I bullshitted a lot of this, but I think this actually sums up my feelings on the show pretty thoroughly. I didn't actually interview these friends specifically for this assignment, but I've either heard them comment on such things, or know that it's how they feel about the show. Obviously, I'm leaving names out:
Glee seems to be a new phenomenon. Just finished in its first year, it’s already renewed for a third season, and merchandising has been through the roof with CDs, concerts, and talks of a Broadway production. For a show that is about high school outcasts, it certainly seems to speak to a huge number of people. The most obvious thing about the show is its taste in music. While it has a number of songs from the Top 40, it also selects from a number of popular tunes of the past, ranging from Queen to Billy Idol to Vanilla Ice. There are also occasionally tunes that haven’t been heard in public media since the thirties and forties. Most especially, there is usually a good mix of Broadway show tunes involved in the production, giving the entire show an ethereal, campy and musical-like quality. But choosing the best songs of all time wouldn’t matter if they weren’t well done. Glee has a certain way of changing a song just enough that it’s new and relevant, while remaining true to the source material. True, a ballad version of “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga doesn’t seem like a work of musical genius, but it’s surprisingly catchy, and undoubtedly well-sung, since the characters are played by two well-known Broadway actresses. The show certainly has a lot to offer in terms of speaking to a group of people who don’t get a voice on TV all that often: fans of good music, and even more specifically, Broadway.
The show also has an interesting representation of minority characters. It has a reputation for being one of the most diverse casts on television, with its share of black, Asian, Jewish, disabled and homosexual teenagers. Perhaps as a joke of the treatment of such characters in other shows, these characters are sometimes given stereotypical lines or actions that are usually performed in a tongue-in-cheek matter. Although these instances can be funny, it should be noted that in their attempt to make fun of the situation, the writers may simply be furthering the stereotypes themselves, or not giving them the full attention they deserve. There have also been complaints that they aren’t given as much screen time as the white members of the cast. While this is a valid complaint, the show has introduced us to a very large number of characters in a short period of time, and the show runners have made optimistic overtures to the fans that each character will get their due in the future seasons. Perhaps one of the main causes for this concern is that not much screen time is left between the musical numbers, which have gotten larger and more elaborate as the show got more and more popular.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to the show. While it’s admirable that the writers don’t waste time with filler, the breakneck speed of the show would do a lot better if some lines were drawn between plot points. Sometimes characters go form one polar extremity of an emotional spectrum to the complete opposite between scenes, with no explanation given. Episodes tend to have individual plots that all wrap up within the course of a single hour, much like a sitcom, and the reset button is hit so often that the characters never get to learn anything from their endeavors. This refusal to make emotional progress from one episode to the next, along with the haywire antics of the characters, sometimes makes the show intolerably frustrating to tune in to every week. But then, the musical numbers are so well executed and catchy, it becomes an irresistible trap.
Many others who watch the show apparently feel the same way. There seemed to be a major difference between the first thirteen episodes that aired in the fall, and the last nine episodes that aired in the spring, after a three-month hiatus. According to SV, the earlier episodes were a lot more realistic in the way it portrayed high school life, and the messages about teenagers and sexuality were somewhat revolutionary on network television. “There’s one point where Rachel says, ‘Girls want sex just as much as guys do,’ and I really liked that. That’s not expressed enough on TV.” The second half of the season seemed a bit more moralistic, with the choral teacher ending almost every episode with some kind of lesson. This change in direction might relate directly to what was being talked about in Heartland TV, where the producers or network executives regard the general midland masses as needing a more wholesome program. Without the teacher guiding the students to the proper conclusions, parents or the general public might feel as though the show lacked a “moral center” and wasn’t suitable for TV.
However, the show has not completely given up on controversy. Several of the episodes heavily focus on the life of a gay teenager struggling to deal with his identity in a rural Ohio town. Of course, most of the students there are not very accepting and this adds to his feelings of being an outcast. Originally one of the more minor characters, Kurt has become a fan favorite, and had a much a bigger presence in the last nine episodes, proving that sometimes a devoted audience can have a say on what they see on the screen. There has rarely been a homosexual character this well depicted on network television, although the show does sometimes veer into stereotype. The show writers’ treatment of the character is not totally perfect, but it can be considered a giant step in the right direction. “I’m sure it meant a lot to a lot of people,” KA says, “They really promoted the issue of acceptance.” K says he watches the show because it’s simply fun. There are really no ties between his life and the television show other than it’s enjoyable to watch.
ER seems to agree with this. “I was hesitant to watch it at first, because I thought it would be too cheesy. But I actually enjoyed it.” However, she usually only watches the show when her friends are around. She probably wouldn’t have sought it out herself. This might speak to the social dynamic that television plays in our lives. Half the shows we watch are because other people started watching them first. There are often a number of shows that people learn to appreciate through mere exposure. With water cooler talk still being an important part of social interaction, it benefits people to share television shows with groups of friends. It can also benefit future interactions as icebreakers and general pop culture knowledge. This has been proven true over and over, especially with sudden popular shows like Glee. There are so many fans, and so many people with complaints, that bringing up the show it sure it start an interesting conversation. Whatever is new is sure to be something of a hot button topic, especially a show as bright and campy as Glee.
Glee has certainly affected many people, either through their optimistic representations of misfit high school students, or the weekly message they send out that if you want to sing, you just go ahead and sing out. It’s interesting to see a culture react as strongly as ours did to the popularity of Glee. It seemed to immediately polarize people into two groups: those who get it, and those who don’t. However, the ultimate effect of having a show that speaks to all ages – the music selection and pop culture references were obviously arranged by someone who has a great appreciation for all decades – and that portrays a positive, accepting environment for people who might not already have one, goes to show just how important a single television program can be to the general public. Part of what makes Glee so successful is the devotion of its fans. There would be no concerts, or CDs or any hope of merchandizing if the fans didn’t somehow feel connected to the show. Even though it has its faults, it’s clear to see its impact on culture and how it is both a reflection and representation of our society.