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Gleek and Proud

I love Glee. I.Love.It.  And Im not even ashamed of it.  Finally, something on tv thats related to what I do. Most other careers get to see themselves represented in various ways across society and we know what it is that they do.

You:  Im a teacher/banker/architect/plumber/shopkeeper/cleaner/accountant

World: Oh, cool.

You: Im a youth theatre practitioner


But thats not even half the reason why I love it.  I love the joy, energy, enthusiasm and optimism of it. The humour can be dark, the storylines can be bleak, wacky or even downright unbelievable, but its not cynical or jaded and it doesnt go for meanness and sarcasm like much of the good comedy on tv does today.  So what if its unbelievable? So was believing that Jed Bartlett was running the White House for 8 years with Rob Lowe and a handful of other people too good looking for public service.

I love that you can see the differences between something thats in its heart and bones youth arts, and the other more competitive, successful (and accepted) after-school activities that the school also offers.  They make their own decisions, they pick their own music. They fired the choreographer who they hired at great expense in an effort to prove themselves as good as anyone else. He made them feel bad about themselves and told them to win at all costs (He wanted to drop wheelchair-bound Artie from the choir because he wasnt making enough of an effort. Enough of an effort to walk) Counterpointed with humour like that, and the very real difficulties those students having fitting in meant that finding their own voice and self belief in that episode had me cheering on the couch.

And their coach and they are always under fire. They never get a break. They are always being trampled over by the bigger, shinier more successful  activities. Okay, so I dont have experience of working in a highschool in Ohio and having a sociopathic cheerleading coach as my mortal enemy, but I think we do have experience of always having to prove the value and validity of what we do, fight for recognition, fight for the money, continually fight for the right to be there even though the impact and importance of it in the lives of the participants is so obvious it is (literally) breaking into song.

And yes, hearing that Glee Club cant use the auditorium anymore because the cheerleaders need to rehearse indoors for the winter is far-fetched, but are you really telling me that you havent sat on the other side of the table from a decision maker and heard things that sounded equally absurd about your arts project?

I watched Kurt audition for the football team through my fingers.  Beyonce dancing to Single Ladies I could take or leave, but the football team in full regalia all doing that leotard dance? Now that was inspired and courageous and big and bold.  And Kurt coming out to his father in the bathroom minutes later, with no band, or cheering crowd or backing dancers,  that was more inspired, and courageous and big and bold.

The deaf school choir singing and signing Imagine, off key with no dance routine, and just a piano was so artful and lovely I cried.  Their teacher talked about how they were every bit as entitled to sing out the song in their hearts as anyone else - Finally, people who have a much bigger captive audience than we do, describing the value of the work that we do everyday.

Most of the teenagers you saw on tv until recently were either:

-good looking, cool and accepted

-good looking cool and accepted and just dont know it yet

-edgy and cynical (but waiting to be accepted by the good looking and cool guy)

-loser/geek who needed some kind of transition or mediation to move into one of the other categories.

The kids on Glee are not the characters you find in highschool/musicaltype films. Characters who are just waiting for the makeover and the popular guy to notice how fabulous (and conformist!) they were all along.  They are a bit more rounded and different from that.  And they get rounded on for being different. Not in that worn out geek/loser  Hollywood set-up way, but kind of like Lisa Simpson, for not being ashamed of being clever, ambitious, talented and apart from the main. For being individuals.

These are kids who talk too much, feel too much, make mistakes. They are carrying broken hearts, solid friendships and big bright shiny dreams. 

We regard young peoples feelings like we regard them: Smaller, lesser. They arent. Their heartbreak hurts, their joy is abandoned.  In some ways, their feelings are bigger, they, as RS Thomas says mock the faded blue of our, remoter, heaven.

So what if theres always a band available and some backing dancers when their heartbreak, their rage, their joy, their despair needs to fizz over into song? That doesnt say managed  to me, that says MGM in the 40s. It doesns say contrived, it says creative.  And no, I dont care when the autotune kicks in.

Peter Sellars, in an article called The Question of God, says about opera:

this amazing form, which takes a gesture, and understands it through music, poetry, dance, visual art, all at the same time.  A whole galaxy is in place around these four actions. You thought you were just writing a letter to someone, but in fact, there was a whole symphony orchestra playing. In fact there was a chorus singing. In fact, it`s like a bigger deal. Opera constantly gives you that perspective shift; that glimpse of spiritual activity inside of the simplest and quietest momentsThe artist`s work is to lift people out of their usual sense of their own cosmos into a higher vision of what`s going on up there.

If theres anyone who needs a chorus line, or a bass drum, or some backing dancers, or a melody to realise they are not alone, their pain is not small, their dreams are not a waste of time, that their love is real, their voice is heard, their place is here isnt it the child brave enough to march to their own beat? Dont they deserve  a  symphony orchestra playing?

 In fact, its like a bigger deal.

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