Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I Hate Glee, and You Should Too

Guest post by Jacob Gutnicki

What’s wrong with Glee you ask? On the surface it seems innocent enough. This show features students singing rock and pop classics with their own music styling’s in which a motley crew of High School students are grappling with being accepted by their peers. To their credit, the actors and actresses playing the kids are a delight.

It’s the adults I take issue with. Something has to be done about the adults. Let’s start with the Principal. Principal Figgins plays an inept out of touch administrator. If that is not enough, every teacher in the building has significant social-emotional issues. The message of the writer is clear. It is no wonder why our students are failing. Look at their teachers. They are a bunch of losers!

To be fair, I understand it’s a television show with elements of humor. I also understand that some teachers do have significant issues. I myself have written about such subject matters. However, I think Glee’s depiction of educators are often irresponsible at best and more likely feeds into a political narrative that is bent on disrespecting all that teachers do. Additionally, the core audience for this show is the youth we teach. One should also keep in mind other current shows such as the Simpsons lampoons teachers and administrators as buffoons. With this in mind, I would suggest that the Glee writers take a cue from “The Wire”. This show presented an honest look at the challenges and opportunities teaching inner city kids presents. At the same time, it did not resort to the disrespecting the work of pedagogues.

Having said that, I do not truly hate Glee. However, I think it is important to raise awareness of these issues as the subtle narrative left unchecked reinforces some of the worst behaviors that certain political operatives enjoy fibbing about. In the end, there are many issues with respect to education that require review. However, addressing such issues must be done with honesty and not foolish rhetoric.


  1. I know what you mean. I don't watch Glee, but I sometimes lose my patience with movies that show challenged inner-city classrooms being transformed by one inspirational teacher. The hero is highlighted by being surrounded by jaded teachers and lazy administrators who have lost their passion for teaching and have grown to disdain the students.

    Those people exist to be sure, but in my experience most inner-city teachers are hard-working and patient. They are constantly looking for new ways to help students learn. When an exceptional teacher finds a new way to inspire students, those efforts are usually met with encouragement and emulation, not the ostracism found in the movies. It's a profession filled with heroes, which may not make as good of a narrative.

    I'm often torn, because most of these films have at their heart an appreciation of the art of teaching, which is a positive message, but they tend to trash teachers in the process, which bothers me.

  2. Dear Innovative Educator: Lighten up.

  3. I wonder where the tv shows come up with these crazy ideas of teachers? Those Simpson/Glee writers must be awful creative to dream up these scenarios...or they've seen these characters in school more often than they've seen good teachers or good administrators.

    Doing a rough count of the 10 teachers in my area at school, I can think of two who no longer go chapter by chapter through their social studies book. Two out of 10 actually do something different than how they were taught 25 years ago.

    If I thought it was boring in 1985, I guarantee the 12 year olds hate it in 2010.

  4. "The Wire" is an amazing example of the things I have gone through in my own teaching experiences, but to be quite facutal I worked probably in the one of the worst neighbourhoods in Canada, but it could never be as bad as "The Wire". You can't transfer the lessons taught in "The Wire" to working with kids with million dollar homes and those kids love Glee.

  5. WOW!!! Seriously, this is a ridiculous post. Innovative Educator, I am disappointed in you. Mr. Gutnicki, I am shocked that you are unable to differentiate between, and acknowledge, two totally different genres of television (and their subsequent ability to deal with issues realistically). And, I am saddened that you fail to acknowledge the sense of empowerment a good portion (gay, black, overweight, disabled) of the characters convey to the audience.

    And, if you truly don't hate Glee, change the title of your post!!!

  6. Well, I had to check the date of this post to make sure it wasn't April 1 because this it reads like a bit of a joke.

    Not to insult the writer, but the post is totally lackluster in its ability to convince the reader of any significant failings of a playful, blithe, and amusing show that (unlike your comparison of The Wire) is not intended to deal with social issues in a serious manner.

    The comparison of The Wire to Glee is nonsensical, on too many levels. The Wire is a substantial drama, while Glee is a high-spirited comedy. The writers of each show are charged with, and afforded opportunities to deal with vastly different issues, in vastly different manners. The Wire is a show broadcast on HBO, which is a premium cable network, while Glee is a shown broadcast on Fox (this fact alone affords the writers of The Wire ample opportunities to explore issues in far more depth and with far more realism) The Wire also has a very different setting to that of Glee, which in turn reflects in the character representations within each show. Your comparison is absurd to say the least!

    Additionally, for the writer of this post to associate the ineptness of a character with his nationality / accent is an issue I think the writer himself needs to address because I am very much able to separate the two facts. I am Pakistani, by the way, and take no offense with the character of Mr. Figgins.

    Let's keep this in perspective, please! Glee is a comedy television show that is intended to magnify the flaws in each of its characters in such a way as to engage the viewer on humorous level.

    This is a very odd post for this blog!

  7. Definitely some interesting comments. To be clear, I understand that "The Wire", "Glee", and "The Simpsons" are different genres. I was also not trying to compare "The Wire" to "Glee". However, I could understand, why one might make that conclusion.

    As previously stated, I think the kids are great. I agree with you that through the student body many important social issues have been raised. However, their characterization of teachers and administrators is not endearing.

    I expected that some people would agree with this post, some would not, and some would be indifferent. Having said that, I thank all for the feedback as it is always interesting to hear the varying takes on a blog post.

  8. This is an interesting post Jacob, but I’m not sure of the relevance in terms of "innovation". It would have been great to look at the innovative aspects of Glee in an era of multi media absorption and consumption:


    But, given the focus and intent of your post, I will respond appropriately.

    You could be accused of totally misunderstanding the whole point of Glee because the introduction of your comparison TV shows provides no support to your argument. You cannot compare Glee to The Wire on any level. Nor can you compare their representation of teachers.

    You have introduced two very different televisual concepts and attempted to make a direct comparison regarding the representation of adults (educators) in each. The problem in doing so is that your argument is difficult to uphold due to the significant differences not only in the genre, but also in the subject matter of each show and the networks that broadcast them. Glee can never, and should never tell the same stories as The Wire and to expect of Glee the same representation of teachers as in the Wire is unfair and unreasonable.

    People don't watch Glee with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of educators, nor do they watch it to determine how an American school operates. People are more likely to watch for the escapism, the humor, the music, or the dancing. I suspect these are some of the reasons behind the show's huge success.

    As an educator, I actually do recognize some of the characters and their traits. I recognize the desperate need for acceptance, which is the underlying theme of the show. I recognize the youngsters, their hierarchies, their interactions. I recognize the joy in finding acceptance and confidence in your abilities. But, I also recognize the fact each of these components are assembled and conveyed in a highly exaggerated and comedic manner, for the purpose of pure entertainment. That said, the show is often a pretty realistic commentary about the enduring aspects of life in an educational setting.

    But, your points are more specific to the adults, so let's look at a few of them. Sure, the Sue Sylvester character is vindictive and unethical, but are you suggesting that educators are immune to this character trait? Perhaps the principal is indeed somewhat inept and out of touch, but are you implying that all administrators work to the highest of standards? But then there’s Mr. Schuster, who could actually be considered a rather empathetic, responsible individual who has succeeded in gathering a group of students for a pretty great purpose.

    Plus, as fellow educators, let's be totally honest with each other and acknowledge the fact that not every educator we encounter is the bastion of respectability and professionalism. I have seen examples of some of the most appalling behaviors, dress codes, work ethics, bullying, and inappropriate language in schools. And, I am honestly not referring to students.

    You also accuse the show of perpetuating a stereotype regarding a foreigner. Yet, I am struggling to remember a previous Pakistani principal on TV in order to make any judgment as you have done. I see no correlation between this character's nationality and his character traits, and I am really unsure how this was relevant. Given the absolute lack of Pakistani (or other foreign) principals on TV, I am not sure this is classed as a stereotypical portrayal. For something to be a stereotype, there needs to be more than one similar portrayal, no?

    Anyway, I guess what I am trying to convey is that the hyperbolic nature of Glee is clearly not intended to represent any realism about our school system, students, or educators. The exaggerated representation prevalent throughout Glee is clearly intended to caricature specific "types" of people within a highly stereotypical environment

    Don't hate Glee, just accept it for the (sometimes) funny show it is.

  9. Andrew, thank you for sharing. You raised some very interesting points. As I stated previously, I am not trying to compare Glee to Wire.

    Additionally, I agree that we have our fair share of educators that display appalling behavior. However, lets consider the following; with the exception of Schuster all the primary educational characters including the principal, guidance counselor, football coach, former Glee director, and Sue exhibit significant shortcomings.

    While I understand that this is a comedy, I think it would be nice if there were other educators that were portrayed positively. Finally, I leave with you this question, "Do popular shows like Glee impact our perception of who educators are or not?"


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