Wednesday, 9 June 2010
When I first started watching Glee it was because it appealed to my closeted star. Most of us have one, he/she usually dreams of singing to packed houses but is either too scared to try, or knows they don't quite have the talent to match the dreams.
I'm mostly the former with a splash of the latter so this show was right up my alley. Even better, it was something i could watch with my teenage niece. There aren't too many programs around that we're equally crazy about.
Sure, the characters were mostly caricatures, the situations were straight from a soap opera and there wasn't a single character I really liked. Don't get me wrong, I didn't dislike them, I was just indifferent.
As such, Glee was a fun piece of escapism and nothing more. It had charm and I forgave it it's flaws.
The disabled boy, the gay character, the pregnant teen, the fat girl, to me they were all just token characters, there to either be politically correct or to be sensationalist. I was very cynical.
I kept those views for the most of the first half of the season. We were slowly given an insight into a few of their lives, but for the most part Glee was a very superficial show.
Then things started to change. Will grew a backbone. Of all the characters I suppose Will Schuester was my favourite, though that's not saying a lot. He was a weedy, wimpy bleeding heart liberal who talked a good game but didn't deliver. Week after week I wanted to bash his head in for being a doormat to his wife and the cheerleading coach, I wanted to beat some sense into him so he could see the lies. I mean, come on, man! My dogs wouldn't have put up with his wife's behaviour, and they lick their own arses!!!
Then one day, Will finds out the truth. It was a fleeting moment of real anger, but it made me sit up and watch. Hmm, maybe there was more to Mr Nice Guy than just a good voice. I wondered if this could not only last, but even spread to some of the other characters.
And low and behold it did. The pregnant girl, Quinn's lies were discovered, then she got kicked out of her house when her parents found out about the baby. Fat became an issue for Mercedes, the fat girl. Homophobia became an issue for Kurt, the gay kid. The disabled boy, Artie's dreams of walking were horribly (but honestly) crushed.
Fat girls do not miraculously get slim over night and have all their problems solved. They have to learn to love themselves for who they are, fat or thin.
Pregnancy isn't pleasant. At the best of times it drives most women a little crazy and I don't mean that mothers to be are hormonal. I'm talking about peeing every five minutes, loss of mobility, the inability to tie ones own shoe laces, loss of self, financial worries and worry over doing the right thing. Most adults have a hard time with this, teenagers have it even harder.
Paralysed people rarely walk again. For some lucky ones the damage to the spine isn't permanent (eg it caused by pressure on the spine) or isn't total and some function can be regained. Sadly for the majority, spinal injuries are life long. Artie didn't just get up and walk again because he hoped hard enough or dreamed long enough. It sucks. That's life. But do you know what? Artie didn't let it ruin his life. He took the blows, dusted himself off and carried on.
Homophobia can be very damaging to young gay men. They learn that to be accepted they need to change, hide certain aspects of themselves, laugh along with the gay jokes and try to fit in. Then along comes Kurt. Flamboyant, fey and shameless. His father loves him but admits he doesn't know how to handle it. The bullies pick on him, but Kurt fires right back with his barbed wit. He knows who he is and he knows there's nothing wrong with him. He flirts with "playing it straight" but knows that's not who he is. I don't blame gay men (or women) who do chose to hide their sexuality to fit in, but I am glad they have an out and proud role model on network TV.
Real life was beginning to interrupt this sugar coated world, and I was liking the results.
As the series progressed there were some real hardships coming to the fore, some real emotions poking through the shiny façade, and some real strength of character being shown in over coming these obstacles.
Are there still cartoonish plots? Sure. Are some characters still over the top? Absolutely. The only real difference? Now the show has heart.
For every soap opera plot line, over the top acting and sickly sweet scenario, there's also a truth being spoken.
For every unbelievable scene, like a headmaster believing that vampires are real, there's a moving scene, like Kurt's father comparing f*g to the N word.
Glee is truly unique television. It takes the things you shouldn't like (like show choir and fat people) or the issues that society as a whole shuns (like disability and homosexuality) and by making them cool, hopefully make the viewers question their own prejudices.
I've just touched on some of the issues raised in Glee, the more prominent ones or the ones that most spoke to me, but I think most kids are represented here. There's something for everyone and I hope in season 2 and 3 that Glee never forgets when it's at it's best. In other words, when the sublime compliments the ridiculous.