ReRuns: Proud to be a Gleek

From high school pregnancies to heartbreaks, “Glee” produces the perfect intersection of pop hits and teen drama.

They’re a show choir of outcast nerds, fiery cheerleaders and stereotypical jocks. They’re the Glee Club’s New Directions at William McKinley High School in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. 

It’s currently the middle of competition season for many high schoolers, and as a retired show choir kid, I can’t help but reflect on how “Glee” is so enthralling — despite the show’s many flaws and overdone, cheesy plotlines throughout its 121 episodes. 

Full of drama, heartbreak and teen pregnancy, screenwriter and Loyola alum Ian Brennan and producer Ryan Murphy create a cinematic spectacle out of the stereotypical high school experience, accompanied by a rich, polyphonic soundtrack. However, the portrayal of minority characters can be harmful to viewers and the cast involved, making “Glee” lack authentic diversity. 

Main character Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) is ambitious, intolerable and probably as Type A as a person can be. Despite her musical talent and star-quality, Rachel knows how to wreak havoc amongst the Glee Club. 

She’s unpredictable in every way possible. Threatened by foreign exchange student Sunshine Corazón (Jake Zyrus), Rachel gives Sunshine the address to a local “crack house” rather than their school choir room. In Rachel’s defense, “it wasn’t an active crack house,” as she states in the episode “Auditions.” 

However, her manipulative nature and quick-thinking is what sanctioned the show choir to win their sectional competition in the first season and what allows “Glee” to be so successful and enchanting as a show. Lea Michele creates an alluring — yet maybe too realistic — portrayal of the protagonist. 

As the main female singer in the “New Directions,” Rachel never fails to serenade the audience with her skyscraper high vocal range. She also consistently cries while singing songs that aren’t sad. Perhaps her character could use some lessons in learning kindness and emotional control. 

Despite Rachel’s talent, the real Holy Trinity of “Glee” vocals are Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley), Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) and Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss). While viewers were robbed of a trio performance, Mercedes and Santana’s numerous duets make up for the missed opportunity. 

Mercedes and Santana’s similar vocal talent sparks a rivalry in early seasons, but their friendship grows into one of the steadiest and strongest relationships on “Glee.” 

From covering Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” to creating a mash-up of Gloria Gayner’s “I Will Survive” and Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor,” Santana and Mercedes’ vocal blend adds soul and sass to already empowering songs. 

Like Santana and Mercedes, Blaine is the guiding force behind “Glee” songs regarded better than the originals. His covers permit him to potentially de-throne Michael Jackson as the “King of Pop,” especially his renditions of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  

As a former show choir member, I can confidently say Blaine’s covers are timeless — they will always remain on my playlists. 

However, Ryan Murphy’s depiction of these three characters, along with many others, perpetuate harmful film stereotypes and problematic representation of minority communities. By centering entire characters around stereotypical traits, “Glee” lacks authentic diversity and perpetuates tokenism — which, as a satire, was intentional

The show’s inclusion ranges between different sexualities, racial identities and general abilities, but “Glee” keeps these characters on the sidelines and maintains the main plotline around the able-bodied, heterosexual, white characters.   

While “Glee” lacks sensitivity to the struggles of discovering your identity in the real world, the show is somehow successful at fostering genuine friendships and creating a sense of community. Social bonding acts as a sanctuary from the trials of growing up. 

The developing friendships throughout the show are more beautiful than its music and more riveting than the New Direction’s choreography, making “Glee” worth the watch. 

Featured image courtesy of Fox

Maura Green

Maura Green