A Look Back On "Glee", 2009's Landmark Musical TV Show
As with many young adults, I grew up at the time when Glee was slowly climbing its way towards becoming a TV legend. I distinctly remember its breakout season, how everyone was talking about this "great new TV show" that "you have to watch". This was years before Netflix or streaming sites came on the scene—people then really had to make time to catch Glee on TV (or download it, at that). In my mind, as well in the minds of many others, it was the zeitgeist of a generation—one that was only beginning to understand what it meant to be living in a world such as ours.
Below are a few of the reasons why Glee was such a memorable (and important!) TV show in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
It tastefully tackled sensitive issues
The early 2010s were still a relatively conservative time on TV. There wasn't as much sensitivity towards issues as there is now and portrayals of difficult situations verged on the overly dramatic or absurd. Glee was part of what changed that. They tackled provocative but necessary topics that range from Quinn Fabray's (Diana Agron) teen pregnancy to Mercedes Jones' (Amber Riley) body image issues. Domestic violence, struggles with sexual orientation, and even school shootings were also tackled at one point or another throughout their six seasons.
The actors were really talented
Despite all the dramedy (the genre coined by its producers for the defunct show) that the Glee cast may or may not have been part of, no one can deny: they are all insanely talented. Their songs and voices have touched a generation—opening doors for aspiring singers around the world. They famously reintroduced classic Broadway and West End music, among many other genres, with their cover hits throughout the series to a younger generation which at the time was crazy over Winnie Holzman's Wicked.
The characters were complex, yet very relatable
Glee's casting was one of the most inclusive in 2010; they featured people with disabilities, people of colour, and people of various sexual orientations. Because of this, Glee managed to drive in a wide demographic of young people. The nuances to these characters—such as Tina Cohen-Chang's (Jenna Ushkowitz) fake stutter and Emma Pillsbury's (Jayma Mays) tendencies towards obsessive-compulsive disorder—gave them depth while staying relatable.
Many of the characters featured on the show were also typically stereotyped—whether it be by their race, their hobby, or their looks. But by featuring these people and giving their stories a chance to be heard, Glee managed to capture an audience that related to these dynamic, yet very real characters.
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It shone a light on the LGBTQ+ community
Glee had a pretty wide portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community. The first gay character in the series to come out was Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), who eventually dated Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss). Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris) and Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera) also came out as bisexual and lesbian, respectively. Unique Adams (Alex Newell) was notably the first openly transgender character on the show, although fans later find out that was Sheldon Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) was too.
At a time when the young people of my generation were only beginning to discover their sexuality, this TV show served as a beacon of hope and representation for their unique experience.
Their guest stars were super memorable
Glee had an incredible roster of talented guest stars. These included Britney Spears, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jake Zyrus. All these artists have performed unforgettable song-and-dance numbers that were a huge part of our growing up years.
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