I Was Glee Before Glee Was Cool
I was an awkward teenager. This comes, I'm sure, to no surprise of anyone I have ever met. How could I not be? The odds were totally stacked against me. I grew up in rural Northwest Iowa (by rural I mean we had to drive two towns over to the nearest Walmart). We had country radio stations and....nothing else. Ok, there was one pop radio station that came out of Minnesota but that was it. I loved musical theatre, and jazz standards, and Elton John.....the list goes on and on. But where do you go to express yourself, to immerse yourself in the arts that you so love, when there isn't anything around?
You don't. So, how did I try to fit in? I tried several things: cheerleading, talking a lot, not talking at all, being smart, pretending not to be smart, dating a lot, not dating at all, etc. Oh, and it was an EPIC FAIL on all accounts. I just didn't fit in. I was shy so I would pretend to be outspoken. One day I thought, if I can't fit in maybe it would be better to stick out. So, I cocked my head in every picture taken of me in a yearbook. (If you went to ELC High School, take this moment to check your yearbooks to validate). I was WEIRD! But here's the real kicker: I wasn't so unlike everyone else.
Being an arts educator, I have students relate their versions of this story to me every day. The awkward boy humming show tunes in the back of the classroom, the seemingly shy girl hitting all the parties on the weekend to fit in, the jock who really likes music but can't tell his other jock friends. It's everywhere! This is why I was so happy when GLEE came onto the small screen. Sure, it's got good music (or as a friend of mine put it, it's Say Anything the Musical). But the greater impact of this show is how artistic people now have something they can relate to. Sure, these appear to be fictional characters, but more often than not, this is really happening at most schools. Who can't relate to at least one of these characters? The prom king and queen? Well you don't count anyway!
So I say, keep these shows coming! Give us weird, socially awkward, artistic people something to relate to. Maybe we'll finally realize we're all weird!!