19 March 2011

Post-Idealism Let Down

There is a television show called "Glee." It's really popular. I've seen a few episodes and I don't like it.

It's strange that I don't like it as my years in high school were very much like "Glee." I was in the boys and group choirs (often a featured soloist) and in theater (worked on about 20 shows dancing, acting and singing on stage and working back stage). Despite all the problems during those years (being smart, being gay, being a loner and being picked on by most of the other kids) I loved high school -- and being part of the performing arts was a big reason why.

So, why don't I like "Glee"? Good question.

Matt watches "Glee" all the time. Occasionally I sit with him and watch -- especially if there is a cute guy on. Last night I watched part of the episode where the clubs went to the regional finals -- and I finally realized why I don't like "Glee": its idealism.

Don't get me wrong: I am not some cranky old man who hates perky kids and all their idealism. No. In fact, I was once one of those perky kids filled with idealism that life was great and I was going to be great, too. My idealism led me to drop out of college and move to California to continue with theatre, to get into the big time, to be a famous actor and make something of myself.

While a cold splash of reality changed that, it did not dampen my idealism. I returned to writing and made quite a success of it for many years, thank you. But during those years, without realizing it, my idealism was slowly replaced with reality: The need to earn money -- sometimes doing work I loved; many times, not. The need to set aside what I wanted in order to be supportive of someone I love. The need to accept that things will not always go the way I want them to.

My life is different than I imagined it would be in my idealistic "Glee" years; but I am not complaining. I have a great life, a wonderful spouse, wonderful friends. I am not doing the job I want full time -- print journalism having been one of the first casualties of the internet world; but I have a day job that pays me a lot of money and comes with super benefits that somewhat ease the sting of my idealistic disappointment.

I loved the idealism of my youth, even if that meant more disappointment with the reality of adulthood. In my youth, the idealism that formed in my own brain set the bar rather higher than I would end up achieving; but the idealism on "Glee" sets it higher than any human can achieve.

In the idealistic world of "Glee" the dorky gay boy gets the hot boyfriend. The nerdy boy in a wheelchair lands the hot cheerleader as a girlfriend. The very overweight girl is doggedly pursued by a hot football guy. But there are disappointments: One girl cannot land the quarterback for a boyfriend because she has so much talent that she is destined for Broadway and a life better than settling down and having his kids.

Do I wish life could be like "Glee"? Hell, yeh; but it's not. Here is the reality: young boys and girls who "come out" as gay in high school experience an empowering moment that all too often leads to bullying and physical abuse from their peers. Overweight girls are picked on for being "fat." Hot football guys experience a few years of adulation that changes with the crushing realization that, after high school, they have no marketable skills. There are still cliques that exclude peers because of their clothing, their income levels, their personal preferences. This is the reality that exists everywhere, not just in high school.

While I fully support idealism, I feel sorry for any young person who watches "Glee" and thinks that's what life is really like. It is not fair to show them a life that does not and cannot exist.


Kris said...

It's interesting; these guys tend to agree with your cynicism. But they love the show anyway, for the most part. I don't think anybody watching Glee thinks life is really like that. It's over the top! It's just escapism.

Kris said...

Also: I think you've missed a couple episodes that might have tempered the idealistic tone. Yes, Kurt's life is pretty good now, but the first few episodes of the season were really bad. He was bullied and threatened by another student for being gay, to the point where he changed schools. It's not all sunshine and roses. Well, maybe 98%. :)