Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Glee-ful Drama

We all need a little stupid drama in our lives. I don't mean real "drama" or even the high school version of the word. I mean honest, legitimate, fully-accurate TV-enabled dramatics.

The term "drama" comes from a Greek word meaning "to act," which indicates that - despite society's love for using the term to refer to petty disagreements and personal issues - drama really did originate as a word to describe the concept of "acting," of theater and performing. And that's really the only place I'm willing to tolerate it.

Glee came back on tonight. Does anything else need to be said? For the sake of this blog, I say yes.

I started watching this show when its first season aired in 2009. It was teased like crazy on Facebook, which served as a reminder for me despite already being very aware that the show had some great cast members lined up for starring roles. Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele and Jenna Ushkowitz were already known to me for their Broadway careers. I even knew of Kevin McHale from being acquainted with his early work in a terrible dancing boy band (if only that were a real term), NLT.

In a month it will have been three years since I saw the Pilot episode back when it aired as a preview on FOX prior to the rest of the first season a few months later. I remember thinking "meh." But I stuck around because of the music. I went on to buy the first season on DVD - setting me back some ridiculous sum of money. And I continued to watch the show through its three seasons.

Now, watching the episode which aired tonight and thinking back on the show's past, I have to keep reminding myself that besides sticking around for the music, I guess I must have some investment in the characters and their stories.

I've been a shipper for some of the couples, I've gasped and cringed at some of the exchanges - sometimes when it was warranted by the show and other times because the writing and acting was just ghastly.

Over time, my relationship with Glee has been tried, and though it's constantly been a love-hate relationship, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't twice as often love as it is hate.

In my own life, I hate so-called drama. I purposely avoid situations that make me feel emotionally vulnerable. If I'm placed in one, I can't help but overreact. And because I can't handle these situations in reality, I have to find an outlet for my inner angst and unconscious desire for conflict.

TV is my outlet.

That being said, I cannot stand most televised dramas. There is only so far the histrionics can extend before I become so disturbed that I have to switch the screen off and never look back. But Glee, unlike shows that are 100 percent intense stares and muted yelling, is three parts uplifting to its one part maddeningly overreaching.

For those who haven't watched the show, you need only see five minutes - during which you'll hopefully witness Darren Criss singing a song and then never dream of turning the TV off - to understand what it is I'm referring to. Even when there is a moment of tension or sadness in the show, it is immediately met by some - to put it most clearly - skittles, puppies and rainbows conclusion.

When Quinn was disowned by her family, Finn found her a place at his own home soon after. When Kurt was outed and put in a difficult position at school, he was able to go away to Dalton Academy like it was no big deal. Five minutes later he decided to transfer back to McKinley and his boyfriend Blaine, who had been adamant about staying away from public schools, was plunging right back into the world of slushies and bone-headed jocks. These examples only scratch the surface.

Unlike in reality, or even in most other TV shows, once there is a problem on Glee, you know it will cease to exist the next time you return from a commercial break. Even if I can't handle the stress of real life drama, this kind of surreal and wack-a-doodle world is something I can believe in. If only because it gives me the thrill without the anxiety of actual problems.

It reminds me a bit of a quote from He's Just Not that Into You (another item of media that I am so proud to know well enough to recite). In the movie, Alex (who is played by Justin Long) says "You feed off that drama" when talking to Gigi about how men invented the term "spark" to describe relationships so that women would assume that their anxiety after meeting a guy is associated with some deeper unconscious longing for them.

Accusing her of loving drama, Gigi protests, but Alex quickly follows up. He says, "So you never waited until the last minute on a deadline or a phone bill because secretly you kind of love the drama of not knowing whether you're going to make it?"

I never agreed with this assumption on Alex's part. On a personal level, the anxiety becomes so debilitating for me that I'd much rather get a project or a responsibility out of the way than run on a deadline and try to get it done with just a second left in time to hear that hallelujah chorus.

But when I watch TV I have no personal stake in the matter. Unlike the stability of real life that I crave, what I want from my little antenna-laden and proper remote-lacking television is something that is, to put it simply, more exciting than reality.

Glee has just the right amount of excitement to keep me enticed without forcing me away because of the brutality and formulaic "honesty" that a lot of other shows purport to share with their audiences. The reason I've watched this occasionally terrible, often laughed at, show for almost three years is that I can't find any equitable alternative.

In the past I had Gilmore Girls which, in addition to being 3/4 funny and 1/4 serious like Glee, was infinitely cleverer than the latter. But now so little is available besides run-of-the-mill sitcoms and dramas (cop shows, detective shows, lawyer shows, doctor shows - please stop with the stereotypical career-centric television!) that I've had to resort to something sub-par that just barely fits within the standards of watchability.

I won't stop watching Glee, simply because it fills this void for me where good television has struck out. There are still some good dramas on TV - I love Downton Abbey - but Glee, despite its inherit awkwardness and awfulness, is acceptable. It is tolerable even despite its own self-aware kitsch.

And I like it. If that makes me a loser then I give anyone the right to forcibly place my fingers in the shape of an "L" on my forehead. It's the price I'll pay.

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