My new guilty pleasure is Fox’s “Glee.” I love it, but because the content is not typically aligned with my convictions, I feel guilty about liking it. Though I’m not crazy about all the moral/ethical leanings of the show, I think there is something there to learn from “Glee” – and that’s what I like. Interestingly, I’m not alone. Lots of other people seem to like “Glee” as well. If you’re not familiar with the storyline, let me give you a quick run-down.
“Glee’s” main character is a Spanish teacher named, Will Schuester. Will, looking to regain some of the meaning and past glory of his own teen years at the high school where he now teaches, restarts the once popular glee club, of which he was once a member. In Will’s day, the glee club was cool (which is hard to believe), but as of late has fallen on hard times (this is no doubt a small comment on school’s cutting back fine arts programs across the country). Will’s desire is to bring hope and music to some students, and perhaps find some of his lost self at the same time.
In forming the glee club, Will assembles a hodge-podge of misfits and outcasts There’s Rachel, the drama queen born with the belief she will be a star; Kurt, Mercedes, and others, including the wheel-chair bound, Artie who all form their own island of misfit toys. They are all talented, all disenfranchised, all on the outside of the mainstream looking in.
Interestingly, “Glee” reminds us that everyone, in some way, is on the outside looking in.
As the story progresses, Will discovers, Finn Hudson, the quarterback of the hapless football team, is also a gifted singer and recruits Finn to join the group. In time, other students join the glee club; including Finn’s girlfriend, and head cheerleader, Quinn – who is there mainly to spy for the conniving cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester (wonderfully played by one of my favorite actresses, Jane Lynch) – and one of Finn’s football friends, Puck, joins the group as well.
Not to ruin the story, but every character in this story, from the kids in the glee club to Principal Figgins to Will and his wife, Terri, are profoundly lonely. Each one is groping for their place in the world and something larger of which to be a part. Glee’s characters are searching for some one or some thing that will bring purpose, meaning and direction to their lives: a baby, a trophy, stardom, a marriage, a chance to break out of their small town, and even the acceptance of a parent.
How hard it must be for kids who love to sing and dance to be forced to do it alone.
Ultimately “Glee” is about longing to be loved for who we are, which is why, I think, the writers and producers chose such extreme characters. In their longing to be “with” others, we are allowed to lower our guards and find some of ourselves within them. And that’s why so many people sing and dance with glee!
As I’ve preached through the book of Acts this fall, I’ve been stunned by how all-inclusive and all-embracing is the community of the cross. As Glee illustrates, there are precious few places where someone can find his or her self or discover their place without ridicule or exclusion.
That’s why the church of Jesus is special. If nothing else, the church is meant by God to be a place where all that call on the name of the Lord DO fit; where all are invited and there is the constant extension of welcome.
I long for a day when a show like Glee isn’t popular. Unpopular not because the singing and dancing are poor, but rather because no one knows what it’s like to be left out, to be alone, to exist without a community and longing. Until then, though, may we create spaces and places where no one sings alone.