Monday, January 17, 2011
Conformity Trumps Iconoclasty
So last night at The Golden Globes Glee picked up several awards. I know several people who love this show; I am not one of them. It's like The West Wing set to music, combining arch, rapid-fire dialogue with an overwhelming sense of political correctness. Multiethnic cast? Check. Kid in wheelchair? Check. Gay character who's "proud of being different?" Check. Character who dresses Goth and is persecuted by those in authority? Check.
These days the gestalt presented by the Glee characters is neither groundbreaking nor courageous. It's all over the airwaves. It's par for the course. You know what would have made the show brave and original? Casting a bunch of untalented Caucasians who can't dance. I'm serious: A show that reenacted the whole Lawrence Welk/ "Up with People" nightmare that was the Seventies (and, incidentally, is still true of Glee clubs all over the country today) would be as watchable as a slow-motion car crash and ten times more fun than the hectoring, nanny-minded show we're stuck with.
The real problem with Glee, in my opinion, is that it propagates the dirty lie that Being Yourself is all you need to do. Why work an after-school job to save up for college when you can dress up like Lady Gaga and prance around instead? Guess what, kids. Those thuggish football players mocking your artistic statements? They're the ones going to college -- on scholarships. You are not. Studying and sports practice may be a drag, but they're investments in your future which will pay off much, much more than waving your freak flag high will ever do.
But Alice, we're talking about a one-hour diversion once a week. Aren't you reading too much into a harmless TV show? I don't think so and I'll tell you why. I know people who center their lives around Glee and other TV shows. Instead of getting out into the world and being themselves, they're watching shows that tell them to celebrate The Wonder That Is You. Their personal lives have narrowed to an incredibly small circle of similar thinkers, both in real life and online. Instead of (dare I say it?) working for a living, they live in semipoverty and spend huge chunks of time on work no one in their senses would ever reimburse them for - like fan websites and fanfiction. Don't get me wrong, these things are fine for a hobby. But at some point, you have to turn the modem off and go make a living. Join the real world!
Oh, and when their parents try to intervene? My family doesn't understand me! Only (sob) you guys do! Yeah, right, only your fellow navel-gazers really "get" the real you. Now let's get back to that Battlestar Galactica fanfic and forget about your mean family, who want you to get a job. News flash: being understood is not as important as you think it is. Too often, in my experience, this phrase translates to "If you don't appreciate me exactly as I am, there must be something wrong with you."
Full disclosure here: I write fan fiction myself. And I know, either in person or online, plenty of people with iconoclastic interests - one of whom is a Star Wars fan who leads a squadron of Imperial Stormtroopers. (Yes, they have all the armor and look completely authentic.) The difference? We do this stuff in our spare time. It adds fun to our lives; it has not become the center of our lives. The Stormtroopers, for instance, show up at the kids' section of the library every once in a while to entertain them. They volunteer their time to help the wider community.
Who sounds more attractive to you: the buttoned-up banker with the stormtrooper soul or the guy who lives in his parents' basement, collecting action figurines and defending the "vision" of George Lucas against all who dare to question it? I know which one I'd choose.
Oh, and to the characters of Glee, I close with the immortal words of William Shatner: GET A LIFE!
Ugh...I still have nightmares about Up With People...!