I’m a Big Glee Fan – And, No, I’m Not Gay

I'm a Big Glee Fan - And, No, I'm Not GayConfessions of, God Help Me, a Glee Fan

My name is Anthony Benigno, and I am a Gleek.

That’s right, me. The same guy who referred to himself as a meathead in print last week and wrote a column about why I hate Sex and the City 2 on principle. Same guy. Gleek.

I am not ashamed of this. Do I watch Glee? Damn skippy I watch Glee. It’s fun, it’s light, and despite the moments when Glee tries to cram an After School Special-type message down your throat with impunity, it is, all things considered, a pretty damn good show that manages to pass up typical high school schlock in favor of something a little deeper.

I could list, in-depth, all the ways in which Glee is a good show, but read any article about Glee out there and you’re likely to hear the same talking points: the kids are fantastic singers, Jane Lynch is flawless as the venomous cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, Lea Michelle is fantastic as the prissy prima donna Rachel, etc. But the main reason I enjoy Glee is a bit more complicated.

I’m a big fan of musicians, the concept and process of making music, and the finished product in general. Other shows (notably HBO’s Treme – “trem-ay,” by the way) depict music as a healing tool, but only Glee seems to take the proper joy in doing so. Treme is philosophical and depressing; I’m depressed enough on Tuesday nights that I have to get up the next day. I want something fun, and on Glee, show in, show out; whether the episodes have stunk (and there have been a few), the songs have never failed to entertain me. There’s just something great about taking these big, cheesy ’80s songs, reinterpreting them for a modern audience – the show’s version of “Sweet Caroline” could have been a Train cover – and having perky theater kids sing them instead of oversexed, thirtysomething rock gods with the liver of a 60-year-old Irishman. Even the most recent episode, which was kind of eh for me, featured two showstoppers: meatheads Finn (Cory Montieth) and Puck (show-stealing Mark Salling) warbling out Beck’s “Loser” as they 9-to-5 it at a local Bed, Bath & Beyond-type store, and Quinn (Dianna Agron), the super-duper-dee-duper preggo ex-cheerleader, belting out James Brown’s “This is a Man’s Man’s World.” The performance had such soul it almost (almost) distracted from the eyeball-scorching choreography that featured a bunch of other pregnant women waving their baby bumps around like maracas.

Also, Glee somehow incorporates and transcends the high school show. The archetypes are there – the bullies, the jocks, et cetera – but Glee has by and large deviated from the main script. There’s blatant homophobia and gay-bashing in Glee, one kid throws around the word “faggy” with reckless abandon in one scene, and there’s even some anti-Semitism, of all things, finding its way into the formula. Sample dialogue: “I thought Jews were supposed to be smart?”

A love of Glee, of course, is not an easy thing for a self-proclaimed meathead to explain to his peers. I’ve taken a lot of shit from people who refer to Glee as a “gay” show, and who can’t understand why I would watch such a thing. Yes, I am straight and most of my male friends are straight as well. But why can’t I be a red-blooded, God-fearing heterosexual and a card-carrying Gleek at the same time? Yeah, the Glee kids sing a lot of showtunes and three of the actors (Jane Lynch, Chris Colfer and the great Jonathan Goff) are gay. And? If enjoying the work of gay actors reflects on your sexual preferences, then we are all gay now.

And so now, as Glee jazz-hands its way towards the season finale next Tuesday, I’m faced with a few realities about my relationship to this show. The first: I’ve been a Gleek for about nine months now, with no signs of recovery anytime soon. The second: I have thus far managed to resist buying the songs on iTunes, although I did cave and cop the outstanding “Don’t Stop Believin’” cover. Let’s hope it sticks. Third, and here’s the interesting part: I don’t care about any of the characters on that show, at least not like I did with Lost, The Office, or even How I Met Your Mother. They’re all archetypes, and they’re aware of it. Glee indulges in self-parody, which is part of its charm. Things may happen that will move you emotionally (Kurt’s dad berating Finn for using the word “faggy;” Rachel getting egged by her ex in the parking lot, and Will’s meltdown over his wife’s fake pregnancy), but for the most part, Glee is like a chorus line: you can see the plot turns coming a mile away (if the Glee Club doesn’t win at Regionals next week, I’ll be stunned, which is why I’m convinced they’re going to lose), but it remains fresh and exciting. Sometimes a show isn’t about the story; it’s about the delivery. Glee is clearly a labor of love.

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