Teens and a few of those in youth ministry continue to encourage me to watch an up-and-coming show called Glee – even if only to hear the talent of the actors. So, I thought I would do some research and then watch a few episodes.
What did I find? Turns out this popular musical comedy-drama was ranked the eighth best television show of 2009 by James Poniewozik of Time commenting:
…when Glee works—which is often—it is transcendent, tear-jerking and thrilling like nothing else on TV. […] It can be a mess, but it’s what great TV should be: reckless, ambitious, heart-on-its-sleeve and, thanks especially to Jane Lynch as drill-sergeant cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, gaspingly funny. When it hits its high notes, nothing else matters.[i]
Sounds exciting. What else… The show is enormously popular with teens and young adults. There are even a number of adults who have succumbed to the sirens’ song. It has amazing musical performances and is reminiscent of High School Musical. David Hinckley of the New York Daily caught my attention who commented that the target audience of Glee is teens. Sounds good. He complimented the show by likening it to the 1980’s cult-classic Porkey’s (Huh?!?) saying,
The new musical-comedy drama “Glee” dresses like “High School Musical” and has the heart of “Porky’s.”
That’s a compliment.
For those under 28, which is most of the target audience for “Glee,” “Porky’s” was a low-budget, early-’80s teen classic that seemed to sell raunch, but whose real appeal was suggesting outsiders with good hearts could beat all the jerks who had none.[ii]
Now, maybe it is me, but I feel like we cannot divorce the storyline from the story that is told. My English professors taught me that how something is said is just as important as what is said. They taught me that the how and what together provide a good picture of the intent and beliefs of the storyteller.
Admittedly, I must confess, as a stupid 12 year old over at a friend’s house I have seen clips of Porkey’s – and my Pastor was happy to hear my confession. Again, why do we want to subject our children to this low-brow entertainment that is not good for the soul? As you know, Porkey’s has also been associated with the introduction of mainstream smut into society. A good story line – I’ll take his word for it. The review did not win me over. I decided to ask for some help and committed to watch the season finale.
How does one look for an example of the best parts of the show? I went to the music aficionado of the family, my wife, and asked her. It just so happens that she had pulled up on YouTube a few of the musical numbers that she enjoyed immensely. Since Glee is a television show, we thought it was just as important to watch as well as listen and we were SORELY disappointed and frankly angered. Here is what I watched:
Case in point. Children are a gift and a blessing of God the Father regardless of the manner in which the child was conceived – it is neither the child’s fault nor concern (let’s avoid the extreme situations at the moment). The latest numbers reported by the National Center of Health Statistics is that 38.5 percent, roughly 1.64 million children are born out of wedlock.[iii] Considering the present view of marriage and statistics (1 in 2 marriages fail in the United States); it is not surprising. Should we be surprised that society as a whole has become utilitarian and tends to love things and use people – all with sincerity? Probably not. But would you ever, in all sincerity, relate the birth of a child to being handed over to Beelzebub? No? That’s what Glee did.
The Pitch…a Swing and a Miss
During the Season 1 finale, Episode 22, “Journey to Regionals” the producers coordinated the Glee Clubs regional performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with the onset, labor, birth and recovery of Gwen and her newborn daughter. It caught me by surprise that the producers chose to coordinate the onset of labor and the rushing into the hospital with the following lyrics,
Mama just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life has just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away
I guess I could somewhat understand for a teenage mother – even though that train of thought reduces the child to an object that is disposable and a leech. My eyebrows raised when, as the father was being berated, he looked on with a painfully glance to the birth and the following lyric was sung:
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
But, most alarmingly was the music and acting associated with the birth of that beautiful gift of God. They sang, with the line,
Beelzebub has the devil put aside for me, for me, for me!
So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye
So you think you can love me and leave me to die
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here
The reference to “gotta get out” – nothing to do with the baby wanting to enter the loving and maternal embrace of Gwen. What message was just communicated to the target audience of teens and young adults? Well, you know the old saying; faith is more caught than taught. Fact: They are hearing some rather great musical performances. Fact: They are also hearing, and we all know that music is the most effective means of teaching, that pregnancy=a life thrown away and a baby=Beelzebub handing us over to the devil himself.
Hmmm? So of course there was a happy ending right? You know, the one where the new mother sees the child and smiles, cries, hugs the child and then refuses to give the child up for adoption. Nope! This is reality television. She smiles, hugs the child and without blinking an eye or reservation says that she has no intention of keeping the child (Wait, I think I have a small tear in the corner of my eye – oh, that is a tear of disgust).
Since we are discussing childbirth, have you ever noticed that Hollywood portrays childbirth as if the mother was being drawn and quartered? Ladies, my wife had four difficult labors and births but she did not carry on like a wailing Banshee all the while dressing me down in a low guttural voice exclaiming, “Look what you have done to me!” There are many women that have challenges in their deliveries and I am sure that more than one hates their child for the pain that they had endured or the new-found stretch marks the child caused. In my house, those are the badges of the sanctity of life and the reward for being a tabernacle. But seriously, the majority of births are not like what you see on television or the movies. It is or can be a joy-filled experience and time of intimacy with your husband. The last three births of our children, we played Scrabble.
Back to the topic at hand. We who value life need to start making hard decisions about what we choose to support and fills our ears and hearts. We also need to not check our minds at the door when listening to an artist. I am sure that I will receive a number of complaints telling me to lighten up because this is entertainment and we need something to enjoy. I will, if you remember to avoid Rome where so many of the early martyrs were killed because they refused to tolerate that ages version of entertainment. At least the Romans were open about it and didn’t try to subversively win hearts and minds with psychological slight of hand.
Oh, by the way…the ability to have the Church Baptize in public, that is a result of their gift of intolerance. The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. (Tertullian)
[i] Poniewozik, James (December 8, 2009). “The Top 10 Everything of 2009″. Time. Time Inc.. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1945379_1944142_1944160,00.html. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)
[ii] Hinckley, David (September 9, 2009). “On ‘Glee,’ sex is the keynote at musical high school in Ohio”. NYDailyNews.com. (Retrieved July 2, 2010)