Like millions of other people, I love Glee.
When the pilot aired in 2009, I was skeptical. But Glee won me over immediately. I fell in love with it, at first, for the way the show takes songs that I hate and re-makes them into songs that I must illegally download and add to my running playlist this minute. But the catchy, over-produced songs (how do they afford those pyrotechnics when they can’t even rent a handicapped bus without a bake sale?) isn’t what has turned my fling into a serious relationship.
What has transformed me from a fan into an advocate is how Glee tackles homophobia — an unacceptable prejudice that is often ignored by high school adminstrators and, in some sad cases, perpetuated by them– and calls it what it is. It unapologetically shows that homophobia is bigotry, and that parents, teachers, and people of all ages need to understand the destructiveness of its reach. There’s no tiptoeing around it, no white space left for religious differences or generational gaps. It’s a brave stance to take in primetime.
Glee portrays the two same-sex relationships on the show as loving, committed, and stable, in fact, more stable than some of the straight counterparts on the show. It’s also worth noting that the show refuses to distill the characters’ relationships–both gay and straight– into hot teen-on-teen action. Almost all of the characters’ sexual escapades happen tastefully off-screen, with only the occasional kiss making its way into the episode. This is quite the departure from shows like Gossip Girl, which is really just a string of soft-core scenes between teenage hardbodies punctuated by closed ups of designer handbags (and yes I watch it).
Is the high school world of Glee realistic? Of course not. There’s no public school district in Ohio where students can switch schools at will and harmonize in the quad and get married at city hall after winning regionals. But, despite its over-the-top plots, its treatment of gay high school students and homophobia, and its rampant popularity (on a channel like Fox, no less) shows that many American minds are headed in the right direction.