AN OPEN LETTER TO GLEE Part 1

* Disclaimer * Before I get too far into this rant of epic proportions, I must stress: if you still watch and enjoy Glee, more power to you. I once watched and enjoyed Glee, now I do not. This is simply an opinion piece for entertainment purposes. Take it with a grain of salt!

Dear Glee

Can we talk seriously for a moment? In all honesty, coming from the bottom of my heart, what happened to you? More pointedly, what made you sell out to the degree you have?

I admit I gave up watching Glee at around the end of Season Two, at the point of it becoming, as one of my friends described, The Kurt Show. And after recently trying to watch another one of your episodes as well as keeping up to date online, I can hardly believe what you’ve become.

I was in Year 11 when you arrived on TV, and I admit, at first, I loved watching Glee. As a music theatre performer well and truly in a minority at school, I was so thrilled to see a TV show that was embracing this lesser known genre (lesser known in the younger demographic at least) and allowing people to experience music in a way that they may not have seen.

The characters were very enjoyable. They were from all different social, family and economic situations. Diverse backgrounds. No character was perfect, but there was always development and the ability to change and become better people was evident.

Ok, so there was a few issues here and there, but for the majority of the first season and I’d even argue some of the second season, Glee was well and truly a shining example on the small screen. It had the right amount of drama and comedy and more importantly, it was just plain fun. Audiences loved it, critics loved it, the messages were superior (tolerance, anti-homophobia, accepting of differences, anti-bullying etc.).

But now, all I can do is shake my head in sadness at the downward spiral Glee has taken in the last few years. What happened to Glee? Let me count the ways!

1. Sue Sylvester

Glee-sue-sylvester-290x400

Living proof that the honeymoon phase does not last

One of the most entertaining aspects of Season 1 was Sue Sylvester and her outrageous schemes to sabotage the Glee Club. Despite the obvious inaccuracies to Sue and her ability to pull off the harebrained schemes she concocted, Jane Lynch made Sue the woman we all loved to hate while still managing to give her genuine moments of softness, even a well-hidden streak of kindness on occasion.

But from Season 2 onwards, the gimmick wore off. Sue had unsuccessfully tried everything from cancelling flights to leaking the setlist to get rid of the Glee Club. Any reasonable character would have given up by now and accepted the existence of New Directions, but no. She’s still trying. And the worst part of this character is that every time it looks like Sue might redeem herself, it never lasts beyond the latter part of an episode.
Even though Jane Lynch is fantastic in this role and clearly loves every minute of screen time, there’s only so much you can do with a character who literally does not develop beyond being cartoonishly evil on a long-running series.
Wait a minute! I can hear a voice saying. What about other villains like Mr Burns? Cartoonish evil + no chance of redemption = Mr Burns/Sue Sylvester! And people can’t get enough of Mr Burns!

Mr_Burns_evil

Fair point. Maybe, Glee, you’re trying to go the Mr. Burns route. We all know redemption for Mr Burns will never happen and we don’t get tired of his evil. But on The Simpsons, it works because:

  1. It’s animated. Animation allows two dimensions to become reality. We expect the unexpected. Springfield is clearly fictional and the characters, while excellent parodies of life, are clearly meant to be caricatures. Glee is constantly trying to be realistic, therefore when someone like Sue gets up to her lofty antics, we tend to not believe it so much.
  2. Mr Burns is not the only antagonist on the Simpsons. He’s not in every episode, and there’s always some new scheme and motivation behind the plots. He’s cheated in baseball, tried to make fur coats out of greyhound puppies, dumped nuclear waste in parks, stolen oil wells, exploited recycling for his own greed and blocked out the sun. And that’s the short list of trouble he’s caused. There’s diversity and creativity to his evil nature.
    Sue only has one formula. New Directions is going for a new angle or gets some big opportunity, Sue finds out about it, comes up with another ridiculous way to finally destroy the Glee Club once and for all, but somehow they pull through. New Directions is stronger than ever, having learned the value of team work and persistence. Sue stamps her feet in anger, vowing revenge or occasionally learns her lesson, for five whole minutes. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Seriously Glee writers, is there really nothing else you can come up with for Sue beyond this pointless feud of arts vs sports? And for that matter, why do Sue still hate New Directions? It’s never going to take over the Cheerios or steal their limelight. She doesn’t even coach the Cheerios anymore! And why does Sue occasionally help the Glee Club only to do a 180 five minutes later?
  3. Mr Burns is surrounded by equally hilarious supporting characters, from his devoted assistant Waylon Smithers, to Lenny and Carl, and Homer, to name a few. Sue has had a few hired hands every now and then, but they’re mostly Cheerios, who eventually get disgruntled and defect to New Directions in a cycle that’s nearly as tired as Sue vs Glee.

Personally, I can see several wasted opportunities for Sue to really grow as a character. Firstly was when her heart was broken by Rod Remington way back in Season One. She’d previously shown a lot of grace to a pregnant Quinn Fabray, but as soon as Rod showed his true colours, Sue was back to her old tricks of kicking Quinn off the cheerleading squad and quashing a budding friendship with Will. This was disappointing to see, but in Season 1, it really didn’t matter. The show was new. Anyone would have felt the same way as Sue, right? And it was still early in the season. There was plenty of time for Sue to become a better person, no? Sadly, this was not the case.

sue-and-jean
One of the most celebrated aspects of Glee was the honest portrayal of people with disabilities, including Sue’s sister Jean who had Down Syndrome. This was a genuinely sweet way to show Sue’s softer side and explore a side of life not often touched upon in television.
But in Season Two, the writers decided Jean had to die. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. It was a truly stupid idea to do this at all. There was no reason for anyone to die in the first place, and Jean was far from a main character. There was no build up or hint that Jean was going to die, and was clearly just a attempt made by the writers to shock viewers.
Why am I so heartless? Well, while Jean’s funeral was touching, it’s never been mentioned again on the show. And Sue has learned precisely jack all. She said she’d never try to sabotage the Glee Club again, a promise which lasted only a few episodes. Pretty pathetic, isn’t it? This, dear reader, is the result of lazy writing which is too afraid to go all the way with plot threads.

Finally, with everything Sue has done, (falsely accusing Beiste of molestation, bullying students, bribing people, trying to fire Brittany out of a cannon), there is no way she’d be principal of William McKinley let alone walking around free. Sue is tired. She’s done. She’s past it. Either do something different with Sue Sylvester or get rid of her.

2. The End of Twerk

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Where the hell do I begin?

Aside from being unclassy and highly inappropriate subject matter, this episode is plain stupid. I mean, what were the writers thinking?
I’m just going to go on record here by saying that I am not a fan of Miley Cyrus to begin with (I think she’s a terrible singer, an awful influence and a very sad case of a child star headed for a meltdown). The infamous twerking at the VMAs did nothing to endear her to me, and then this atrocious episode of Glee came out.

I don’t care if the message was that other famous dances were considered risque in their day. I don’t care about the pointless subplot about Unique and using the bathroom. Twerking is controversial for a reason, and it went out of fashion for a reason. Incorporating such inappropriateness into a prime time show for teens is a new low for Glee to sink to.

In Season 1, Will told the entire Glee Club off for taking energy pills to enhance their performances (“Glee should be about what’s in your heart, not what’s coursing through your veins”) and at one point New Directions were practically laughed off the stage for trying ‘hairography’. Suddenly, Will decides that Glee needs to be edgier and gets them all to twerk in the school halls. What follows is 2 and a half minutes of absolute horridness as every member of New Directions and their teachers twerk together in classrooms, while singing Blurred Lines, another dreadful song which has been criticised for encouraging rape culture. For once in her life, Sue is morally outraged for the right reasons, and fires Will, who is portrayed as the wronged party.

Let’s look at this logically for a moment. Will Schuester is actively encouraging sexually suggestive behaviour to a group of minors which he himself joins in with. If any teacher did this in the real world, not only would Will be fired, and rightfully so, but he would probably find himself on a statewide registry or facing criminal charges. But this is Glee, where Mr Schue is never wrong, so he just argues that he’s just trying to branch out of comfort zones. Therefore he’s welcomed back to the school with open arms, and everyone loves him for being artistic.

Buddy, there’s a massive difference between making artistic statements and being plain offensive. You do not get high schoolers to act this way! In Season 1, this is the kind of thing you would have taken huge issue with Glee doing. But now…..I have nothing more to say except how utterly sad I am that Glee took this step.

TO BE CONTINUED

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