Shadow of its Former Self?
Written by Duana
It’s as fashionable to hate Glee as it once was to love it. But I don’t have a lot of cracks to make this week. The show focuses on the aftermath of Kurt’s Dad having a heart attack, remaining in a coma all episode. Whereupon Kurt is confronted by other peoples’ prayers for his father and, not believing in any higher power, resents them.
First and foremost, let’s give it to Chris Colfer. He’s consistently good, but even more than that, completely consistently Kurt. Never raises his voice, never gets angry, quick to shed a tear – he has one of the most accurate characters on this show. He’s real. So I’m glad this journey was his and not, say, Tina’s.
I can’t tell you how accurate this episode was for kids who sing in a high school choir. You can go to the most ecumenical school on earth, but if you sing in a group like this, sooner or later people will sing things they learned in church, or you’ll be invited to perform at one, or the choir directors discuss whether a big rollicking spiritual number being awesome will outweigh the fact that, technically, you shouldn’t discuss Jesus in a multifaith room.
Accurate too are the kids’ reactions. Quinn just shutting it down, terrified about conflicting ideas of God. Mercedes and Rachel not understanding why their efforts to help aren’t being well received. I don’t think the show went enough in depth about Kurt’s possible feelings of inadequacy – that without prayer, his Dad wouldn’t be healed, that if he didn’t succumb to an idea of ‘God’, that he wasn’t doing enough for his father. But that’s the subtext here, and I thought it was true and accurate that it would come up in this setting.
Truly, this show has always been about the power of spirituality in music. I don’t mean religious spirituality, but the good feeling you get from singing together. The way a song can lift you up when you feel like crap. Millions of kids figure this out whether they have any faith-based education or not – and of course, the music should be, and often is, enough on its own. One of the choirs I was in at school was a massive, 200 voice one. We sang “Jesus, We’re Depending On You” – and a Sikh guy with an incredible voice sang the solo. And…the end. That’s the whole story. It was awesome. It didn’t matter what the actual song was about, instead, what mattered was that you felt good – joyful - when you were singing a kick-ass song with that many people all together.
Which is why I didn’t have a problem with the “Mercedes brings Kurt to church” scene. Yes, okay, maybe she was pushy with her prayers after Kurt said he didn’t want them. But people, this FICTIONAL CHARACTER is fifteen years old. She hasn’t got all her political correctness sorted out yet. But in her mind, her logic works. “Makes Kurt feel good – church music makes me feel good – if I bring him to a place where everyone feels good about the music, he will feel good.” When something bad happens to someone you know, the worst feeling you have is the inability to DO something. She did what she felt she could.
And this is what this show should always be about. Awkward teenagers figuring stuff out together. Running into situations they haven’t encountered and being able to deal with them because the people with opposing views are people they love. Most of the songs (short of ‘Only The Good Die Young’, which was pointless) were pretty accurate in terms of how these kids would deal with this issue. It was surface-y, sure. And as Colfer himself tweeted – it has a happy ending. But it was more like the “Glee” I thought I was getting into last fall. Even Sylvester’s weekly meddling had a point, actually benefitted one of the kids (arguably), and was resolved in a way that felt completely heavy-handed and manipulative, but also fairly true. She saw her sister, who made her believe in something. Trite? Maybe. But I bet it happens.
So the reason this article is titled “Shadow Of Its Former Self” is because I saw the Glee I knew in this episode. The phrase seems to mean something bad, but I felt hopeful that we could get back to the kind of show where things that affect real teenagers come up. I didn’t even mind the Finn storyline, hokey as it was because (and maybe I’m giving it too much credit) there are kids like this too. Who don’t think about spirituality ever, at all, consider it for a week, and then go back to not thinking about it much.
But I bet money that Ryan Murphy and his staff will be told they need a ‘light’ episode to follow this one up. More froth, less feeling. Which is too bad. Kids are in choir because they need to be over-the-top in expressing themselves. Because singing is, truly and honestly, the only way they can figure things out sometimes. But you have to let me actually be with the characters – like we were, this week, with Kurt – so I can feel with them. And though you may still hate a show where characters burst into song, at least you can hate the show for what it wants to be – not what it is when it burps up Britney remixes.
Photos from Wenn.com and Bauergriffinonline.com