Glee: The Most Important Show on TV?

At the risk of alienating and potentially outraging much of my key target demographic here, I have to say the…

Daniel Bowen


At the risk of alienating and potentially outraging much of my key target demographic here, I have to say the following statement. But first, please bear in mind that although you might not like where this article starts, I hope most of you will like where it will end up.

“Glee” fans kind of suck don’t they? Now, as a fellow Glee fan myself I am not talking about the middle of the range Gleeks who watch the show and for the most part love it, and are perfectly happy allowing Ryan Murphy and the rest of the shows creators the freedom to do whatever they want with the show… it is their show after all isn’t it? Instead, and this is arguably a critique of all fanatics, I am talking about the Glee fans that are outraged when someone even mentions splitting up one of their favorite core characters, or rage when someone suggests Santana would be better off without Brittany for example.  I have only been a writer at WhatCulture for less than 2 months now, but in this time even I have been the victim of Gleek fan-girls and boys who have actually started a thread about one of my articles on a separate website moaning because I (a pretty unknown writer) merely suggested Santana would be better suited being in a relationship with a woman more on her intellectual level. And I know that from following Ryan Murphy on twitter the man daily gets death threats from Gleeks the world over who all seem to forget the simple and obvious fact that without him, this show would never have been.

But here is the thing: these sorts of Glee fans across the globe feel like they own Glee; they feel connected to it and because of this very protective of it.  Glee attracts a very large teenage and even preteen audience, who are yet emotionally mature enough to really deal with the complexities of relationships Ryan Murphy rightfully wishes to convey on his show.  The show may attract some of the same kind of audience as I-Carly for example, but this show certainly isn’t I-Carly.  An important reason why Glee fans can often get so possessive of this show is because this show represents people, teenagers especially, like no show has before or since (especially a show on network television). Because of this simple fact, although Ryan Murphy and the creators control the show and it is arguably theirs, Glee in a way belongs to the people now… and these people (for the most part) can’t imagine a world where this show isn’t on their televisions. In a toned down, less whiny teenager manner, I am one of these people, and I’d like to explain to you all why I believe Glee is the most important show on TV, and why I believe it would be a travesty of justice if this program was forced into cancellation…

Is Glee the greatest TV program on air at the moment? In terms of acting, directing, writing and all around general production values… absolutely not. But it certainly isn’t the worst (not even by a long shot) and the show does have some extraordinarily talented actors and actresses, and the occasional brilliantly directed and written episode.  I think you would be hard pressed to find actors on television currently that are that much better than the likes of Lea Michele and Chris Colfer for example (if you exclude Claire Danes and Bryan Cranston of course). But is this the only way to judge a television show? Although I can appreciate that Breaking Bad is the better show critically, and one of my personal favorite shows of all time, is it my favorite show currently on air? If I am being honest, and what kind of writer would I be if I wasn’t, I have to admit that although I occasionally cringe when a Glee episode gets some particular element terribly wrong, Glee is the show on TV currently I most enjoy watching, and because of that, it is honestly my favorite show currently on air.

This is the point in the article where I am bound to lose some readers, but I am not going to dance around the subject and I would appreciate that even if you have a different perspective, you would still be mature enough to stay with me and perhaps voice your opinions at the end. Much of the reason why I love the show so much, much of the reason why I would be upset it the show were to be canceled (a very real possibility at this point) and much of the reason why Gleeks around the world are so passionate about this show is like I said before, because it represents so many people… but more than that, it is the show on TV that best represents people like me.

You may not be all that surprised because I am a male writer writing about my love of this particular television show, that I am in fact a homosexual man. I wish for the sake of this article (not the sake of my life) that I wasn’t, just so that people wouldn’t be so quick to stereotype me. FYI, I am much more of a Blaine than I am a Kurt not that that does or should matter. It’s also important for me to point out that my love of this show isn’t simply due to the fact that it is “musical”… and we gay people sure love musicals right? Just so you know one of my least favorite movies of all time is “Moulin Rouge”. But you may be surprised, especially if you are heterosexual, that the journey I had with this show, and my initial reaction to this TV show wasn’t exactly kind.

At first, I avoided this show like the plague. The few advertisements I saw for Season 1, particularly those showing Kurt dressed like Beyoncé dancing to “Single Ladies” put me off the show, but likely for different reasons than many others, particularly heterosexual males.  As a gay man, I obviously wasn’t “disgusted” or “horrified” at the more feminized representation of homosexuality on television. The reason I didn’t even watch the pilot initially was because I didn’t associate or feel represented by this particular gay character and initially thought the character represented the common exaggerated idea of homosexuality in the media, that this kind of show would anger me to the point that I simply couldn’t watch it. This was four years ago now and even I am not afraid to admit that part of me may have been just a little homophobic. Not in the sense that I hated or feared those more feminized men, but more my fear of being stereotyped this way by real homophobes made me react negatively to this representation of homosexuality on television.

When I finally gave the show (which I had been curious about for the year in which I wasn’t watching) a chance, I realized how wrong I was, and although it took me a good few episodes, I fairly quickly came to love the character of Kurt, and embrace him. This show had a huge role to play in even making me, someone who would have before called myself hugely excepting and not in the least intolerant, a much more accepting, but more than that embracing person. Just because a gay character doesn’t represent me, and just because the media has this stereotypical view of gay people, doesn’t mean the gay people who associate this way don’t need to be represented. Even though I personally associate much more with Blaine’s character, my favorite character on the show currently is Kurt… and considering he started off as the reason I didn’t watch the show, this goes to show what a powerful television program this truly is.

You may be wondering why all of this means that Glee is the most important television currently on air? If you live in a very insular world, where perhaps you don’t yet know a homosexual person, you may be fooled into believing the world is an accepting place. You may even be one of those people who wish homosexual people would stop going on about “gay marriage” and equal rights for all, and be happy with what they currently have. At least it is better than it was in the 50’s right? I hope just for the sake of you as an individual and a human being you are not one of these people, but even most heterosexual people who think they are hugely tolerant are in fact a little homophobic, or at the very least still a little uncomfortable around the issue. People will deny this of course… no one likes to be called a racist or a homophobe, but we all know that the world is full of them. Everyone likes to think they are tolerant but here’s the thing… If you consider yourself an enlightened person or you like to believe that you wouldn’t have negative opinions about a person before you meet them then it is no longer (or really ever was) acceptable to just be tolerant. Instead of tolerant, why not be embracing, why not be loving, why not truly try to understand your differences and similarities and realize much of your deep-seated dislike (though you may never admit this or fully realize this) only comes from the fact the heteronormative  society in which you have been brought up has corrupted your mind to make you think this way?

I was having a conversation with my parents the other day about the fact that most heterosexual people (not all) would feel uncomfortable if they saw two gay men kissing, or would cringe a little or a lot if they were to watch two gay people making love, even if they consider themselves not in the least homophobic. Most people would say that it is natural for heterosexuals to feel a little uncomfortable watching events such as this between two people they personally don’t find physically attractive… but as a gay man, I don’t feel uncomfortable watching two straight couples having sex, and I don’t feel uncomfortable watching two lesbians having sex either… despite the fact that sexually I am not in the least interested. The only reason you have this reaction is because society has made you feel like you need to. The reason gay people are comfortable with any form of physical affection between any gender, but particularly between heterosexual couples, is because the media has presented to everyone, homosexual, heterosexual or otherwise, heterosexual relationships since we were first born… and not because homosexuality is unnatural. If the majority (heterosexuals) had watched Disney movies which presented two men falling in love like homosexuals had to watch a man and a woman fall in love, then heterosexual people wouldn’t be in the least uncomfortable.

This brings us back to Glee, and the massive importance this program has, particularly in this current political climate.  Glee represents. It shows teenagers at school having the freedom to embrace their sexuality, and having the freedom to freely partake in visible homosexual relationships. Although this may not be fully realistic of the current state of the world- I know for example that if I were to engage in this sort of relationship at school I probably would have been bullied out of it- it is an important message, and an important future vision for a more ideal present to give hope to many LGBT children out in the world.

Glee has already proved to have such a great power, particular with the youth who watch it. Glee has 4 lead characters on the show that are gay, lesbian or bisexual and multiple secondary characters that also fit into these descriptions. Rarely seen on network television before, these characters have the freedom to walk down their high-school corridors as a couple, and more surprisingly as someone who has been witness to many homophobic slurs over the years, these characters and their relationships in particular are widely embraced by teenagers all over the world- teenagers who before this show probably were themselves homophobes, or perhaps never even really knew what a gay person was, or what it meant to be gay.  This is an extremely important message to be conveying and it is extremely positive to see that this message is sticking with many of these kids. Shows like this, but this one in particular, have the power to help enlighten children across the globe, and bring them out of the bigoted and intolerant nature of the current society. Children and teenage fans of this show will shortly be the adults of tomorrow… adults who themselves will have children and will raise them with their own morals.  As a gay child (though closeted at the time) I was bullied throughout school, and I was called horrific names. Even as an adult and a writer for this site, I have read the occasional hate comment written on my posts which later had to be deleted saying truly vile comments directed at me… a person they have never met. One comment in particular expressed the commenter’s opinions that the world would be a better place if people were freely able to beat people to death on the street for engaging in a homosexual lifestyle… You can argue with me all you like about how enlightened and accepting the world is now, but if you are not a homosexual yourself you are unlikely to know the real hatred many people in society still have of homosexual people.

If Glee is unfortunately canceled this season or next, I will know that at least part of the reason of this cancellation is due to homophobia in society. That of course wouldn’t be the only reason, and I would fully be able to accept if the network decided to cancel the show because the quality had dropped significantly… but in this writers opinion, that isn’t really the case. It seemed to me that Glee lost most of its viewer after Season 2, and much of the complaints of that season were because much of the focus was on Kurt and his experiences as a gay teenager. Many people argue that the show has dropped significantly in quality, but I don’t see that much of a difference between season 1 and the current season in terms of the criteria you would normally judge a show by. In fact, I would make the argument that the musical numbers are much better now, as are the actors.

But as a television lover I am worried for the future of TV if Glee is canceled shortly. Glee is the program on TV that represents more LGBT than any other, and is one of the more popular network shows with younger audiences. If Glee goes, many teenagers and children will lose this connection they have, and this virtual friendship they have with these fictional gay characters they love so much. If Glee is canceled, many shows will be even more fearful of representing gay characters on TV and many people, but teenagers especially, will grow up without this important representation they simply aren’t getting from Disney movies for example.  If you are heterosexual you may not understand this importance, but just imagine you never had any role models around you who could guide you. Imagine you had been brought up with only homosexual representations on screen, and imagine all of your family members had been homosexual and you were the only heterosexual you knew. Imagine if you were told by many people that it was wrong for you to be heterosexual and there were no other things telling you otherwise. Wouldn’t that be a scary place to live in?

If you don’t watch Glee for reasons connected to homophobia, or you are scared to watch the show in fear of being called out for being homosexual (though you likely aren’t) give the show another chance, and try to watch it without wanting to hate it.  The fact of the matter is, although it represents more gay people than any show on television currently and has the representation of being the “gayest” show on air (meant as an insult usually) it is still much more tailored towards heterosexuals and still deals with heterosexual relationships far more than homosexual ones. One thing for the future I would like to see Ryan Murphy change is the unfair lack of gay affection on the show compared to the heterosexual characters. You may not watch the show because you think it is too “gay” for you, but very rarely will you ever see Kurt and Blaine or Santana and Brittany passionately kiss (a peck if anything)… however, there was a while when Rachel and Finn would openly and passionately kiss in the school corridors pretty much in every episode.

The thing is, Glee is the most important show on television currently because other shows that steer around the need to represent LGBT characters have the freedom of solely being entertainment shows. Glee has the privilege, but perhaps also the burden (one which may be in part responsible for its cancellation) of flying the flag for LGBT in the media and has the responsibility of trying to move society forward… but it still has much work to do which would make it’s cancellation so tragic. Glee has recently introduced a transsexual character into the show and many Glee fans were furious about this addition. Bill O’Reilly, the bigoted “news” anchor even had a feature on his show about how this character potentially would suddenly turn all the children into transsexuals (this isn’t how it works)… but like with the gay issue, given time, Glee could help enlighten people away from hate, and embrace transgendered people who are more excluded from media representation than really any other type of human.

To conclude this article, I’d like to remind any potential homosexual readers out there who watch the show or used to watch the show that despite the fact that the gay characters are treated unequally to the heterosexual characters in terms of public displays of affection… don’t give this cause for you to help sink this ship which is already struggling somewhat to stay afloat. Glee is one of very few shows that is actively trying to make a difference, and is actively on your side… and in this unsure political climate where gay rights could go one of two polar opposite ways, we need as many people on our side as we can get, and so do the children and teenagers who really need a show like “Glee” in their lives.