“What should I watch next?” Whether it’s a call from my grandma, aunt, brother or best friend, everyone I know seems to be in need of a new television show to fill their excess time. My recommendation to everyone is always “Glee!”
Now, I know some of you have heard the rumors. People say it’s too cheesy, too unrealistic, extremely cringey or has too many song intermissions. While this argument might be valid at times, I think that the critiques of “Glee” are actually what make it so special. The risky chances “Glee” took with dialogue, storyline, and character development kept the audience on its toes for six seasons and inspired American youth for decades to come.
“Glee” is groundbreaking. In 2010, a CNN article dubbed newfound attention toward musical theatre and show choir the “Glee Effect.” High schools around the country began to pay more attention to show choirs, and some even increased their funding for musical programs. These new opportunities opened up doors for teens who otherwise don’t “really know where their talent is needed” to express themselves.
Whether it’s singing, dancing, set design, band or acting, there are so many different ways to get involved in theatre and show choir. In fact, a study conducted by the National Association for Music Education published in the Boston Globe and CNN found that “43% of choral instructors gave the show ‘Glee’ credit for the surge in students coming to audition for musical groups.”
The very fact that “Glee” is so unrealistic is what makes it so fulfilling to watch, especially nowadays when things seem so bleak. It is so easy to forget about your daily concerns as you laugh at the lovable and often bizarre personalities of each “Glee” character. From Rachel Berry to Kurt Hummel, “Glee” ignores the way that most people would typically handle any form of adversity.
This unique approach makes any situation (breakups, teen pregnancy, football games, high school show choir championships) easy for the audience to just sit back, watch and enjoy. How many shows can make you laugh one minute, feel heartbroken the next and have you dancing in your seat by the end of the same 45-minute episode?
Aside from its obvious entertainment value, one of the show’s most special features is how it showcases all different types of music from every decade. In today’s world, where TikTok songs take up most space on the radio, it’s so refreshing to find new artists and music that makes you feel something.
Many “Glee” covers are legendary and based on classics of all genres — “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” anyone? — but it’s also so exciting to hear your favorite character belt out a song or mashup of a song you never even knew existed. Whether the high school choir is singing The Beatles, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Adele or Broadway anthems, “Glee” covers every single musical base.
“Glee” broke barriers season after season by showcasing LGBTQ+ teens, actors with disabilities and a girl facing teen pregnancy — all of which was very unique for a show premiering in 2009. Rachel and Puck are Jewish, Kurt and Blaine are gay, Santana and Brittany are lesbians, Artie is in a wheelchair, Emma struggles with severe OCD, Finn loses his father and Sue’s younger sister has Down syndrome.
The series teaches acceptance, self-love and hope. The main message of “Glee” is to be proud of who you are, as shown in the cast’s performance of “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. This particular performance was used to show the Glee Club that their differences and insecurities are what make them so lovable and special.
When you binge-watch “Glee,” you are not just watching a TV series. You are watching the club become a family who looks out for one another, no matter the circumstance. While these characters frequently cannot find the right words to say, a song always seems to be able to sum up exactly how they really feel.
Each character on the show faces their own downfalls, struggles and low points. As a group, the Glee Club encounters failure after failure as Sue Sylvester and other enemies try to take them down. The common theme among all of this defeat is the hope that the group brings to each situation. They refuse to accept loss, and the team uses its emotional strength to keep fighting for what they believe in and what they know is right.
By finding new angles and perspectives of a situation, “Glee” illustrates the fact that hope must stay alive even in times of hardship. This type of attitude is so relevant today. COVID-19 has ruined plans, shut down communities, canceled trips and changed the entire dynamic of society everywhere.
It is easy to be negative. It is easy to struggle. It is easy to lose hope. The lessons from “Glee” can show us to take things day by day, find new light within darkness, and have hope that the future will hold new experiences filled with joy and love.
words_emma goodstein illustration_jess morgan