THEATER TALK: Why I Don't Watch "Glee" (And You Shouldn't, Either)
I was a Gleek. I even have a T-shirt, regrettably purchased at Hot Topic, that proclaims me to be one, replete with the iconic finger and thumb in the shape of an L. After the pilot aired, my friend and I camped out in a mall to meet the cast, and I was tickled when Lea Michele told me she liked my "Spring Awakening" shirt.
Over this past summer, though, something changed. I guess I'd noticed that the quality of "Glee" had steadily been declining since, oh, about the fourth episode of the first season (I'm still a sucker for the "Single Ladies" episode, I must say), but I was in denial. I think I was mostly fighting against being one of those theater people who are snooty and hate "Glee." I didn't want to be cast in with the pretentious types. But then I worked at a theater camp and I saw the "Glee effect" for myself.
Every session, we had a talent show. The older campers, especially the 10-13 year old girls, usually opted to perform a song. To my dismay, more often than not, they would reenact "Glee" performances. My qualms about them watching "Glee" aside (after all, it deals with some pretty mature themes), I was disturbed by the fact that they were turning in these robotic reenactments.
This is no comment on the talent of the campers, but more the anesthetized nature of everything on "Glee." Theater feeds off of the audience's energy and the sense that anything is possible, but everything on "Glee" seems so inevitable and set in stone. The cast (who, granted, displays a large variance in the spectrum of innate vocal talent) is overproduced beyond recognition. The choreography is sterile. Some of the arrangements are incredibly boring, and the ones that are good are often borrowed from other groups or artists (though Ben Bram, Ed Boyer, & co have been doing some good work from what I've heard of this season, so props to them for that). "Glee" is seemingly relying on camerawork to evoke emotion, and honestly, the strongest feeling I get from the show's kinetic camerawork is nausea.
I've always felt that we go to the theater for catharsis. My favorite shows are the ones that make me feel something, be it joy, sadness, or even a desire to go out and change the world. So shouldn't any work of performance, but especially a show about theater, evoke the same response from me? I want to care about the characters. I want to feel protective of them. When something monumental happens to them, I should feel for them. But take last week's episode of "Glee." Something monumental happened to Quinn, and I just sat there shaking my head, in disbelief that the writers would pull that.
I'm certainly glad that "Glee" has raised general awareness about the arts and musical theater, don't get me wrong. But the product "Glee" is selling isn't quite what audiences of a live show are getting. Mistakes happen. Things change. An actor might have a different interpretation of the song on Friday night than he does at Sunday's matinee, but both could be equally valid. Theater is inherently imperfect, and I think that is what makes it so wonderful. Like all of us, it is striving for perfection, but there's something comforting in the knowledge that, also like all of us, it won't ever be perfect, it will just be the best it can be.
Reach Katie here.