The underlying message

Love it, hate it, dismiss it, you can’t deny thatGlee‘s made a splash.Conservatives love to hate it, a clear signal thatthey fear its power; at the same time, hipsters argue that the show is acelebration of mediocrity, retreading the lamest recesses of American popular entertainment.

Content-wise, two seasons in, it’s still a little tough to sort out the truly inspired bits from the merely good (a lot), the mediocre (also a lot), and the marketing onslaught (a shitload). The show’s a pastiche of all pop culture that has come before it: it eats and replicates the same stuff it’s transforming, so evaluation of it on that front tends to get mired in overlapping contextual webs. Personally, I don’t thinkGlee was ever intended to be overly substantial, and that’s okay. It’s meant to be a trifle best enjoyed on the run.

Theway that Glee delivers, as opposed to thewhat, is always going to be front and center. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a message, though. It does, and it’s basically the same one over and over, which is that it’s not just okay to be different, it’s absolutely vital. Our differences are what makes life worth living.

And that’s a very important thing to keep saying, as noted in thisgreat post byAfterEllen regular Heather Hogan:

And then it got better. It wasn’t easy because the getting better meant I had to dig into my desires and dreams, that I had to to unearth every fear, plucking each one out of decades of detritus and debris. And I had to polish those differences. And I had to treasure those differences. And I had to display those differences for the entire world to see.

But you know what I had to have first? I had to have the language to describe what was going on inside me. I had to have the words and the images to understand what it even meant to be a lesbian. And you know where I found that language? Books and movies and television.

11 thoughts on “The underlying message

  1. I agree with your assessment, Virgo Tex. The show is honest about the insecurities we all of us feel, but particularly teens, from the football quarterback to the head cheerleader and on past the chubby AV nerd; shows also how that insecurity can fuel meanness even from the best. The handling of Kurt, the main gay character, has been deft, from the bullying he suffers to his own crushes, brilliant. Same with Becky, the Downs syndrome student. The music can be shlocky, to be sure, but it is nonetheless pretty emotional, which is, after all, the rollercoaster most teens ride every day. And it’s true the show is often overproduced, the numbers too perfect for a ragtag high school troupe to pull off, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief because the basic message is a good one: the group works best when we respect one another.
    It’s not perfect but it’s alot better than what else runs on commercial tv.

  2. As sublime as the number above is, I got teary watching it because I kept thinking what it would have mean to the adolescent queer me to have seen something like that back then.

  3. I wish Glee was more consistent. Both in musical arrangements and storylines. I LOVEd the first two episodes and the first half of season one.
    Don’t stop believing with Finn and Rachael was brilliant. But
    Then they started stuffing it with thrown together themes. I imagine the pressure from execs was intense and creating a new mini musical every week is intense and hard to keep going.
    But this last week I was so depressed by the tax deal, WikiLeaks and the economy that I started watching again.
    Two different songs in two different shows were transcendent again.
    I Want to Marry You at Kurt and Finn’s parents wedding and Santana’s amazing singing of Valerie, by the Zotans via Amy Winehouse. The dancing in that number was also filled with Joy. If you want to be cheered up I recommend you watch those two scenes.

  4. agreed, Spocko. I love “Valerie” – not a song I’d ever expect to show up on Glee.

  5. I look at Glee as light entertainment when I’m sick, sick, sick of all the political acrobatics. It makes me smile and that’s good enough for me.

  6. Not at all. I’m a strong proponent of pop culture and I try to at least know about stuff even if I don’t actually partake. But personally, I prefer something that’s got more original content and isn’t too reliant on callbacks to other pop culture for it’s relevance.
    More importantly, I got to make a pun with a Roman reference.

  7. I’ve never seen any of the series until this – no cable, and I get my news here and other reality-based news outlets, along with some dead-tree periodicals. If the series has a strong queer character that’s a healthy, normal teen, engaging in normal teen relationships and falling in and out of love, isn’t that what we need more kids to see? Happy queers who aren’t miserable in their own skin are the only way a lot of kids – at least here in Kentucky – would ever know that ‘this too shall pass.’
    Seeing this old chestnut reborn by these two young singers – and what a fabulous countertenor the reluctant one is – reminds me of many long bus trips to sing a half-dozen shows a weekend during the holidays. I wish we could’ve had him in our groups, that’s for damned sure.

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