Saturday, November 6, 2010

Things I Don't Get #7 (Or, A Rational Defense of Why I Hate Glee Think Glee is Overrated)

Want to know how to make yourself Public Enemy #1 these days? Be someone who doesn't like Glee. If you don't like Glee, you're out of touch, mean, and just plain weird. Clearly there is something wrong with you.

I'm sure in my case it's also the perception that I'm just a pretentious, TV-hating, twit. That's true to some point. I am a member of the Kill Your Television crowd as well as a BBC geek who generally doesn't like much mainstream TV, but it's not as if I reject all of it out of hand. Remember I was a huge Lost geek and The Office is perpetually in my Netflix queue.

I was more than willing to give Glee a chance. Everyone* kept telling me how great it was and how much I would love it. As a singer and performer myself (okay, a very medicore singer and performer but I do love performing) it seemed like my kind of show. I put the first season in my Netflix queue with great anticipation.

‎In the beginning it I thought it had a lot going for it. There were some bizarro plot lines and kooky characters. It's the exact sort of entertainment I like. However, after a few episodes it became apparent that the writing is weak. The show wants to be funny, but it just isn't. It never seems to be able to release itself from the same formulas. The same stuff happens every week. The teacher begs for money. The cheerleading coach tries to sabotage him. Musical numbers are performed perfectly with no rehearsing. Popular kids square off with the nerds. It's unchanging and uninteresting. It's a pity because it could work quite well as a madcap comedy, but they don't try hard enough to make it funnier.

Another aspect of the bad writing is that it resorts to two-dimensional characters and tired old high school cliches. The show's concept may be fresh, but it's execution is not. While it's true that the jocks vs. nerds stereotype will always be alive in high school, it misses many of the nuances and subtleties that create this conflict. In Glee, singing in the choir makes you an automatic geek. Social standing is drawn along very rigid lines this way. As someone who was the lowest of the low in her high school social standing, I can assure you it didn't spring from my membership in the choir. Dropping that class would not have done anything for my lack of status in school. There were cheerleaders and football players in the choir (and they weren't spies). Heck, even the marching band, that traditional bastion of geekdom, had cheerleaders (basketball season of course). My junior year the *gasp* drum major was school president. Glee is a show that runs on cliches.

I also think the stereotypes are highly offensive. I don't understand why my gay friends love this show because the gay character is such an overblown gay stereotype. I'd be offended if I were gay. I would also be offended by the fact that Rachel gets her insane drive, diva attitude, and obsession with performing from her two gay dads . Speaking of diva attitudes, let's not forget the blatant sterotype of the black female diva.

Musical numbers are too slick, to lip-synched, too autotuned. The kids are handed a piece of music and immediately can sing it and dance to it on the first try. Apparently it's a choir full of prodigies! Despite the fact that they're aiming for screwball comedy, they take these slick performances seriously. The juxtaposition of the two aspects of the show is very poorly done.

This show could be so good if it were even slightly self-aware. Imagine if Glee actually focused on the process. Have these kids, many of whom were not experienced performers, go through the process of learning music and choreography. Anyone who has ever sung in a choir or danced on stage would be on the floor laughing if it were done well. We all can relate. Show the kids going off key sometimes. Have them sing for real minus the lip synching. When you have a group of mostly inexperienced singers able to create sophisticated mashups within a week, you lose credibility. If the show even recognized this, it might be funny. What we end up with is High School Musical with its skirt hiked up.

This is the thing I don't get about Glee. I just don't get why, with its weak writing and bad cliches, that mature adults are into it. I have friends who write professionally and yet still can't get enough of this show's horrid writing. I don't get the appeal unless you're a young man who likes to watch scantily-clad teenagers going through cheerleading moves. The show isn't terribly funny and outside of the musical concept, isn't terribly original. What's the appeal?

As an aside, this show got a big black mark in my book in the episode where the teacher tried to uncover his wife's fake pregnancy. The way he yelled and grabbed her and put her hands on her was NOT COOL. It was awful and abusive and should never have been shown that would in any way make the husband sympathetic. I don't care how deceitful his wife had been. Touching his wife in that way was DEAD WRONG. It almost made me long for the god-awful misogyny-as-nostalgia in Mad Men.

Okay. I've made my point. I'm sure right now every Gleek on the planet is saying, "That's all well and good, but you're wrong and you're still a pretentious twit. So be it. Everyone is entitled to my opinion. I'll close with this. You think Glee is so wonderful? Right now I'm seeing that it's only the second season and they're already resorting to outrageous guest stars and theme episodes. To me that's a sure sign Glee is strapping on its waterskis and watching for fins in the water.

*Actually, one person thought I wouldn't like it. Unfortunately, I didn't know this till after the fact when I mentioned my dislike of Glee on Facebook and my BFF replied, "I didn't think you would like it." I wish she had told me earlier! If one of the people in the world who knows me best, probably better than I know myself at times, had the wisdom to warm me off earlier, I might have saved myself a few nights and started in earlier with Battlestar Galactica.

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