‘Hello, Goodbye’: Ambivalent About TV’s ‘Glee’?


Singing and dating and high school — oh my!

The TV series Glee starts its second season tonight, and despite the hype, I still have pretty mixed feelings about the show, which revolves around a misfit group of students striving to become a first-rate high school glee club.

At first, I hated it. I perceived the moral threshold as pretty low, the characters as obnoxious, and the episode themes as shockingly recycled. High school kids dealing with labels, crushes and administration? Hello, Happy Days, The Breakfast Club, and Saved by the Bell.

And who, exactly, was this show supposed to attract? With its references to sex, homosexuality and relationship entanglements, Glee seemed too mature for the junior-highers who loved Disney’s High School Musical; yet, with its focus on teenage antics and overt stereotyping, it was too elementary and passé for adults. (Or so I thought).

And all this singing and dancing and love-triangle stuff — it was like Rogers & Hammerstein somehow got sexy.

But I’ve found the show actually to have some pretty witty humor (especially in the hands of Jane Lynch, who plays cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester), and it often surprises me with its twist on themes, like when, in an episode about virginity, the main female character, Rachel, decides not to sleep with her boyfriend, and the main male, Finn, expresses actual shame after sleeping with a girl about whom he doesn’t care.

We don’t normally see confident female characters choose abstinence or attractive male characters regret a casual hook-up. And even in the midst of a fatigued plot, I found the actions to be somewhat refreshing.

And that’s maybe why it’s become so huge — because what you expect to see isn’t always what you get. That instead of simple, one-dimensional characters, viewers watch the pregnant cheerleader show remarkable courage as she faces parental rejection and peer ridicule, the father of a gay student struggle to understand his son, and a jock fight to keep the memory of his deceased father.

It’s also a reminder that the challenges often associated with college students and 20-somethings have trickled down to affect early teenagers, and growing up is never as simple as we wish it were — or even pretend it was.

As a Catholic, I admit there’s a lot in Glee that grates against my worldview. I wouldn’t want my single life to mirror that of anyone on the show. I understand why some Catholics have called it offensive. Yet, the show’s drawn Catholic praise, including a 2010 Catholics in Media Associates award — although not all Catholics agree with the remarks Glee co-creator, Ian Brennan, made at BustedHalo.com.

So, my verdict is still out, but I still plan to catch a few episodes on Hulu this season. While Glee is certainly no Sound of Music, it’s also no Jersey Shore. I would typically write it off as mere entertainment, but I find myself giving serious reflection to some of the episodes long after the last commercial.

I also catch myself humming the music. But then again, I love Rogers & Hammerstein.

So, what do you think? Is there something to be said for Glee or has its tune long fell flat?


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