The Dissenter’s Notebook: On Glee

Do you remember the time? When we fell in love?

It’s late, I’m tired, but I have to say it: Glee is sucking this year.

I was there from Day One, friends.  We were flopped on the couch when the pilot aired out of nowhere in May ’09, and were taken in by a witty, biting show that loved music and appreciated the special horror that is high school, a mode that continued through most of the first season [personally, I liked ‘Acafellas, and don’t know where the beef comes from].

We’re three episodes into the second season and what has happened?  Really? The premiere showed the same promise as the first season, introduced new characters, focused on the conflict with Vocal Adrenaline, but the subsequent two were uninspiring at best.  I’m never one for the theme episodes, they always feel forced, and the Britney Spears episode last week was no different.  And then this week, they bust out the Jesus.  The new characters introduced last month have barely been seen, and does this club even care about the upcoming competitions? I wouldn’t know, they haven’t been mentioned recently.

I’ve mentioned on here before that I think to a small extent Glee has a bit of an identity crisis.  On the one hand, it uses the withering sarcasm of Jane Lynch to court a more sophisticated viewer, but the song choices and marketing that go into the show aim it directly at the tween set.  I work in a bookstore, I know of what I speak.  The shirts, the unauthorized guides, the bookmarks, stickers and CDs.  Didn’t show creator Ryan Murphy say not too long ago he was making an effort to keep the show from getting overexposed?  Well, someone should tell him that he’s failing.

And then there’s Kurt, or Captain of the McKinley High Whiner Team.  Look, I’m glad the character feels good about himself this season and comfortable in his skin and all that, and I’m certain he provides a welcome point of inspiration for closeted gay teenagers, but frankly he was more interesting when he wasn’t.  He’s done nothing this season but sit with some superior smirk on his face and mouth to friends and faculty with breathy condescension.  He’s rapidly become one of my least favourite parts of the show.  If anybody bullied him now, it’d be less because he’s gay, and more because he’s become a bit of a superior asshole.

Glee seems dangerously close to overestimating its importance this season, a mode it courts at its own peril.  The second the entertain/teach-me-a-lesson -in-tolerance scale tips too close to the latter side, you can kiss the viewers like me and most people I know who like the show goodbye.

And maybe that’s the point.  Maybe Glee was never for me in the first place. My disposable income will not be dedicated to covering my residence with posters, books, collectible magazines and poorly silkscreened t-shirts.  Part of the reason why last week’s episode felt so offensive to me was because it seemed so calculated.  Not only do they get to check ‘different faiths’ off of the tolerance checklist,  but they can guarantee themselves DVD sales to Middle America and the youth ministry set for at least the next year.

Too many plots to juggle, too many theme episodes, too inflated a sense of its own cultural relevance.  It’s disheartening to think a show two seasons in has me whipping out that old hipster chestnut:

‘Glee? Yeah, I watch it, when I remember it’s on.  Man, you should have seen it in the first season.  That was something special.’

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