Pullout Jun 22, 2011 at 4:00 am

It Was Fun to Watch Up to and Until the Moment Gay Kids Started Taking It Seriously


Wow. Bitter much? It's a TV show. Get over it.
You entirely miss the point of Kurt's Dad and sound more like you're criticizing your own experience of the stage than the TV show. Actually, maybe you did get it, but I couldn't read all of this to find out--I was too busy looking up the meaning of kvell.
I've only ever watched an episode or two, but I have to say this article rings true and is exactly why I could never get into the show in the first place- Glee tries to tackle real world issues and themes, yet these kids all have amazing singing voices, learn songs and choreography instantly, (and most glaringly and annoyingly) have a seemingly unlimited supply of sets and costumes that spring from thin air.

and yeah, I get that it's trying to be like every musical ever- but one of the things that the movie version of Chicago did so right was to make all the musical numbers the realm of the protagonist's imagination... giving the viewer the gritty realism of the story, while still keeping the glitz and camp that make musicals such a draw. I whole-heartedly agree that Glee fails by not following suit. Kudos to the author.
Ditto. It's going down in flames, but I too hope the looming failure can shock a little life into it yet.

Hank, that was lovely. "still singing like a cartoon bird"...
With respect to Glee -

if there were a program on TV about how Asians are super great at math - would we be ok with it, or would we feel it was racist?

That's how I feel about Glee.
Being the ripe young age of 21 I never grew up with that "cultural changing" television show, Will and Grace. It wasn't until very recently that I got a glimpse of this show which, according to many of my gay friends, completely transformed television drama. I was, shockingly, disappointed...

"How the hell can anyone call this progressive?" I thought to myself, "It is the least gay gay show I've ever seen. It couldn't be farther from what life is actually like. It doesn't portray an accurate picture of homosexuality at all."

But of course I eventually realized that for it's time Will and Grace was a big step in the right direction. Was it entirely truthful and accurate? No. Is television ever? Don't get me wrong, I hold a lot of the same criticisms as Hank here on this particular program. But like previous shows that present Homosexuality in a brighter spot light, it is still a step in the right direction. Every once in a while I find myself very impressed with the depth of struggle in which some of the characters find themselves, such as Santanna and Brittany with their own identities.

Baby steps, ya know? go easy on em.
I haven't watched the show. But any show with a lot of singing in it ought to include only good singers, otherwise it would be awfully hard on the ears, no?
Sometimes television can just be entertainment, and adults can accept the fact that it doesn't have to reflect truth in order to do so. Glee is fun because such things that happen in McKinley High, don't happen in real life. It's escapism that perhaps gays (and outcast straights) identify with more, because of the shared interest in performing.

Merciful Zeus, does EVERYTHING have to have a message, it can't just be fun?
EasilyLost, I think it could function as escapism if, as the author points out, Glee wasn't so into its image as a progressive, envelope-pushing show that's saving the lives of gay, disabled, socially ostracized kids everywhere.
Would 'Glee' be a more compelling, more emotionally resonant show if it depicted the clumsy awkwardness of high school as it really is? Yes, it would. It would also have been canceled in its first season.

Remember 'Freaks & Geeks'? An incredibly well-written and well-acted show crammed with actors who have gone on to major careers, a show that has got to be the most honest depiction of high school ever seen on television, and it was canceled after 18 episodes because its ratings were rock-bottom.

'Glee' tackles issues that freak middle America out (not only homosexuality; there was an episode about atheism that was startlingly multi-layered) and yet is a top-rated show. Why? Because it's a glossy fantasy. It's the spoonful-of-sugar approach, and while it's not going to save the world...let's be honest, no television show is going to save the world. This one is having more socio-political impact than 99% of what's on television.

I can't stand 'Glee' most of the time, but I'm not so stupid as to slam one of the only shows making an effort to change ANYTHING.
@5: Well, The Big Bang Theory is all about nerds and how great at math and science they are, and one of them is Asian. Does that count?
Have to slightly disagree a bit on one point. The subtext (and occasionally text) of Glee is that, for many of the kids, the high school glee club is the high point of their entertainment lives. With the possible exception of Rachel and/or Kurt, none of the others really have much of a shot at 'making it big', so they are just enjoying the ride while they can. It's that undertow of sadness (best personified by Quinn's need to 'be somebody' before high school ends after which she goes to community college and gets her real estate license) and bursting of bubbles that makes the show more than just a tawdrier and more socially-relevant version of High School Musical. There is much to criticize Glee for, especially with the absolute lack of consistent continuity this season, but the show does often smack down the idea that all of these kids are intended for greatness.
oh pleeze people. fucking enjoy it for entertainment.
Dude you just spoiled the series finale!
Oops... sorry for the stupid ALL CAPS "voice" I wrote it in... but perhaps someone may get a snicker or snort reading it... or not. (and this isn't " @ " anyone so far looks to me everyone who's written something has very valid point(s)) Cheers!
I feel like Kurt was this opportunity to present the average American who hasn't been exposed to a gay guy other than the "nancy boy" stereotype already all over TV with a portrayal of a regular, outgoing teenage boy who happens to be a homosexual. Glee totally squandered an opportunity to blow away the preconceived notion of a prissy, lisp-owning, fashion obsessed twit that they're all afraid their son will turn out to be if they let him be himself. Kurt is the biggest disappointment in television right now, and I wish that people would stop cheering him on and get real.
@10 thank you. I could not have put it better myself. And to the writer of this article: calm the fuck down. Seriously.
@16 Kurt's boyfriend (Blaine?) is an average TV teenage boy (confident, good-looking, outgoing etc.), and the closeted bully (Kurofsky?) is the opposite of the "nancy-boy" stereotype. So there's that.
I'm surprised that no one has recently made a documentary of some sort about high school show choirs. That's gotta be at least as compelling as a Scrabble tournament, right?
Um you realize tv shows arent the real world and if people take them seriously that is silly.
Hmm. I never saw Glee as a show about gay kids. I saw it as a show about a bunch of kids who sing, and one of them is gay. And, yes, they sing great. Which is good, because if I want to see a bunch of people singing off key on television, I'll watch American Idol.

It's a TV show. If you're a TV critic, how is it that you have never noticed that all TV shows have that suspension of disbelief quality to them. Real life problems that most families or people struggle with are solved in a half hour. On cop shows, they catch the bad guy before he kills again. On the rom coms, the awkward, but sweet guy gets the hot chick. And on Glee, the gay kid gets a little justice, the kind he doesn't always find in the real world.

It's to be taken as light entertainment, on those evenings when you're too drained to pick up a book. That's all.

If you really have a problem with people taking Glee seriously, you're problem isn't with Glee. You're problem is with the people.
WOW! Methinks someone needs to retitle their column "The Bitter Old Queen Watches Television."

@22 FTW!
@16 That's...actually kind of offensive. The whole point of Kurt being stereotypically "gay" is not to present America with what a typical homosexual LOOKS LIKE but with how the least "straight-acting," socially acceptable homosexuals deserve to be treated. A star basketball player who just happens to like boys turns Mike O'Malley's wonderful performance as the dad so many of us wish we had into something trite and boring. It's not like there aren't plenty of other, more "mainstream" depictions of queer kids in the show--Blaine, Karofsky, Brittany and Santana are all gay and dealing with it in very different ways than Kurt is. Brittany just wants to be loved, Santana struggles against a stereotype she sees as unfair, Blaine is the guy all of the people like you wanted Kurt to be, and Karofsky is the terrified kid lashing out from the closet. I don't understand why people are so dead-set on Kurt being the banner for gay people everywhere. He's not. He's holding up a mirror to the rest of our society to show them how they should be treating us.
I am not trying to be a troll, really! But Am I the only person who finds it strange that "New Directions" sounds like "Nude Erections" when spoken. I doubt this was done on purpose, but I can't be the only one hearing this, can I?
@5, if it had as many characters as Glee has and as many Asian kids as non-straight Gleeks--that is, five--no, we wouldn't call it racist.
To the author: that would happen anyway. Sure, there are kids who think that being famous is easy and average high schoolers are incredibly talented, but they would exist anyway. There's always been the prettiest girl in school who thought she could be a model and then found out she was too fat and awkward, or the valedictorian who was rejected from Harvard--or was accepted and failed out--or the quarterback who got relegated to benchwarmer in college and never made it to first string. That's reality. That's always going to happen. It sucks, but people get over it.
While I'm not a fan of Glee and find a lot of their stories and characters completely unrealistic, this article is the biggest Complainabrag ever. A lot of people would kill to have your job, dude. You write about TV for a major newspaper. And you act like it's settling to be a director or a critic. Would you rather be a waiter in LA? Or the guy who played Spider-man on Broadway and broke his neck?
Glee may have many flaws but it doesn't portray the club as exceptionally talented. In the first season, the glee club only makes it to Regionals because the other 2 schools at Sectionals are in even worse shape. They come last at Regionals, losing to two more experienced show choirs. In the second season, they tie at Sectionals (beating an elderly GED show choir). Not that sectionals and regionals even matter really. The judges are a reflection of that. They don't care. People show up because they've nothing better to do or to support their loved ones, or to scout the competition.
I'm not naive, I know that people can't sing things that well on their first attempt. But it didn't occur to me to take a cynical view of it. I saw it as the kids hearing the way the song could potentially sound, and probably resembled after weeks or months of practice. It's a television show, it's not going to show us slowly better versions of a song over and over, it'll show us the polished version.
Rachel is virtually the only one who sings solos and is exceptional, and in the show she has been practicing singing and dancing since she could walk. Kurt is also quite talented and he too has a life-long passion for music.
And as for the music quality, Glee itself acknowledges that all the time. I remember in the episode "Hello", a string quartet starts backing a song sung in a bookstore and they actually show the quartet there. That was an honest and funny acknowledgement of the lack of realism in Glee's "spontaneous" scenes.
And remember, we're often reminded that Mr Schuester won Nationals (which the Glee club isn't even close to). And where is he? He's a divorced Spanish teacher at a pretty lousy high school in Ohio. Glee might sugar-coat a lot of things but not that.

As for the gay relationships and plotline, yes I do agree with you.
@8, no, not everything has to have a Message. But "Glee" has absolutely gone down that road, and every episode since early on in the second season has been pounding viewers over the head with Important Meaning. Which is a huge step backwards for the show.

It is now more or less celebrating the thing that it initially stood against. These kids aren't the outcasts; they are the victors. They are the elite caste. They are, in fact, the oppressors. it's a very disheartening turnaround.

It's Afterschool Specials all the way down for them. Not even Jane Lynch can save them.
I agree with the point about the show taking itself too seriously. It should stick to its roots as an entertaining, light-hearted series and give the moralising a bit of a rest. So many of the characters are extremely one-dimensional, probably as a consequence of there being far too many characters to begin with, which, for me at least, detracts from most attempts at tackling serious subject matter. I still find it a pretty enjoyable watch but more so as a piece of TV fluff than anything with a worthwhile dramatic point.

@25 That was intentional. I remember seeing one of the writers say so.
You know, my Depression Era grandparents had a Mickey Rooney and a Judy Garland who put on shows in their little town, just like Glee. It happened, it really happened.
Wow! I don't think you could have gotten it more wrong. Glee is an escapist fantasy. It's great that there's a show out there that entertains gay kids (and grown-up gays) by showing a fantasy world where gay kids' dreams come true. I don't think these kids are being mislead into thinking reality matches the show, they are just getting a chance to enjoy a fantasy geared towards them. When I was growing up, all the shows were geared towards straight sensibilities. My entertainment options were all straight escapism: the guy gets the girl, makes the team, or wins the fight. If a show stops being fun because it portrays an enjoyable fantasy, then we might as well just show news and documentaries.
Ummm did you just complain that a TV show-musical isn't "real" enough? I get it, I get it. You loved it when it wasn't taken seriously, but now that a bunch of teenagers (not just gay BTW) are inspired by the show, Ryan Murphy is out of touch with young gay people?

I'd have to agree with everyone who called you bitter. And I'd have to add that you seem as out of touch with high schoolers as you claim Murphy is.

And I think Glee is plenty awkward. In fact I cringe every time Kurt walks into a room.

Lady GaGa––not real. Tens of thousands of GaGa fans calling NYC senators and lobbying for same-sex marriage at her request––very real.
Oh my gosh, you're so right. Glee shouldn't use it's popularity to try and send positive messages. They should just sit by and ignore the horrible things going on in the real world. And they should continue to be just a show with high-power musical number after musical number entwined with horrible teenage angst just so bitter television critics can enjoy it.

And obviously they just glorify being gay. You know, Kurt had so much fun being constantly bullied to the point of having to leave school.

Yeah, and what about those gay stereotypes? Like, obviously guys that are into fashion don't exist in the real world. But when you say that all gay kids were desperate to join theater, that's totally not stereotyping. And the fact that people like you couldn't be great enough to make it in theater means no one can, and even dreaming about it is stupid. Because giving depressed teenagers hope wouldn't do a thing, right? So, yes, let's show those gay kids that their life is going to suck. Because they're the only ones who will have horrible lives.

And oh right, Chris Colfer is insufferable. How dare he achieve great success in his still young career? Doesn't he know we're supposed to be spreading the message that life is going to suck?

So thank you. Thank you for this incredibly inoffensive article that has nothing to do with your own bitterness about life.
Glee is stupid and a TV show that celebrates GLBT victimhood and bad gay male/GLBT stereotypes with a campy song and dance routine!

As for Lady Caca she's NOT for GLBT rights except for when it means getting more of us GLBT people to buy her music by only pretending to be.

She's not even actually bisexual and she's just a hetero woman using GLBT issues/our rights to get us to buy her music just like Madonna did.
Couldn't read past the 3rd paragraph... Bla bla bla.
Seriously? You are really complaining that the attempt at dealing with gay issues in a popular tv series isn't realistic enough? It's tv. The end. Go watch a documentary. I'm sure there's an angsty awkward biased one somewhere you can rent.
the choreography isn't perfect --

this is what's so funny! all the talented actors,a nd then they get down to doing a hs showchoir number, and IT LOOKS LIKE JUST ANOTHER BAD HS SHOWCHOIR NUMBER!!

Like the halftime dancers in best little whorehouse (Thommie Walsh/Tommy Tune). I'm not a great fan of Glee, but their choreographer is a genius. As is their contumer.

So let me get this straight. Glee does not accurately serve the gay community--or, presumably, any other disadvantaged community it represents--because it does not show its characters' lives as a wash of unrelieved misery, unbroken by any but the smallest bright spots. Right.

Maybe this writer was a shit singer in high school, and all right, if all of his writing was as coherent and non-contradictory as this article, he probably wasn't much good there either, but kids--yes, even gay kids, even Asian kids, even kids in wheelchairs--even, god forbid, HIGH SCHOOLERS--are in fact sometimes good at things. They're none of these characters brilliant and many of them not terribly smart, none of them pro athletes and plenty of them kind of scrawny and clumsy. Let us not forget the lovely Miss Lauren Zizes, whose voice is most definitely nothing like stage-solo material, but who still sang her song. Some kids get through high school by concentrating on how they're really, really good at art--and yes, many of those kids will never be more than mediocre, but a lot of them are genuinely talented. Some bury themselves in grades and classes. And these kids sing.

There are two reasons the glee club is important. One, to quote Brittany, is that "we're a family." The other though, and equally as important, is that "this is the only chance we have to feel good about ourselves for something."

Sometimes teenagers are ACTUALLY GOOD AT THINGS. It is that which actually gets them through the otherwise unrelieved misery of high school. So yes, Hank Stuever, the kids on Glee are allowed to be good singers. More importantly, the kids on Glee--Kurt Hummel, who got sexually assaulted in a locker room, Brittany Pierce, who's slept with half the guys in school and been called "stupid" by every single one of them (and everybody else she knows), Santana Lopez, who doesn't even remember how not to be a bitch because she's just been scared for so long--and oh yeah, the straight kids too, the Asian ones and the kid in the wheelchair and even Rachel fucking Berry--are allowed to feel GOOD about themselves for being good singers.

And yeah, that is what I want our teenagers to learn from their TV's.
It was good in the first season because it integrated the songs into the plot. Now it just seems to be about attempting to integrate a plot into the songs. Shame. Entertaining shame.
I hate to tell you this, but if the writers wrote Glee the way you suggest, NO ONE would watch and it would never have made it beyond the first season. The messages may not be as stark as you think they should be, but issues are at least being introduced into society.

As for the realism or lack thereof, I think it's a great example of the use of Pararealism and Metarealism. The show never claimed to be realistic...on or off screen. What it does is introduce ideas and ideals to the world.

Please wait...

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