3.19.2011

Glee's Fatal Flaw: Being a Loser Makes You a Winner?

Rachel Berry was the slushie queen in season 1 of Glee


The slushie facial was a recurrent theme in season 1 of Fox's hit television show Glee.  The slushie facial represented the second class citizen status of the losers who for the most part comprised the McKinley Glee club's membership; the almost violent nature by which the students were "slushie'ed" was a constant reminder to the victims of their place in the rigid caste system of high school society.  Jocks and cheerleaders on top; bandgeeks and glee club kids on the bottom.  And let's face it.  Most of you reading this have graduated (or at least attended) high school and so the reality that high school just is not fun for a lot of students not fortunate enough to be one of the cool kids (and is going to continue to suck) is not unusual.  Many people understand that once you get past that awkward high school student phase, life may hold some unexpected pleasant surprises.  What Glee attempts to do is take the awkward kids and tell them: "You don't have to wait.  You are a loser now, but that's alright, because being a loser is cool."  On Glee, the socially awkward (or irrelevant) losers get to participate in glee club and find a voice in a context in which they would otherwise be voiceless.  So what's wrong with that?

The problem is that Glee presents a convoluted message, or at least fails to take advantage of an opportunity to present a more effective message to viewers.  The Glee participants are mostly students that do not fit in.  By participating in the Glee club, these students are able to express themselves and become winners within the context of the club.  For me, the problem is that the value of the students in the Glee club is still defined in stereotypical high school terms by their victory over the socially awkward students in the other Glee clubs that New Directions participates against.  Rather than saying: "You don't have to fit the mold of high school social status" by this obsession with "winning" or victory over others, Glee instead presents the message that the losers need to find something to win at.  Rather than saying: "Being a loser is okay", Glee instead proclaims that the losers can break the overly-simple social network of high school by being successful at singing.  In short, the value of the losers in New Directions is defined by their ability to be victorious over other losers in the glee clubs they compete against.   This was obvious in last week's episode in which New Directions won over Kurt's Dalton Academy team at the regionals.  Rather than being happy at seeing New Directions win, I felt that Kurt and his losing team were able to grow up a little bit by realizing that sometimes you lose in life.  As a show, Glee could make a powerful statement by saying that you don't have to adhere to societal expectations of "winning" and "losing" of which high school is a microcosm.  Sometimes you can break free and define the world on your own terms.  This is an especially important message for high school students some of whom are never going to win at anything (at least in high school) and are probably going to experience four years of slushies to the face.  Hey, Ryan Murphy!  The kids in New Directions need to start losing!  Learning how to deal with that is the most powerful message they can learn in life.


Rachel Berry gets red "slushie'ed"

Rachel Berry gets blue "slushie'ed"

Finn gets purple "slushie'ed"

Finn and Quinn get purple "slushie'ed"

Puckerman gets purple "slushie'ed"




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