I am trying to watch less television. I’m not the first person to figure out the whole “garbage in, garbage out” thing, or to head up to bed after an evening of sitcoms feeling like I ate Cheetos and Red pop for dinner. Gradually, over the past couple of months I have let go of various “must-sees,” and if we watch as a family we try to watch a movie or something with some substance. Gone is “The Mentalist,” the whole Thursday night comedy lineup, and all Real Housewives. I am not giving up Anthony Bourdain, “Boardwalk Empire,” or “House.”
One of the shows I clung to until recently was “Glee.” I was an early adopter; I like shows that take chances, and I like music. It doesn’t hurt that I am also, secretly, fifteen years old. It was preposterous from the get-go that a small town in Ohio would have support three high schools with fabulous show choirs, one of which appears to be lifted directly out of one of Manhattan’s seedier boroughs, and another of which is a private boy’s school with blazer-sporting patricians. I suspended disbelief like crazy because I liked the musical numbers, the soap opera, and the awesomely evil Sue Sylvester, possibly one of the best characters in the history of television.
I also liked the fact that touchy issues were addressed head-on, and at first I cheered as Kurt dealt with the tough realities of being openly gay in high school. He fell in love with a straight friend, endured bullying, and worked on his relationship with his auto mechanic single father. There was some complexity, some suggestion that the world will not throw open its collective arms to embrace the “different” among us, but will require some persuasion and compassion. There was also a pregnant teen with an overbearing, Christian right-wing father who sent her packing, perpetual bullying of students who were not popular, show tunes, and generally enough to push all of my buttons and keep me coming back every Tuesday.
This season, I fell out of love. As a passionate straight ally and pacifist, I have grown weary of the amount of airtime devoted to lectures about homophobia and bullying. So shoot me. It is my firm belief that no one in America who really needs to be “schooled” in these areas is watching “Glee” on Tuesday nights, and that the rest of us are having our consciousnesses raised to the point where our heads may explode from the sheer force of being Woken Up every week.
Turn the show one way in your mind and it is all about whimsical possibilities – the overweight girl from the AV Club captures the heart of the oversexed jock, the ditzy dancing cheerleader is torn between the boy in the wheelchair and her recently “out” lesbian cheerleader lover. I should, by all rights, love this stuff; I was a plain, overweight girl in high school, and my fists should be pumping in the air when the studly guy chases the considerable tail of his unlikely obsession. Turn the show a different way and it is, at this point, nothing more than a soapbox for its creator to correct us, enlighten us, and make us better, week after week. If we’re already there it begins to feel like a reverse kind of bullying, a bludgeoning with the blunt weapon of political correctness. It is not creative, not subtle, and, for me, not worth an hour of my life any more.
I still love Sue Sylvester, whose acidity is almost sharp enough to balance the treacly self-righteousness of the rest of the show. I still enjoy the music, although not as much as I did during the first season. A recent arrangement of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” made me want to gouge out my own eyes. I get a kick out of the guest stars, particularly Neil Patrick Harris and Gwyneth Paltrow, but it’s still not enough. It was a daring, vastly entertaining experiment and for a time I would move heaven and earth to make sure I was home at 8:00 on Tuesday nights to see what happened next.
Last night, I ate Indian food with my family and visited with a neighbor. No Glee, but much more happiness.