Monday, 15 November 2010

With a song in my heart

When I first wrote about Glee on this blog about a year ago, none of us had any idea what a multi-media behemoth Ryan Murphy's little show would become. A 'dramedy' (no-one does word-merge like Hollywood) about a midwestern school choir didn't exactly sound like a surefire mainstream smash.

Maybe it was the fact that there was nothing like it in the schedules (repeats of High School Musical don't count), but something about this unapologetically cheesy show captured the zeitgeist in a way that no-one could have predicted. In just over twelve months, those scrappy showtune-loving misfits have managed to usurp no lesser act than the Beatles, by scoring a record 75 chart appearances in the Billboard Hot 100. Just for the record, it took Liverpool's finest 32 years to notch up 71 placings.

Perhaps the secret of Glee's appeal lies in the fact that, contrary to popular belief, it offers something for everyone. The cast are largely attractive (and cater to a wider variety of tastes), the music is well selected and slickly produced, and there's a biting seam of humour that counteracts some of the schmalz - which can sometimes leaving you feeling as though you've just munched your way through a jar of Splenda.

With America's viewers comfortably nestled in the palm of his hand (and still humming Don't Stop Believin'), Murphy is taking some bold steps to use his show as a platform for addressing a subject he feels strongly about.

Given the way that the gay bullying epidemic has dominated headlines in the US, it's reasonable to expect that many popular shows will make a timely reference to the issue, taking care to neatly resolve its characters conflicts before the end credits run (Next week - alcoholism and dog-snatching). However, Murphy has other ideas, and is planning to extend the current 'gay bullying' plotline as an arc for the whole season - with repercussions for all the characters, not just Kurt Hummel.

In last week's show, lonely young gay Kurt was taken under the benevolent and immaculately tailored wing of new mentor Blaine, as he attempted to spy on the prep school's own glee club. Given that his infiltration skills are about as subtle as James Bond in a bright red clown wig (see Octopussy for more information), he's quickly uncovered.

But the boys of  Dalton Academy see the longing in the young gayling's eyes and treat him to the most homoerotic display since Jake and Heath checked each other for ticks. The song they perform is Katy Perry's recent chart-topper 'Teenage Dream', given a nice acapella all-boys-together makeover. It's clear from the look on Kurt's face that this is one dream that's likely to cost him a fortune in laundered bed-linen.

And yet, despite the fact that this is possibly the three gayest minutes in the history of network TV, mainstream audiences have embraced it with open trousers arms. The audio version of the track is already set to become Glee's best selling song to date, shifting 200, 000 downloads in its first week on release.

As Murphy pointed out: "That’s our biggest-selling single ever in the history of the show and the fact that it’s one boy singing to another boy on a network television show and it’s a No. 1 song... is a very profound thing that I’m personally very proud of. It just shows to me that people are hungry for that."

Bold TV producers have spent years attempting to raise acceptance of homosexuality through boundary-pushing, taboo breaking depictions of the gay experience. Turns out, all they needed was a troupe of close-harmony vocalists and the Katy Perry songbook. Who knew?

PS. It wouldn't be a gay anthem without a hands-in-the-air remix, so here it is...

Glee Cast - Teenage Dream (DJ MichaelAngelo's Sing Mix)(DJ DigiMark Remix Video) from DJ DigiMark on Vimeo.

1 comment:

  1. I've watched the clip more times than I can count - this one performance is historic - at least for US television. Ryan Murphy isn't shy about pushing a social agenda of acceptance and I applaud him for it. The GLEE version of Teenage Dream is perfection. Darren Criss - words just fail.