Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Beef with GLEE

A lot of you probably watch Fox's GLEE. It's an enormous hit centred on musically-inclined teens in their school's glee club who sing classic rock and contemporary Top 40 hits that pertain to their real life situations. This show has pretty much taken over.

I started watching GLEE last year, when my sister purchased the first half of the first season on DVD. I was hooked after just the pilot episode. The characters, how fully-developed! The drama, how suspenseful! The music, how catchy! I felt like I was taking a huge breath of fresh air. The teenage characters, even the adult ones, were turning stereotypes on their heads. There was a gay kid, a kid in a wheelchair, pregnant cheerleaders that were more than 2-dimensional mean girls. This show was breaking new ground.

That first season, although a little lacking near the end, was great. I downloaded a bunch of the music ("Don't Stop Believing" is now one of my all-time favourite songs), watched every new episode, and debated with my sister over who was better for Rachel, Finn or Puck. I was having fun.

Then came the second season. Suddenly, I was looking at everything differently. I don't know if the show changed or if I changed, but suddenly I was catching different undertones.

A few minor things in certain episodes started to bother me.

First thing, when Kurt had a crush on Finn and it made Finn uncomfortable. That's fine. That's understandable, I'm sure it happens in real life all the time. What made me uncomfortable was the fact that, the way the show portrayed it, Kurt was to blame. He had to apologize to Finn for being in love with him.

For a show that presents itself as really accepting of LGBT characters, this felt wrong to me. Why should Kurt have to apologize to Finn? It's not his fault who he ended up having a crush on.

Another thing that bothered me about the show's portrayal of LGBT teens was the brief, weird scene where cheerleaders Brittany and Santana are making out and then spend the episode making each other jealous by dating guys. What?! In no way was this elaborated on in later episodes, either! At first I was ecstatic: "whoa, lesbians! I'm in love with his show!"

And then... nothing. The fact that there was some kind of romantic/sexual relationship between Brittany and Santana was never brought up again.

I was deeply offended by this. Along with the way the show made Kurt look like the villain for loving Finn, the message I got from this was that teens can be gay, but gay teen characters can't have romantic relationships.

Come on. It's 2011. I think the world can handle some gay teen lovin' on primetime TV. You don't have to go all-out, it's true, but wouldn't the show be infinitely more realistic (and lauded for being so awesome) if there was just a little action for the LGBTs?

The other thing was Artie's disability and how there are miracle "cures" for this on the show. I'm talking about how he was able to take a few steps with a walker on the Christmas show. Again, it implies that there is something wrong with this character that needs to be fixed. Paralysis is, in most cases, irreversible, and paraplegics can and do get along just fine in the world. There is nothing "wrong" with them.

Why does this show present us minority characters like LGBT and paraplegic teens, and then treat them like works-in-progress, people who need outside help to become "proper" people? I'm sick of it, and will not be watching the show's future episodes and seasons until their representations improve.


  1. AgreeagreeagreeagreeAGREEEEEE!

    I've got lots of beef with Glee too. This season has been pissing me off. I love the detail you went in with those characters--I hadn't thought that in depth about all of those issues. Totally agree with you.

    My beef has more to do with the characterizations and plot. Um, hi, I'd like for something in this show to MAKE SENSE. I get it, they're trying to be different and fresh and have that new kind of humor. And it worked in the first season when they did it right. But Rachel is not the same Rachel she used to be. Quinn can't decide if she wants to be real or fake. Is Finn supposed to be smart or an idiot? Sue vs. Schue...pick one side and stick with it.

    I don't know. I can't think of each detail right now (but was planning on also having a beef post too lol). Love what you've said. Sorry for my rant. Glee better get itself back together soon!

  2. Yay! I thought I was the only one not pleased with this show!

    Another thing I don't like is how formulaic all the episodes got for a while, there. Someone threatens to take glee club away -> they do something -> some zany antics -> the principal lets glee club stay. Rinse and repeat.

  3. awesome post! I gave up on glee a couple eps into the second season... it's just crappy writing, i mean if it was a book it would be torn apart. only redeemable thing is the catchy songs :p i mean it feels like the show is a bit lost, and the ensemble cast doens't work for me because they keep screwing it up! blehh

    and you left a comment on my blog today, just wanted to say I totally agree and Shane Koyczan is an amazing (slam) poet! i'd love to get his book someday, i read threw some of it at the bookstore the other day :)

  4. He visited my school in my grade 12 year! Everybody was obsessed with him. I have his book - signed! He's a complete sweetheart in real life as well as an AMAZING poet :)

    Guys, I'm so glad I'm not alone with the Glee beef xD I get so beat up when I bring up some of these issues with fans of the show.

  5. So, my wife is obsessed with Glee, and I definitely watch with her when I have time. (We both love music, musicals, etc., etc.) We are both behind on the 2nd season, but I'm disappointed to hear about the downturn in quality.

    While it was hidden beneath a bunch of sparkle/fluff, I thought the writers did a wonderful job of tackling some hard issues in season 1. I'll keep an eye on the storyline and see if I agree ...

  6. I'd love to hear your take on it, EJW. I agree that lots of issues were handled well. I liked the storyline of Quinn's pregnancy, and I loved loved loved Mr Shue's wife's fake pregnancy! So much drama there.

    (and, um, ive only watched the pilot as of yet. dying to see the rest, but can't find the time.)
    i was also blown away by how un-cliched the characters in the pilot were, how 3D and realistic. so it's kind of saddening to know they kind screwed it up as the show went on. oh well.

  8. Aleeza, sorry for the spoiler! xD But really, would you expect anything less of her?

    I was also so, so happy with the way it seemed to be going at the beginning! That's what made it's descent so sad.