“Don’t stop believing” has become the anthem of underdogs worldwide, for those who feel a little more comfortable with themselves by watching Glee. As the New York Times stated, “it’s a musical, yet music is the least catchy part of the show.”
Underdogs, here they are
Glee is an American teen drama and musical series that aired on Fox TV from 2009 to 2015 for six seasons. William McKinley High School Spanish Professor Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) has a dream. He wants to revive the American high school song and dance group: the Glee Club. Despite the students’ apathy, he creates a new group called New Directions. His aim is to allow all passionate students the opportunity to discover their potential. Dancing and singing are the core of the project, too often ignored in schools.
The members of this Glee Club are the people no one notices. The most vulnerable, those most targeted by the school system. The guy in the wheelchair, the gay guy who’s afraid to come out, the young girl who stutters, the black girl, and the Jewish diva girl. These character types are a bit of cliché, yes, but they fit the situation and the framework of this school quite well. If you are not a cheerleader, a football player, or not popular, you are deemed wrongly to be nothing but a loser. The Glee Club turns that on its head.
Other than trying not to get colored slushes in the face, they have to deal with the cheerleaders’ fearsome coach, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch). She wants the Glee Club to fail, so that the funds for her business won’t be cut. But on more than one occasion, she will be the one to save the club.
A recognizable style
The Ryan Murphy series combines drama, comedy, musical, and moments of pure nonsense. His works are a mixture of genres united by the irreverent irony that we can also see in Popular and in Hollywood. Murphy has created a real shift in inclusive storytelling, that aims to “bring marginalized characters to the masses”.He’s a notable and fresh presence in modern television, so much so that he signed the largest development deal on TV with Netflix. As reported in the New York Times, the five-year deal is worth as much as $300 million, and that is one of the biggest deals ever made for a television producer.
What sets Glee apart from other teen dramas is its playing with stereotypes and revolutionizing them in the most disparate ways. The story highlights a lot of the rivalry between the popular and the perceived losers, one of the favorite themes of American TV. Glee doesn’t lack sensitivity, nor depth. On the contrary, it manages to touch very delicate issues, with a peculiar sarcasm, pretty naturally. It speaks to audiences using the language of teenagers.
Does it have a curse?
As crazy as it may seem, the show looks like it’s haunted. Over the years, there have been tragic moments and scandalous events that have affected the Glee cast. The first tragedy occurred in July 2013, when Cory Monteith, who played lovable quarterback Finn Hudson, was found dead in a hotel room in Vancouver. He had died from a toxic combination of alcohol and heroin. Tragedy struck again on January 30, 2018. Mark Salling, who played bad-boy Noah “Puck” Puckerman, was found hanging from a tree in a riverbed near his home in Sunland, California. Again, on July 8, 2020 Naya Rivera died of accidental drowning.
It has to be said that Glee comes on the heels of a generation raised with Disney Channel movies like High School Musical, Hanna Montana, and Camp Rock. Movies based on teenagers’ years, but also on music; one of the backbones of early years of life, but not only that. Music accompanies people for different periods of time: some (like Rachel) all their lives, others, (like Puck) abandon it after using it to overcome shyness or as a pastime; that’s why, in Glee, what happens after a few seasons is inevitable. The main characters leave the show, and its ratings and quality go down; the reintroduction of new characters similar to the previous ones makes the viewer lose interest and the show becomes less approachable.
Despite this, Glee is a pivotal series of a generation. It made history in the musical TV genre and was nominated for over 150 awards, winning more than a half of them. Yet music is always attractive, as new shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Galavant prove.