Or maybe it's because underneath all of the farce and major fifths is a chorusing call for reality, buttressed by a double shot of difference.
Already, critics of the series are rolling their eyes, mentally hurling barbs toward my computer's hard drive. The scripts are repetitive, they say. Recent episodes have been preachier than pentecostal pulpits. Story arcs evince a clear disdain for middle America. And the theme shows, oh the theme shows that leave haters screaming, "Make the music stop!"
Contrary to the critics, I think the choir director needs to pump up the volume. Here's why: The sermon sung each week is that variety is the spice of society. And yes, gleeful writers deliver that message repeatedly because—perish the thought—it's a truth we need to be told again and again.
Why? Because we're warned, again and again, that social order requires normalization of bodies, beings, and identities. Muslim? Suspected terrorist, go straight to Guantanamo. Hispanic? Suspected illegal immigrant, go straight to jail. Gay? Suspected sexual predator, go straight to church. Broadway lover? Suspected alien, report straight to Roswell.
Conservative media pundit? Recite all of the above to stoke stupefying, outdated culture wars. Consider the opinion of former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who said, during a discussion on the liberal bias ofSesame Street hosted by Sean Hannity earlier this month, "Just this year, a high school in Virginia named a guy who was openly gay as prom queen. So, sometimes, you know, fiction does inform reality and...there's a direct assault on this country's moral foundation. That's a problem."
Tonight's edition of The Sean Hannity Show is brought to you by the letter 'B', for "bigotry."
Ironically, Glee's fictional setting, McKinley High School, is located in Blackwell's home state, and that's exactly the point. For every state that advances equality and civil rights, a la New York's recognition of same-sex marriage, two more are undermining progress, whether it's legalizing criminal profiling in Arizona or banning the use of the word "gay" in Tennessee's public schools. Spotlighting the inhumanity of these efforts through primetime narratives not only spreads, but personalizes awareness, as audience members connect with the trials of compelling characters.
Yet, to be meaningful, cultivating awareness must culminate in action. Therein lies the production's greatest strength; it emphasizes taking action at the everyday level. All of the much maligned theme shows, for instance, have invoked a bit of gender bending. In "The Power of Madonna," the men of New Directions belt out the pop diva's single "What it Feels Like for a Girl." In "Britney/Brittany," Artie Abrams belts out Britney Spears' smash hit "Stronger." Then, in "The Rocky Horror Glee Show," Mercedes Jones blows the cover off of "Sweet Transvestite,"—a song saturated in gender bending lyrics, yes, but one that's traditionally voiced by a man. A white man, no less.
Listening between the lyrics, we hear that being someone isn't just about being different. It's about creating difference and believing in that which we create. Difference as an engaged verb, rather than a passive noun. In other words, the moral of the showtune is that making a difference is both as simple and challenging as believing in the difference that is constantly unfolding within us, no matter what anyone says about the form it takes at any given moment.
Make the music stop? No way. I'm going to keep on dancing. Hopefully, for many seasons to come.