I don’t like Glee. It doesn’t have much to do with conducting–at least they don’t try to make the guy a conductor!–but it’s related to the Mr. Holland post, so I’m just gonna get it off my chest.
Jane Lynch, who plays the cheerleading coach, is hilarious in everything she does. A Mighty Wind. Forty Year Old Virgin. Two and a Half Men. She even played Julia Child’s sister in Julie and Julia and was subtle and funny as could be. I mean, she sat next to Meryl Streep and was subtle and funny! I love her to pieces.
Also, the guy who plays the teacher is, apparently, an actual singer who can sort of dance. He performed on the Tony awards… I can’t remember his name or what year it was and I refuse to look it up, but honestly I was so surprised and impressed I posted about it on Facebook. Something to the effect of “Amelia Nagoski Peterson is surprised and impressed that the guy from Glee can actually sing!” To which all my Glee-loving friends replied, “see, I told you they were talented people!”
Which I never denied… it’s just that–
Wait. One more caveat before I explain.
I’ve only seen, like, four episodes. When they first advertised it, I thought, “hm, that looks like it could be good” so I set my DVR to record it. I watched the first episode and was unimpressed, then watched parts of episodes after that and decided I didn’t like it. I deleted the DVR timer. But then I found that many, many of my musical friends had been seduced by the show, drawn into its cleverness, wit, and musical numbers. So I tried to watch, both so that I could try to see what they saw, and also to discover an explanation for why it irritated me so much.
So, with that said, here’s my issue:
It’s like with Mr. Holland’s Opus, in that the teacher (whose name I don’t know–I don’t know any of the characters’ names. If you watch the show, you know who I mean; if you don’t watch it, it doesn’t matter anyway) actually teaches math or something. He does Glee Club after school because he loved singing in high school and, although he, himself, has had NO TRAINING SINCE HIGH SCHOOL!!! wants to give the opportunity to the students. Nice sentiment, generous desire, deeply misguided.
First of all, is there no music teacher in the school? I’ve never seen one. What the hell is up with that?
Second of all, since when does singing in a high school choir make you qualified, ten years later, to lead a high school choir? I took math for years in high school, but not since. Even if I had loved it, I would never, never, never say “these kids here at the school where I teach music should have the opportunity to experience math. I should volunteer to lead an after-school math club!” That would be ridiculous. Everyone would say, “but, Amelia, you’re not qualified to do that. Let’s hire a math teacher.” But in the show, a math teacher volunteers to lead music, and no one blinks. Because music’s easy. Nothing to it. Anyone can do it. And to prove it, we have a group of misfit kids whom he leads to glory.
Speaking of “glory.” Their performances aren’t bad for what they are. As a Broadway/pop style show choir, they do well. But, really, is that the only music in the school? I have no objection to show choirs or to singing pop music in school if it’s balanced with a curriculum of high quality art repertoire that teaches something more than notes and rhythms. History, culture, our connection to all of humanity. Maybe the kids in Glee learn to connect with each other through the fun experience of singing together, but there’s the potential to connect with so much more and they’re missing out on that. Why? Because their teacher is underqualified.
Also, let’s talk about one particular performance on the show in the middle of last season. It was by a group from a girls’ juvie, I think. They sang some R&B song, I think, and the choreography basically replicated sex acts. It was supposed to be sexy and amazing, like a rap video or something. And all the characters we’re supposed to like were worried that this group was going to get the big award because the judges were so impressed.
It doesn’t work like that.
The girls in that choir should not be learning to display themselves as sexual objects. And the show should not be promoting that kind of behavior. Real judges would never, ever consider giving them any kind of big award. We’d shift uncomfortably in our seats for a while, searching for words to explain the problem, and deduct points for appropriateness or something, and try to encourage their director to find repertoire that teaches a more universal kind of love. Or something. These are teenage girls for heaven’s sake. It’s not impressive, but rather completely repellent that they would be grinding on the stage singing about how they are desired by everyone in the audience.
So, to sum up: the show bothers me because it settles for the lowest possible level of education, repertoire, and artistic experience. It’s supposed to be about how this teacher guy loves music, but all he loves is the superficial fun. He doesn’t know enough to understand that there’s much, much more to it. It’s nice that he loved singing as a kid, and if he wants to sing in a group to stay connected to that in his adulthood, GREAT!!! But if he’s going to pretend to teach kids, he’s cheating them. He doesn’t know enough to provide a real opportunity to the students. But the problem isn’t just with that character: that underlying assumption of music-as-fun cheapens the whole show. It cheapens music. It cheapens teachers. The show would redeem itself to me completely if, in the end, the students and the teacher discovered together that, for example, Bach expressed great truth about humanity and the performance of art music provided them with a powerful experience learning and making music together.
Because music–especially music in a school–while it should and can be fun in exactly the addictive way they portray on the show, is supposed to be about art. It’s supposed to be about the big picture. And no amount of witty dialog or Beyonce parodies can add up to that.
In my opinion.
Which is not, as you can tell, even slightly humble.
Next week, I’m going to post about things I like because all this ranting and complaining isn’t as much fun as raving about Bernstein or science.