Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Glee is the best show on television

I have not hidden this fact from anyone: I LOVELOVELOVE the television show Glee. At first, I loved it for the music, plain and simple. But as someone who works with high school students, I love Glee even more for its wit, its truthfulness in both the stereotyping and the message, its music, and its ability to resonate with all kinds of viewers.

Tonight's episode originates in Finn, the "dumb jock" who is lovable beyond his (brilliantly written) one-liners, such as "I got this book from the library; did you know you can just borrow books there?". Finn thinks he sees Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich, henceforth Grilled Cheesus. Hilarious, I know. Sacreligious? Probably.

Then there's Kurt's monologue about how he has no faith, an idea based mostly around his life experiences, one of them being that he was born gay. He says "Most churches don't think much of gay people. Or women. Or science," and I think he's saying what a lot of people may be thinking. Then later, he goes on to say that "God made me gay then sends his followers out to tell the world that it's something I chose".

What great dialogue could an episode like this prompt?

Here's the problem: we don't talk the way we should to our children or to each other. We don't openly discuss beliefs and opinions that might be unpopular in our communities. We don't exercise our voice just as loudly as the religious voices do (when I say religious, I mean the intolerant, hateful, judgmental variety; this is not a blanket statement about any followers of any one faith). Would someone please tell me why it's ok for people to send their kids to school early to have "prayer breakfast" and FCA and Bible Club, but no one is reaching out to the outcast? I don't have any issue whatsoever with those organizations, and I understand the legalities of it all (thank you, school law) that state that any organization can use school facilities as long as any other organization is allowed, too. It's about playing fair.

In some sense, I feel that as someone who has a belief system that's (theoretically) based in grace and love and mercy, why isn't anyone doing the graceful, loving, merciful thing that is reaching to the misunderstood, the downtrodden? Why aren't these groups showing this love they keep saying is available to the people who need it most? In the South, we stay very busy beating people up with our Bibles and we forget that it may hurt or leave a scar.

Here's another problem: who's going to step up and lead? Who, in a place like this, is going to provide an openly safe haven for bullied, ostracized teens? As a teacher, I do it covertly student to student, offering my classroom as a place where they are protected and free to speak openly. But so many of them don't. They are afraid. They know that no matter how much safety I try to provide them, there are hallways and public spaces where others can take out their hate, their intolerance and ultimately their ignorance. Working in a public space comes with responsibility, and there is only so much I can do in the midst of the chaos that constantly surrounds religion in the public schools. My solution at the moment is to stay out of it for the sake of my job.

I guess in a roundabout way, I'm saying that I've had that crisis of faith. I can't wrap my mind around how people who claim to belong to a church or a faith can say and do the things I observe at my workplace and then show up on the appointed day at the place of worship as if they are totally spotless. I struggled for a long time with figuring out where God fit into all those things, and I would be lying if I said that my husband and I hadn't had more than one of those awkward, difficult conversations about how to raise our children with moral and spiritual values that still reflect tolerance and love. In short, we don't know where to take our future children outside of our home and our families to teach them those things.

Glee acts as a conduit through which these difficult conversations can flow with little fear of retribution, because the show starts the talking, not the students. I loudly applaud Ryan Murphy and the entire cast for being willing to take on these difficult subjects, such as religion, discrimination and sexual orientation without fear. Thank you for being the light. Thank you for daring to say what so many of us are thinking.

Maybe I'll teach my kids everything they need to know through episodes of Glee.


Mrs. R said...

Keep taking care of your students, Lindsey. Keep setting an example for them of openmindedness and love.

I am seriously wishing for a rainbow stick for my classroom door, but I'm not sure how that would go over at my school. Do you think you could put one up in your room?

As far as faith...keep looking. There are faith communities that share the love and grace of Christ in real ways. I don't think that your beliefs are mutually exclusive, although you might find it easier up this way, or in Blue Heaven. My wonderful cousins and some dear friends are teaching me that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, each with a purpose, and how can God be wrong?

Also, I promise I'll call you tomorrow. I spazzed out tonight. Sigh.


Mrs. R said...

Er...make that rainbow sticker.

Also, you and J will be great parents and your kids will be awesome when they make their appearance one day.

Lindsey Lea said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Erin. Even though Johnathan and I have a belief set that doesn't necessarily belong exclusively to one brand of faith, we do both firmly believe those things you mention. If I knew nothing else, I could rest easy in those thoughts alone.

As a side note, another great line from last night's glee was when Sue's big sister (who seems to have Down Syndrome) says "God doesn't make mistakes, that's what I believe".

I think I'm right there with her :)

Amanda S said...

I'm late posting cause I have to wait for Glee to come on fancast, and it's been a crazy week, but I wanted to watch this episode as soon as I read your post. I think this was the best episode so far. I loved it.