Rarely has a show been as divisive as Glee – not just in the popular ratings vs. critical mauling stakes, but even within the show itself. Divisions of writing, divisions of character, division of tone, and divisions of a show being what it could be vs. picking up the next shiny toy it gets its hands on.
What originally drew me to Glee was the sense of character and the sheer oddity of some of the relationships therein. For anyone who loved the film Election, Glee seemed cookie-cut to emulate that formula. This isn’t to dismiss those who love the musical element of the show – when Glee is at its best it is when it is firing on all cylinders, especially the music. When the songs thematically back up what they are trying to say, and often when they show just how much music and musical performance can mean to people (especially teenagers), this is when it really comes into its own.
The problem which I could see from the moment I set eyes on it, though, was what I like to call the “Desperate Housewives Complex”. Namely, when I get to know these characters for real, will the show still be tenable? Characters like Rachel Berry and Sue Sylvester gave the show its hook, and its structure, but it’s only a matter of time before the onion gets peeled. And even at the beginning I doubted that the show wouldn’t collapse under its own weight.
I consider myself right, and there have been some truly horrific moments throughout, but that doesn’t get in the way of the fact that Glee COULD be something amazing.
For the uninitiated, Glee tells the story of a group of high school students and their glee club – a musical competition forum that was on its last legs when resurrected by Spanish teacher Will Schuester. A former glee kid, Will gave up his dream of pursuing a musical career to settle with his (now ex) wife Terri. Will is a good guy at heart, though depending on the week he can go from understandable and slightly sad to manic and a danger to his students.
I should point out now that characterisation in Glee is more a guideline than a rule, and often characters can change from week to week depending on the plot. In my script I’ve tried to stay true to who I believe the characters are underneath, but whether this syncs up with the creators is anybody’s guess.
The club itself is a hodge-podge of cliches, not necessarily a bad thing once they get beneath the surface – there’s the aforementioned Rachel Berry, a sort of Barbra Streisand wannabe on pep pills. Rachel’s desire for fame and her relationship with fellow lead Finn Hudson – again, cliched in being the star quarterback torn between athletics and music – form much of the storyline weight in season one, complete with an illogical season two break-up.
When we join them, Finn has dumped Rachel and is considering rekindling his relationship with Quinn Fabray – head cheerleader, bitch but maybe not a bitch, who had a baby in season one which she gave to Rachel’s birth mother (to the strains of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, no less).
The baby daddy in this case was Noah “Puck” Puckerman, another football player with more of a fondness for the ladies, and currently wooing “plus-sized” wrestler, Lauren Zizes – it reeks a little a bit of tokenism (god, this whole show reeks a little bit of tokenism) but both actors sell it nicely.
On the less-developed “plus-size” side of things, we have Mercedes Jones – African-American diva with arguably the best voice on the team. The handling of the character of Mercedes has always troubled me, and more and more this season. She’s been one of the biggest casualties of Glee’s excessively large cast of cliches, in that she has never really been developed.
They occassionally wheel her out when they need to point out issues with body image, but then stuff her back in the chorus so quickly that it betrays how little they think of her. I rarely consider characters thinking outside the box as such, but the sheer nonsensity of Mercedes’ life must make her occassionally question whether she’s in a hastily written TV show. That, or she’s just an unignorable person who’s perpetually ignored – a more believable idea, and one that I try to put across in this script.
Mercedes’ best friend is Kurt, the flamboyant gay of the bunch, and one of the most central and delicately drawn players in season one, but has spun a little bit out of control. It’s very easy to turn victimhood into sainthood when character isn’t applied to circumstance, and Kurt’s a bit far in this direction – leaving the school for what can only be described as the Gay Utopia of Dalton Academy and, at this point in the narrative, latching his wounded heart on to fellow choir boy Blaine.
Back home, the glee club is rounded out by wheelchair-bound Artie (who has always seemed more interesting than he has any right to be, merely because nobody’s screwed up his charactarisation as of yet), his airhead-with-a-heart-of-gold (seriously, they could start a cardio-thoracic mining mission at this school) girlfriend Brittany, prima bee-atch fellow cheerleader Santana, and her current beau Sam – who’s also become somehow entrenched in the quagmire that is the Finn-Quinn-Puck-Rachel love dodecahedron.
Quinn, Santana and Brittany have recently ditched their pom-poms and frantically-shouting-things ways and left cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester in the dust. Sue Sylvester is evil, by many turns someone who would legitimately kill you, eat you and then spread your excreted remains on your Momma’s front porch. She also, obviously, has traces of heart-of-gold syndrome as well, represented in her care for her Downs Syndrome affected sister Jean, and similarly affected cheerleader Becky.
But most of all, Sue be crazy, y’all.
Sue and Will’s rivalry, cheerleaders vs. glee club, interesting hair vs. interesting hair, have been an ongoing – some might say worn-out – saga. How does one school deal with this much crazy among the teaching staff? By hiring more of the crazy, including larger-than-life-lady Coach Bieste and obsessive compulsive guidance counsellor and self-proclaimed hideous troll creature Emma, about whom Will has been obsessively compulsed since season one. Their relationship hit a bit of a rough patch when she married dentist Carl aka John Stamos. But that fizzle is still bubbling under, and we don’t see much of a future for Carl.
Is that all the characters in Glee? Who knows. But as long as you know that Artie’s in a wheelchair and his girlfriend’s Brittany, Mercedes is perpetually ignored, and many many many love polygons tend to erect themselves in the vicinity of Quinn and Finn, you should be okay.
Also, they sing a lot. ENJOY!