The episode “Funk” shows Vocal Adrenaline TPing Glee’s classroom. All right, Sue lets them in. But when high schoolers in my neighborhood TPed the outside of someone’s house they were marched off to jail. And doing it to the competition screams bad sportsmanship. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them disqualified from Regionals for their attitude. But instead, Will leads his students in planning a retaliatory escalation. The Glee kids steal the mascot and they are threatened with jail time. There’s no permanent censure for Will, their mentor and teacher, who pushed them into this mess. School stories have rules and consequences. But not always on Glee.
One day, Rachel walks into school dressed in the Brittany Spears naughty schoolgirl outfit. A list from high school orientation echoed through my head: no bare midriffs, no cleavage, no miniskirts. Even without uniforms, there’s still a dress code forbidding spaghetti straps and short-shorts. All right, television will have more provocative outfits than real life. But the next scene should have involved her being ordered to wear borrowed clothes or brown paper to cover all her bare skin.
In a more realistic scene, the students aren’t allowed to perform Rocky Horror, even when they skip the cross-dresser. But why does Will insist on pushing for it and wasting all the students’ work? And what about Cabaret as the school musical in “Preggers”? My own school banned that one because it contains an abortion with ambiguous judgment on it. To say nothing of prostitution. Sue doesn’t seem to have thought that one through.
Parent protests are often the cause of censorship. (Though there are plenty of rules about what can be taught or performed on school property). Holly the substitute’s risqué material would likely not be allowed, for instance. And the other teachers are problematic as well. “Sue the bully is out of control. No teacher can speak to students like that. She calls students freaks, bullies them and abuses them. I understand she is supposed to be the bad guy, but no one can get away with that kind of behavior,” one commentator protests (“Watching Glee”). And imagine how Rachel’s doting dads would feel upon hearing her school counselor tell her the lack of a gag reflex will be a blessing.
The parents’ complaints about the grinding, thrusting dance of “Showmance” seem quite justified. Will, however, doesn’t make the “inappropriate for high school” speech he does in “Grilled Cheesus.” He only tells Rachel she shouldn’t have been sneaky about it. And speaking of “Grilled Cheesus,” it seems unlikely the principal would ask his pastor for songs to sing with Jesus in the titles. What about church and state? Wouldn’t the parents of those kids who celebrate Hannukah andKwanza complain?
In fact, real-life parents are complaining, as the Parents Television Council calls Glee the “Worst TV Show of the Week.” Their article complains of “twisted humor and raunchy sensibilities,” adding that the episode “Showmance” “should have also contained the “S” descriptor for sexual situations, given the suggestive dancing and raunchy balloon antics.” There were more protests over a few Glee stars posing in a “near-pornographic display” in GQ (Parents Television Council).
High schoolers won’t watch a few episodes and instantly break school rules to stuff tater tots in a tailpipe or dress like Brittany Spears. But there’s some irritation on the horizon at how the reality of high school is simply ignored. Censorship, always a frustrating issue in high school performances, comes out ambivalent and arbitrary. The rules and their punishments shift. And if there’s one thing high schools can be counted on for, it’s consistent firm rules about how to dress and behave, which subjects are taboo, which rules must not be broken. And so, as a mirror of high school, Glee is a bit wobbly.