay on the Air

Hello, my name is Kamikaze Feminist, and I am a former 'Gleek'.

Why did I love it so much, you may ask. What separates Glee from the rest of the bad TV shows/musicals/teen dramedies? Trust me, I have answers to all of these questions and more, but first, let me tell you a story about the rise and decline of what could have, and should have been, the most fun show on television.

To anyone who watched the initial pilot for Glee, the show they saw was not only shining with brilliance and wit, but it had enough of an underdog story that it felt like it was going to be perfect from season to season. At least, this is what I concurred, because even though the first episode was not 100% perfect, it came close enough and had enough songs thrown into the mix that I could negate the minor issues and come to love it. And you'd have to be a sourpuss to not let out a guffaw upon hearing a high school glee club belting Amy Winehouse's song "Rehab."

The pilot was smartly aired months in advance of the actual show, which left the producers enough of a window of time to generate buzz and get viewers excited to see the rest of the season. They would later employ similar tactics when handling the mid-season break, causing viewers who had invested hours on the show to pine impatiently for the second part of the season, while newcomers who missed it during its initial run were able to catch up in time for the Part 2 premiere.

By the time the official first episode of Glee hit the airwaves, my musical theater loving heart and soul were lifted to new heights come September when I was lucky enough to feel the loud strains of-

Auto tune. Fucking auto tune.

I don't know if there was always computer magic behind the scenes of the show, or if there was supposed to be, the point is, no matter who you have cast in singing roles for a TV show, oh, all about singing, if they sound like pitch perfect robots, then what fun is there in creating a show at all? And it's not like the kids were all musical theater illiterate; Lea Michele, among other cast members, has been on Broadway, and her character is supposed to be a talented but cocky diva in the body of a mini Barbara Streisand. So why in the hell are they looping her natural pipes with a computer?

Granted, the auto tune was not a huge problem in the beginning for me, but was most definitely a sign of things to come. While Glee suffered from some missteps along the way, and could get a tad trite, stereotypical even, there was always Jane Lynch to spice up the action and spit out one liners with the growl of an errant bulldog. Combine that with guest stars like Kristen Chenowith, and the flaws could crawl back into a corner. At least, for the first half of the season.

What made Glee bad? Well, my friends, consider this: When you have a show that centers itself around a high school glee club, as I mentioned earlier, computers and digital singers are a big faux pas. Also, when you spend the entire season following the exact same shtick, committing yourselves to jokes and ideas that should have been used sparingly, because that was their purpose all along. You can tell a joke that is absolutely hilarious, but when you use that joke and its punchline in frequent succession, just because it worked before, how do you expect to enthrall an audience for an entire season?

Take for example the song choices. Granted, the original idea for the show felt like the love child of Election's Tracy Flick and High School Musical, so when you are going to try and add snark and bite to an otherwise hokey concept, it is not such a bad idea to pick songs that are just that, unexpected for a high school glee club to perform (or a teacher for that matter. Seriously, what high school student wants to hear their teacher perform 'The Thong Song'? Creepy if you ask me.) While it is great to pick songs that are original and catchy, the point of captivating viewers should not have to be awkward hip hop/pop for the sake of awkwardness. If every episode features a group of peppy teens singing 'Baby Got Back' it becomes expected. And to play devil's advocate here, quite a handful of the episodes strive to find songs that are less predictable and will still entertain viewers, but unfortunately, the Glee staff appears to be on a road where the show now feels targeted to teenagers and teenagers only. And while being edgy and hip with the kiddies is fun and all, it cuts out a demographic that may need Glee for a number of reasons, parents. But I'll get into detail on that in a minute.

In addition to predictable song choices and cliches of that nature, the plot development, along with the character traits, was what also led Glee down a dark and unforeseen path. Sure, Sue Sylvester is a hoot, in moderation, and yes, it is enjoyable to see the writers use Sue as a bully, a jokester, and a sympathetic person rolled into one character, but eventually the pixie dust wears off and we start to roll our eyes at her more so than we do laugh. Most comical characters have catchphrases, but if the viewer starts to presage the words that come out of their mouths, what is the fun in writing for that person? Again, back to my original thought, that relying on one good joke for more than one episode begins to ware itself out, long before the show's point of expiration.

I could probably go on for another hour on the importance of developing characters, and being a writer, I have done in the past, but that would just be me reiterating myself and I would end up repeating my words quite often. So I think I will segue way into the second part of this article.

As I asked earlier, what makes Glee different from High School Musical, or Kidz Bop for that matter?

The answer, my friends, is homosexuality. Beautiful, glorious homosexuality.

Before I continue, don't take this as me demanding that Glee is a show made only for queers, but, in a way, I think that gay youth, and all young adults for that matter, can, and will, take a show like Glee to heart for a number of reasons. The first being the most obvious answer, because it's two thousand and fucking ten and we still are having trouble giving LGBT human beings equal rights. We aren't allowing innocent people to marry someone they truly love and care for, we are denying hospital rights for life partners, service in the military for dedicated homosexuals, just to name a few things. So honestly, a lighthearted show which recognizes gay teens as human beings is probably not a bad idea to have on the air. When so many young teenagers are committing suicide because of harassment, it's not such a big fucking deal to have a show on public television that provides a comical and heartfelt escape from the ugly and homophobic outside world that we have to face the other 23 hours of the day. And imagine being a parent; you have a son or daughter who has the courage to come out to you, what positive images can you fill your brain with if you do not have a show that does not depict gays as promiscuous and dangerous? Seeing Kurt or Britney and Santana getting their gay on and living happily might make some parents accept the gay lifestyle, and giving them a simple but poignant message can be known to cause a change in heart in parents.

I cannot stress enough how important this is, because really, when you look at it hard enough, Glee is actually an important show and one that is far more accessible and easier to relate to for a teenage homosexual than say Queer as Folk or most other gay oriented TV shows. While Degrassi is popular, not everyone gets cable, so it is not easily guaranteed programming for some teens. And soak up this piece of news, Glee is on Fox of all channels, which stands against pretty much everything else that Glee advocates (which makes a subtle crack at Glenn Beck in one episode all the more edifying.)

And yet, I still find room to argue against Glee, simply because I have had the good fortune of being exposed to a variety of different films, TV shows, and documentaries that I have found infinitely more noteworthy than Glee. One of which is United States of Tara, which features Marshall, a fourteen-year-old boy who struggles with his sexuality and his being different in high school. While the show does not focus specifically on him being gay, neither does Glee with Kurt, but both episodes find room for their queer characters to develop and live their lives. I also prefer Tara because Marshall is who I was in middle school, who I am as a student; wildly opinionated, in love with weird movies and obscure music, all the while acting mature beyond his years, even if he has his missteps. Glee's Kurt is realistic, but sometimes is treated too much like a saint, when in fact, giving him his own flaws and problems will make him even more life like. If there is anything wrong with his character, I would have to say the lack of attention that was brought to his unhealthy crush on Finn. While puppy love and crushes are guaranteed to leave the person unhappy, a reality check and even a quick scolding for his out of line behavior would not have been such a bad thing for him.

To bring this particularly lengthy article to a close, I will just say that I am glad that Glee is on the air, less so because I need it to make me feel safer in my skin, I have grown in that regard already, but because other people are still growing and still becoming full fledged human beings. We don't have to watch it, or even acknowledge its existence, but for those who really, truly need a positive role model and reason to be proud of themselves, you certainly cannot go wrong with a little bit of song and dance.

And that's how Ben C's it.

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