Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glee-fully Oblivious: The Bad Riddle of Glee

Glee. It's getting hard to ignore.

It seems I might be late for the topic, or at least the party, but really I was the first one there. I just realized my driver took me to the wrong address.

Preferences aside, the show's been making some big waves lately, and it's kinda confusing. On one hand, the show's been generating a lot of  "positive" press around the episode "Never Been Kissed" and it's confrontation of Bullies. On the other hand, the show's been generating a lot of "negative" press around the "photo scandal" in the last issue of GQ.

It's polarizing, but helps illustrates the enigma of Glee. Glee has undeniably awesome moments: some of the dance numbers, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), and just little quirky movements like when we're told that macho, jock Puck eats TV dinner with his single mom and watches Schindler's List every Wednesday night. But the rest of the show, in my opinion, is a muck of uninspiring storylines, stereotypes, and gimmicks.

I want to peg the show as a safe, moral heavy programming preaching the values of diversity to the teens of America, but I can't. I can't because there is too much random, "inappropriate" crap thrown at the viewer: pot-laced brownies, premature ejaculation, scissoring references, and how internet porn changed how women view guys.

"I didn't want to do a family show," said Glee creator Ryan Murphy. "I wanted to do my version of a family show. But we try to be as responsible as we can, because we know some young people watch. Some of the humor goes over their head, hopefully." Wait, what?

Glee puts on a good act of posing as the model show for American teens, it's central audience, by preaching about societal norms and stereotypes. It looks good to say, it's wrong to bully people because they're different than you. And I fully believe and support that belief, but I don't believe the show does, or at least it's audience. 

The main people I know who watch the show are: 1) girls, who like popular songs and hot guys; 2) gay men, who also like popular songs and hot guys, but who also enjoy the subtext that being gay is okay.

Most of the comments I've heard from teenage girls either revolve around the how hot a guy is, the relationships, or... the songs. But mostly just how hot the guys are. I've never heard any comments whatsoever about how the latest episode of Glee really helped change Sara's mind about the whole verbally-degrading Margret-thing. Truth be told, teenage girls are some of the most discriminating people I've ever met.

Shows have to maintain their audiences, and for Glee to keep their audience hooked (teenage girls and gay men), they have to continue catering to those specific demographics. This means more top 40 tunes, more shirtless guys, more gay. There's a reason why the first episode of bully-centered conflict themed episodes  was centered around Kurt, the central gay man from Glee Club.   

So it's a little odd when GQ, a magazine directed towards strait men, does an article called "Glee Gone Wild" and conducts a photo shoot where Lea Michele and Dianna Agron, the two main female leads of Glee, show off panties, bras, and catholic school-girl skirts. Oh, Cory Monteith is featured too, but he's dressed from head to toe. Somewhat understandably, parents and others are "enraged" by the shoot.

The Parent’s Television Council president Tim Winter responded with the following: “It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on Glee in this way. It borders on pedophilia. Sadly, this is just the latest example of the overt sexualization of young girls in entertainment."

It strikes me as hypocritical that Monteith is completely clothed, but when the main audience is adult men, it's hard not do focus on the target audience. Sound familiar?

Glee is a slave to their audience. GQ is a slave to their audience.We're all slaves to our "audiences".  They support us, and they love us, but they have specific image of how we need to act and what pleases them. This in itself restricts creativity. If the audience is maintained, why risk change?

This is why the main reason why Glee is stifling to me. They're doesn't seem to be any major effort to make any potentially, risky moves. It's the same storylines, the same conflicts, the same reltionships. They're just rebranded.

"I hate Rachelle now. She went back in time," said a friend of mine recently. "She's just like she was at the beginning of the first season."

I liked the photo-shoot. Lea Michelle and Diana Agron used sex appeal to promote Glee, but more importantly themselves. As Ryan Murphy responded to the photoshoot saying "That photo shoot was not about the show. It was about the individuals in the show. They were actors, off the set, being personalities."

For me, that's a huge relief. Lea Michelle was in the original Broadway Spring Awakening. She's got talent. I can't wait for her to do other work besides Glee. The same goes for Agron, especially after discovering her response to the whole photo ordeal on her tumblr.

"For GQ, they asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters. A 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' version. At the time, it wasn't my favorite idea, but I did not walk away. I must say, I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can't erase the strokes you've made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate. I'm moving forward from this one, and after today, putting it to rest. I am only myself, I can only be me."

I'm very appreciative of that last line, and that she explains her actions, but still endorses and defends her actions. Upon exploring her tumblr further, Agron gets even better: Tom Waits videos, Wayne Coyne rolling over audiences, Christoper Walken, and she regularly makes playlists like this:

  1. The Whitest Boy Alive - Burning
  2. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
  3. Ray Charles - What’d I Say
  4. Chairlift - Bruises
  5. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
  6. The Kooks - Naive
  7. The Virgins - Rich Girls
  8. The Black Keys - Tighten Up
  9. Phoenix - Armistice (Yacht Remix)
  10. The XX - Islands
  11. Florence and the Machine - Dog Days Are Over
A girl after my own heart.

Moral of the story: I don't like Glee; it's a bad riddle of content, but I do like the people on the show and I do enjoy an occasional risque photoshoot with famous women. 

Bonus Track:  Paul_Dini on twitter: "So the GLEE kids all sing & dance flawlessly yet are supposed to be losers. What race of atomic supermen is their competition?

Joel Samson Berntsen (I'll Be Your Mirror - The Velvet Underground)

1 comment:

Dylan said...

The thing about Glee is that I absolutely adore it even though it goes against everything I stand for and in part represents everything I hate about modern media. This makes it very difficult for me to defend it agains detractors.