Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finding My Inner Gleek

The first two times I watched the smash hit television series Glee, I hated it. I didn't like the characters or the plot - and, frankly, I found some of it offensive.

But this summer, I found it again on Netflix - so, starting from the beginning, my soon-to-be 8th grader daughter and I watched it.

I was hooked.

I had thought this was a show about high school and singing - and it is. But it is also a show about people who are multi-faceted and quirky - people who don't fit in or who don't think they fit in high school or in society. People like me.

I have now watcheed Glee up until mid-season 2. And, while I would still offer some parental cautions abou the show's content - I think there is much about it to love:

1) Will Schuster - Here is a teacher who loves his students. I had a few teachers like this in high school who loved us - and we knew it. One was my English teacher, Mr. Gansauer. We loved to talk to him and listen to his stories. He was funny and smart and kind. He treated us with respect. There is a mutual respect between Will Schuster and his students. They don't always see life the same way - but there is a shared communication that enriches their lives.

Too often adults want to impart their own choices onto children. In this show - Mr. Schuster does just that. He encourages his students to perform numerous songs by Journey and his favorite 80s bands. In one episode, he is introduced to their music. This common courtesy opens the door to serious conversations between him and those he instructs. When true communication happens, it allows teaching to move beyond the classroom.

2) Grilled Cheesus & Religion - Most popular tv shows avoid religion - or - at best - make fun of it. I found thi s episode especially intriguing. One character sees the face of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich - and begins praying to the icon. But - the more interesting part of the show for me were the various characters views of faith. They each had strong opinions, but the topic was covered with a serious tone that allowed each view to be heard.

Sue Sylvester - usually the most sarcastic character - became vulnerable by expressing her profound disappointment with God. Her mentally disabled sister, however, challenges Sue - saying that "God doesn't make any mistakes."

3) The Slushied Gleeks - Perhaps my favorite part of the show is the fact that each character faces an issue. They each feel that they don't fit in. One struggles with being African American and overweight. Another is handicapped and restricted to a wheelchair. Even the blonde leggy cheerleader struggles with a lack of intelligence. Their strength, in the show, lies in their community. They accept one another. They are on each other's side. They find that together they are stronger.

The show takes these set backs seriously. It shows consequences to bad behavior. It doesn't paint teens as stereotypes - but lets them show their insecurities and worries. It lets them fall down, make bad choices, and then lean on friends and family in times of despair.

Glee is not a perfect show. It has its soap-opera type moments. It sometimes steps a bit beyond my parental comfort zone in terms of topics or language. It makes me squirm a bit - as a parent - to realize the mature situations these high school kids get involved in. It deals extremely frankly with sex. It deals extensively with homosexuality - and (at times) this topic feels politicized. But, I also feel like the relationship between Kurt and his dad are handled with care and honesty.

If you haven't seen it yet - watch it from the start. It will open you up to the world of today's high school - and maybe (like me) remind you just a little bit of yourself.

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