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.