Glee isn’t just a kids’ show. It’s a show about kids for adults. As a result, many of the show’s storylines (pick your poison: adultery, racism, teen pregnancy, homophobia) may be a bit outr’ for the early elementary set. But few can resist its luscious combination of good-looking actors, secondary public educational setting, and plenty of glorious singing and dancing, so kids are getting hooked – and really, who could blame them?
So what’s a good Glee-ky family to do when the irascible Coach Sue spews racial epithets, teenage baby daddy Puck hides his identity or desperate housewife Teri starts peddling prescription drugs? Some might say, reach for the remote. We say, read this list of Ten Teachable Moments and enjoy the rest of season.
– Brett Berk and Romi Lassally
You don’t need to be “In With the In Crowd”
Shows and movies never tire of singing the siren song of adolescence: popularity. But this show deals with kids’ very real struggle between acting cool and being true to themselves honestly, and in every episode. And generally, the characters make the proper choices – or are very obviously wracked with guilt, conflict, insomnia and stomachaches until they do. Status in school may be “like-currency,” as cheerleader Quinn tells us. But she eventually discovers that her true home is not with the backstabbing Cheerios, but with the kind and inclusive Glee kids.
Choose human loyalty vs. canine loyalty
In nearly every episode, kids witness the difference between the reactionary wolf-pack-like take-down maneuvers that bind the McKinley football players and the heartwarming and creative ways in which the vulnerable Glee members protect each other. When singing quarterback Finn is peer-pressured into tossing a grape slushie onto one of the “dorks,” who else but out show-queen Kurt would pour the frozen drink on himself, posing the question “Now think about whether any of your friends on the team would have done that for you?”
Equal opportunity can exist
Where else will you find a singing and dancing troupe that proudly counts as members a boy like Artie, who performs his moves (with mad skills) from the seat of a wheelchair or a girl like Tina who stutters recklessly (until she admits to faking it all along!). Not to mention the troupe’s shimmering rainbow of human ethnic, racial, gender, religious, and sexual heterogeneity. Returning Glee alumnae April summed it up best: “You people look like the world’s worst Benetton ad.” Which I think of as a compliment, and so should your kids.
Be your own (pink) self
Kurt isn’t the first gay, teenage, musical theater lover to appear on national TV, but he’s probably the most endearing. His numerous comings out – to his friends, to his family, to himself – were handled honestly and received with affection (or blas’ acceptance), demonstrating for kids how only the mean-spirited, ignorant and bigoted take issue with gay people. Plus his teaching the football team to dance to Beyonc”s “Single Ladies” was not only hot and hilare, it led to their winning their first (and only) game.
Don’t be a desperate housewife
What better demonstration of the female tragedy of being lost in your boyfriend or husband’s world do we have than the annoying, cloying, lying, desperate, manipulative (and too-skinny) Terri Schuester, wife of Spanish teacher and Glee coach/hero, Will. She puts all her eggs in one basket (literally), inventing a lie about being pregnant in order to keep her man, trails him to work to spy on him, and ends up becoming an amphetamine-pushing fake school nurse. What not to do, girls.
Be cautious of mixing business with pleasure
Yes, many relationships begin in the workplace; it’s where people meet. But if you’re already married – even if you’re married to a manipulative scheming woman like Will is – you should probably avoid spending too much time with an adorable, well-dressed, worshipful, doe-eyed, charming, damaged, slightly stalky guidance counselor like Emma.
Ambition can drive you, but don’t let it drive you crazy
Many of our showtrash characters long for their literal or figurative moment (or moments) at center stage. But in Rachel Berry, kids witness first hand the pleasure and pain of struggling with raging desire. Rachel’s ambition leads her to fall prey to other’s plots – like evil cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester’s maneuvering to destroy the Glee team by offering her the lead in the school play. But she always (eventually) discovers the right path, subsuming her potential glory when necessary, for the good of others.
You CAN’T get pregnant from going in the hot tub. You can get pregnant if you have sex.
Want to discuss human reproduction? You can point out that a good girl like Quinn definitively cannot get pregnant from hanging in a hot tub with her handsome quarterback boyfriend. But that she certainly can from a one night stand with her boyfriend’s handsome tight-end best friend.
High school should be the beginning, not the end
More than anything else, this show is a great way to remind kids that the folks who peak in high school have a long way (and a long time) to plummet from that teensy nano-moment of glory. The dweebs, freaks, weirdos, geeks, goobers and spazzes tend to become much more interesting people (and to rule our increasingly creative world) down the line.
Tell the truth, even if it hurts
Yes, Quinn paid a hefty price for Finn’s truth-telling, She’s Having My Baby ballad, but honesty is always far better than trying to keep the kind of secret that threatens to reveal itself at any dress fitting. With the cat out of the bag, Quinn and Finn can at last face their uncertain future together, and allow themselves the opportunity to receive a little help from their friends.