Gleek mythology: The problematic 'progressiveness' of Glee

We reflect on everything that Glee has got wrong; how can we learn from this slap in the face that seemed progressive at the time?

Sophie McMillan
6th March 2023
Image credit: Twitter, @springeneticist

"All aboard the Sue Sylvester Express. Destination: Horror"

While Glee (2009) did have representation and was celebrated for it at the time, much of it falls flat looking back. The series did offer a diverse set of school kids, though their varying traits were often played for laughs, not tackled or resolved in a manner that explored them in depth. Despite this, at the time, simply the presence of a diverse set of characters was seen as “progressive” and modern. 

Glee is a show that placed itself in a difficult position - while it was a teen show for other high school kids to see themselves in and sympathise with, it was also in many ways a parody of the drama of high school and its theatrical groups, as well as cheesy American “high school” films. The series being a show, rather than a standalone film, meant it had to attempt to balance serious character arcs and parody at a level that would keep viewers both invested and entertained, which seemed to prove difficult.

The lack of repercussions and boundaries between both teachers and students, make for a sometimes awkward watch

The show starts out strong, with a teacher inappropriately touching a student in the first few minutes of the pilot. Although the teacher was fired to forward the plot, he never truly faced consequences for this, as he is offered a job at the school again later in the show, and is depicted more as a “weird” guy than a criminal. This is the start of two recurrent issues throughout the series - no repercussions, and boundaries between students and teachers overstepped, with lots of strange singing and dancing routines as well as a student-teacher relationship later in the series.

Another damaging theme many have realised reflecting back on the show is biphobia, particularly from its fairly influential gay characters, which is where the issue lies - Santana and Kurt both say some very biphobic lines, including the banger “Bisexual is a term that gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel normal for a change!” Going back to the fact that Glee was a running series and not a standalone film, viewers who may have been grasping onto these characters for a shred of representation may have been more affected by lines such as this and more easily negatively influenced by the disgusting actions that many characters take, that are then never really consequential. A more horrific example is Ryder bringing up his sexual assault, which should have been a serious moment of vulnerability, but is ruined by characters asking why he didn’t enjoy it, as it was a woman who assaulted him - something that they also never face any consequence for and don't seem to develop from.

Image credit: Twitter, @KlaineCentric

Controversial and important topics, including the ones mentioned, but ranging from outing someone to SCHOOL SHOOTINGS are often glossed over quickly, and forgotten by the next episode so that the plot can continue, having no time for development and resolution, and also never really having a lasting effect on the overall show, minimising their importance in the long term.

Although it was good that such a range of topics was displayed at the time, we are more than ready for television to take time to unpack issues and allow characters to simmer and develop from them in a realistic manner.

(Visited 16 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ReLated Articles
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap