Ever since that pilot episode where a bunch of geeky kids with no singing experience all got together and were suddenly able to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” with impeccable pitch and improbable talent, I was hooked. I didn’t quite know why, or how this show, that by all means I should’ve been mocking, was getting into my psyche. All I knew was that I couldn’t wait for the real season to being, and all the campy, kitschy, ridiculous high school song-based drama to begin.
At first I thought it was a true guilty pleasure. It was like my love for Nick Hornby novels and Third Eye Blind music. How else could I love a show that used the most oft-performed karaoke song to nab as many viewers as possible? It must have been that this was just something that appealed to that part of me that is part of the collective populace – a populace that loves Miley Cyrus, High School Musical, and all kinds of vampires (book, TV, movies, bands).
And so I continued to watch. And continued to be slightly ashamed of my unabashed love for this poor excuse for a TV drama. How could I watch The Wire, Mad Men, and The Sopranos, make fun of everyone who watches Lost, and still maintain my place on the couch in my TV-watching ivory tower? This problem gnawed at everything about me that thinks it truly understands good quality art and entertainment. So I continued to search for a solution. [Side note: I realize that it’s ridiculous for me to have to justify my watching a show to myself. It’s just how I’m programmed. I can’t help it.]
But last night, I realized why this show, above any other high school drama appeals to us all and seems so real even though it’s so incredibly far-fetched. People have been arguing since the show’s inception that we love the show because of how unrealistic it is; that we love the fantasy and absurdity of the characters, plotlines, and songs. I would argue precisely the opposite; that we love the show because of just how true to the mind of a high school kid it gets.
People constantly rave about J.D. Salinger being able to accurately portray the minds of teenagers; of being able to capture the angst, depression, and “innocence lost” of real adolescents. But while every teen experiences those feelings from time to time, the vast majority are not Holden Caulfield. And this is where Glee hits the high school emotion right on the button.
In this past episode, when Puck’s head gets shaved because of a mole, he’s suddenly no longer one of the cool kids and as a result gets dropped in a dumpster. While laying there, surrounded by trash, Puck muses that he should just lay there until the garbage truck comes and crushes him to death. And that is high school. Thinking that everything that happens is the biggest deal in life.
One of the defining aspects of high school is the assumption that everything that happens to you is the most important thing that’s ever happened and nothing else can ever get better or worse. It’s the immaturity of the age that forces teens to be unable to see beyond those four years, and beyond the issues of looks, sports, and popularity. It’s this drama-queen view of the world that truly makes Glee the most accurate high school show ever. Because while it may not be reality as it is in normal life, but it certainly mimics the way high school seems in the heads of an adolescent.
The music, while the most unbelievable part of the show, is just the venue through which these students deal with their adolescent heads. As someone who listened to and played music all throughout high school, this makes total sense. Sure, most of us don’t use music in the choral fashion that these students do, and there is an aspect of campy extremity that underlies the songs, but that only strengthens the show’s inherent thesis: that in high school, everything seems like an extreme. The show is a reminder of how awesome and crazy high school was for all of us. That’s why the show is so great, and why we love it so much.
And the tunes are catchy too.
Glee – Don’t Stop Believing