What a better way to spend a relaxing weekend then popping in a DVD, or more specifically, a Glee DVD. Or even better, an entire series of Glee.
I find there are two camps to Glee; you either love the show or you absolutely hate the show; there are no fence sitters. I personally love Glee. And before you dismiss me as someone from 'Gen Y' who doesn't know 'real drama' let me explain why.
For those who haven't experienced the phenomena that is Glee, it is an Emmy award-winning US television series which melds drama, comedy and music into one hyperactive showcase bonanza. Some musicians have panned it, like Slash and Kings of Leon, but personally I think it's a lot of fun. Plus as it is set in a high school setting, everyone can relate to the teenage angst and social awkwardness faced by our gang of misfits who form the Glee club. And this is where the show shines.
The Glee Cast
Our main characters typify the stereotypes in a typical school. You have your geeks, cheerleader, football star, the player and in Glee, you have your homosexual and disabled. The social cliques are there and we empathise with our misfits as they get bullied and 'slushied' for being in the Glee club which are only for the losers in the school.
And if this sounds like your stereotypical high school series then it is. To a point. And the main difference about Glee is that it knows it is. It doesn't take itself too seriously. The storyline is so fast paced that it takes the narrator at the start of each episode (sounding like a voiceover reading the terms and conditions for a product really fast on TV), to get through what happened only in the previous episode.
Glee doesn't dwell on the melodrama of teenage life (love lives, school troubles etc), but rather the musical/drama/comedy shows such teenage issues are happening but then it gets on with it; and it does it in such a way that it's humourous and bluntly comedic. For example, the main character is Rachel Berry who is a great singer, but an overly neurotic girlfriend who describes herself as 'high maintenance' and needy - the show presents her exactly like that to the point where she becomes almost comical. Sue Sylvester, the show's arch nemesis, typifies the show's comedic orientation with her character being so devious to the point where she is hilarious.
In comparison, shows like Gossip Girl dwell on deception, love, guilt where these themes embody the entire show. You could find the exact same story lines in both shows, but the execution of the storylines showcases the lightheartedness that is Glee.
Glee is willing to poke fun at the often over-the-top storylines which are present in teen-angst dramas, by making these same storylines even more over-the-top and even more unbelievable. It's about laughing at the problems in life. It's about singing and dancing your way through life. The result is a high energy, fun filled piece of entertainment.
And you can enjoy the show at that level of pure fun and indulgence but it's not too difficult to see another layer to Glee that is there if you're willing to take it. The dialogue in Glee is sharp, witty and a lot of the times quite controversial. Most of Sue's dialogue can either be classified as bigot, racist, sexist and usually all three in the same sentence and most touch on topics that mainstream television would not dare to even mention let alone use in a comedic sense.
For those that take offence when such issues are taken lightly, I would refer to South Park's philosophy- you either make fun of everything or you make fun of nothing. In terms of themes, homosexuality is an overriding theme represented by Kurt and later bisexuality becomes a theme in season two. But again the show doesn't dwell on it. It gives the viewer the issues and it doesn't berate the viewer with morality or ethics but simply presents the situation. At times it may step this line with some 'lesson learnt of the day' type spiel but it is seldom rammed down the viewer's conscious. One of the themes that exemplies this is sexuality.
Sex is a dominant theme in the high school setting but it is often played comically such as the cheerleaders wearing their scantily clad uniforms chairing the celibacy club or in terms of homosexuality. This is portrayed by Kurt's relationship with his first boyfriend and how Kurt's dad had to explain safe sex in homosexual relationships to Kurt who is a virgin. The relationship between Brittany and Santana could be seen as the show pandering to the lust of young boys wanting to see two cheerleaders make out, but the show does not allow it to go in that direction. The only time when it does, in a scene where Santana is lying on top of Brittany, is finished off with a joke about 'being different plumbing' in the sexes. In fact, only the emotional side of the relationship is explored. And the first homosexual kiss between Kurt and his boyfriend was filmed no different to a heterosexual kiss. Being mainstream TV and also being in the US, Glee should be applauded for its handling of homosexual issues in mainstream, conservative America of today.
Despite the usual lightheartedness and over-the-top storylines, there are moments in Glee that are the most emotional moments I have experienced through the visual medium. Due to its fast-pacedness, as a viewer you seldom know where the show will go in the next episode. And it's usually during these unexpected moments where the show throws an emotional brick at you reducing you to sobbering tears. And therein, for me, lies Glee's magic. The show itself presents a surreal, comical depiction of life and in particular high school life.
It's a bit zany, a bit eccentric and very funny but then when you least expect it, the songs stop, the dancing ceases and the show slows down for those few moments where the themes of the show that have been simmering underneath rise to the surface with such profound intensity. The result is a moment of beauty. A moment so moving your entire body and mind becomes entrenched in that moment.
For me, art is and always will be the search for these moments. Whether it's in books, paintings, games or music, it's all about finding those moments that are capable of evoking such intense emotions that are rarely experienced. I have been reduced to tears so often whilst watching Glee that my sister made the remark, "It's called Glee, not Sad." These moments transport the show from mere 'guilty pleasure' to a work of astonishing poignancy capable of creating entertainment that exemplifies fun without sacrificing substance.
Glee is ballsy, outrageous and a courageous endeavour that does not shy away from contentious issues but rather frames them into a new status quo. It does not preach its messages but allows the viewer to read them if they want to. It is fun, it is cheesy and above all else it is a work of beauty.