Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Glee" - Revenge of the Fallen

One of the great hallmarks of wisdom is the capacity and the humility to change one’s mind – to thoughtfully re-evaluate one’s perceptions and philosophies based on new perspectives. Therefore, when my friend Blake mentioned on Facebook that he was still watching “Glee,” I thought I’d give it a second chance. So I watched this episode:

My reaction? The show’s fundamental problems had grown rather than shrunk.

My objection to “Glee” is that the creators obviously have no clue about constructing a story. (And without that, as George Costanza said, “it’s just masturbation.”) They seem like they are literally scrambling from scene to scene to fill in time between the songs. The characters are one-dimensional and uninteresting (and the ever-ballooning number of secondary characters is a sign of how weak their mains are, even though I think the lead boy and girl are good actors). I also just can’t stand the hypocrisy of the sassy, fat black girl who – while intended to add racial diversity – is herself an extremely racist stereotype. Her dialogue reads like it was written for an episode of “Fresh Prince” where Carlton was trying to sound "street."

They create drama not through character-driven stories or creativity, but gimmicky clichés: formulaic love triangles; teen pregnancy bereft of any post-“Juno” poignancy or wit; and gay issues that were groundbreaking 20 years ago on “Degrassi Junior High,” but are perfectly safe (and trite) on today’s TV landscape.

Again they contradict themselves: the episode is all about gay gay gay gay young AIDS, but Rachel says at one point, “I love my two dads, but right now I need a mom.” Message? A homosexual parenting pair is inadequate. Is that really what they’re trying to communicate? No, of course it isn’t, but I don’t think they’re intelligent enough to realize what they’re doing.

Now, the songs themselves, the show’s hook, demonstrate great production value. The variety (while obviously focus-grouped) is also good, but even here the creators show they have no perception of story-telling. This offending episode’s climax is a cover of Lady GaGa’s “Pokerface,” which is completely and utterly wrong for the context.

For those who don't know - including, clearly, the production staff of "Glee" - “Pokerface” is about a woman concealing her lesbianism (or perhaps bisexuality) from male sexual partners. It is grotesquely out of context when sung as a duet between a mother and a daughter as an anthem for their coming to terms with each other. Moreover, “Pokerface” is sung, mixed, and Autotuned to specifically be opaque and misleading (except for when GaGa sings the title lines of the chorus) – just like a pokerface – and the “Gleeks” produce the song so you can clearly hear every word being sung, underscoring the contextual dilemma.

Why would they choose this song here? No reason at all, except that it’s trendy.

The trendiness irritates me. “Glee’s” one truly winning moment was the pilot episode performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” – a timeless classic. (Note: when you start typing "Don't Stop Believing" into the YouTube search engine, the "Glee" version is suggested above the Journey original.) They are obviously trying to reconnect with that, as they’re performing another Journey song, “Faithfully,” in their season finale.

“Glee” does not feel like high school. It does not even feel like a show about high schoolers. It feels like a show made by high schoolers. I need to do something drastic … like not watch it anymore.


Jolee said...

AMEN!!!! Seriously Jared, I'm so glad to see that I'm not the same one who still feels this way. I've thought of trying to watch it again as well, but I literally can't even watch the previews, because I think it is so poorly done! Thanks for making me feel justified. :)

Emily said...

I won't defend Glee but I also won't stop watching it because I love the musical performances. BUT to say that a song's lyrics can only be interpreted one way is ridiculous. Despite what the Poker Face lyrics were meant to mean, they certainly don't just say one thing and can be interpreted to mean different things in different contexts, that's the beauty of lyrics, poems, literature, etc.

annie said...

i'm with emily, i won't defend it, and actually i'll go a step further and continue to criticize it, but i do love me some good musical performances. and i also liked the "pokerface" cover. i think by changing the context, they changed the meaning. isn't that at least a part of what covers are about? if they didn't recontextualize anything, we'd all be blasting them for their unoriginal interpretations, which is what we get for most of their performances. i won't argue with your take on their story lines, characters, scripts, themes, etc. you're dead on there.


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