My Personal Reminiscence of the Game-Changing Storytelling of “Glee”

As of last month, I decided to open my blog up more to the exploration behind storytelling of different mediums other than books. From television to movies, there are just so many of them out there that are changing the game in a lot of ways regarding how certain stories are told, and to not talk about some of them here on this blog, I find to be a little odd, especially given my circumstances as someone who studied media in college. Previously I discussed my thoughts about “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” in honor of its 10th anniversary. Now, the morning following its series finale, I want to dwell in on a television show that I’ve not only had a love-hate relationship with, but that has also drastically changed the television landscape in more ways than one in its six years on the air. This is my two cents on the newly concluded FOX series, “Glee.”

Six high school characters. All of whom evident of hailing from different backgrounds and maintain varying social rankings within their school. Red shirts, blue jeans. “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

This is the scene of the now iconic cover of the classic Journey song that ended the pilot episode of “Glee,” but also marked the beginning of something special. With its premiere kicking off on May 19, 2009 following an episode of “American Idol” before the first season went full-on on September 9, 2009, “Glee” follows a group of misfit teenagers at their Lima, Ohio-based high school as they come together as a glee club. In doing so and while doing so, they find strength in who they are as people, all the while navigating their own paths to their dreams they want to pursue. However, if you’re as familiar with the show as I am, then you know that I’m just barely scratching the surface.

The praises have been sung about this show. While previous attempts have been made in the past to do a musical for television, “Glee” proved itself to be the first to successfully do it. From Broadway hits to whatever is playing on the radio currently, it’s been a stretch across genres, hitting up and getting the rights to cover a wide variety of songs, often times singing them better than the original artist. The story arches- especially the social issues ones- definitely were acknowledged and with the exception of a few that were a little dodgy, many of them were executed incredibly well (topics including suicide, sexuality, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, body imagery, etc.). It’s story arches like those that made the show feel very real.

There are viewers out there who have every right to say that they grew up with “Glee.” My brother was 11 when the pilot aired and will be turning 18 this summer. For me, I was not one of those who grew up with the show. It just so happens that the show was there during a time of my life where many things changed (and for the better for the most part). I was 17 and a junior in high school when the pilot aired and a senior when “Glee” rose to fame. Now that the show has ended, I’m now 23, I have a college degree under my belt, and I’ve since become a published author. As I am with TV shows, I was late to the game when it came to “Glee.” The first episode that I watched was the last episode of the first season, “Journey.” Nonetheless, I fell in love with it and watched the whole first season on DVD that summer.

While a little late to the game, for the most part, I was riding the same ride as all the other viewers of this game changing show, both on and off the screen. I was there through all the changes the format of the show went through. I was there for major storylines like when Karofsky revealed to be gay, when Kurt and Blaine finally got together, when Rachel won her first Broadway role, and such. I so wished to have gone to one of their two tour performances when they came to San Jose four years ago (and instead made up for it by attending the 3D concert film that came out later that summer). I was just as stunned when the death of Cory Monteith was announced and how that was incorporated into the show.

I mentioned early on how I have a love-hate relationship with “Glee.” There were times where I thought it was nothing but gold, but then there were times where I thought, “What the hell are they smoking in that writer’s room?” And then, of course, it has left me with these questions that I’ll probably never have answers to:

  • Why were the female characters mainly seen wearing skirts or dresses? Honestly, I never understood that. Out of all the girls, Mercedes was basically the only one who dressed normally on the show. Everyone else was flouncing around in skirts, dresses and high heeled shoes 24/7. This show is supposed to reflect off of modern day life, and with the exception of one person, I don’t know of any young females nowadays who wears skirts and dresses that often. And this may be the feminist in me talking, for already girls and women had to endure centuries of wearing nothing but skirts and dresses. It would have been nice for that particular wardrobe to be more reflective of today’s time for the female gender.
  • I’ve written about this before but I’ll say it again: Why weren’t the Asian-American characters written better? Already “Glee” did so much for changing up the representation of LGBT characters; not to say that their portrayals of them were picture perfect, but it was enough to where it’s pretty normal to have LGBT characters on TV shows nowadays. “Glee” had quite a few Asian-American characters on the show, and aside from early attempts at making them different by having Tina a Goth girl and Mike a super dancer, nothing substantiating was built off of that and were instead tokenized for their heritage. Thankfully, it looks like “Fresh Off the Boat” is changing that department.
  • How come they never covered- or at least do more covers- of (Lorde, Sam Smith, Haim, Broods, Sia, Phil Collins, the 1038495 artists on YouTube – other than Rebecca Black- like David Choi, Imaginary Future, and Kina Grannis)? There were some artists and songs that were covered on “Glee” that just did not make sense to me, for oftentimes it felt like they were being covered for the mere sake of the fact that they’re popular. I really felt like “Glee” didn’t really fully utilize their resources when picking songs and artists to cover and while I know it’s impossible to cover every song ever done in the history of mankind, they could have made some better song choices. That’s all I’m saying.
  • “Glee” had also been known for utilizing a number of guest stars, and there were some whose presence either a) did nothing to enhance the plot or b) were generally insignificant in the long run. An example can be when Charice was invited on in Season 2 to play Sunshine Corazon. Why did they invite her on there if she only appeared in three episodes, for a total amount of 12 minutes of screen time? Her name hasn’t been brought up since the final episode of Season 2.
  • I know she was a favorite of the show but honestly, what was the purpose of Sue Sylvester? One minute, she’s threatening to destroy the glee club, the next minute, she’s all in support of them. Did she simply have an ongoing change of heart, or was she just crazy?

As you can see, I have my critiques, and there’s more to it where that came from. Like many of the other fans, I too was not impressed with the episodes from Seasons 4 and 5. The writing was incredibly weak, the storylines were all over the place, their song choices were not the best they could come up with, and more. This was actually around the time the production team hired new writers for the show, and while many of them had plenty of prior experiences writing for hit shows under their belts, I think the fact of the matter is that there were just too many voices speaking at once. I understand why the co-creators did this, especially as “American Horror Story” took off, but that obviously could have been a lot better. It was with that that I actually stopped watching “Glee” 1/3 of the way into Season 5.

That’s why I was so glad to see how the content for the final season improved greatly. Already I was hesitant about how this could go, especially after hearing that it will be primarily set at McKinley High School (when many of the original characters had already graduated). But for the most part, I was very impressed with it. The storylines were better written, the new characters were very likeable, their song choices improved (slightly), and it all wrapped up very nicely with last night’s episodes. I commend the co-creators for bringing the show back to familiar ground.

In a way, this show has meant a lot to me personally. While I’ll never be able to relate to the struggle of fitting in in high school (for that was something I never bothered to put any effort into), I was enthralled by these group of humans who had dreams dwindling inside them that were just adamantly waiting to come forth and play before real life in all its glory. That was something I was able to connect with, being a dreamer myself in an environment that was not cut out for it called high school. The show has helped me realize my dreams and I’m happy to see how I began fulfilling many of them in the midst of the show’s time on the air.

“Glee” is like a hardcore rap song. It “started from the bottom but now [it’s] here.” It went from rags, to riches, to rags again and then back to riches. It followed “hopeless aspirations in hopes of coming true,” but these misfits of McKinley High believed in themselves and it worked out for the best in the end. I think that’s what “Glee”s ultimate testimony will be in the long run, amidst the dodgy storytelling; that regardless of the path you’ve walked and are still walking, you can make your dreams come true if truly go at it with your heart and soul.

In other words, “don’t stop believin'”.

“Being a part of something special does not make you special. Something is special because you are a part of it.” -Rachel Berry, “Dreams Come True,” “Glee”




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