What Glee Got Right

What makes football players cry? Maybe losing a game, but I haven’t seen that…often. In fairness, that could be because my school’s team has more than their share of experience at dealing with loss.

No, the television show Glee got it right tonight, which is something I have only very rarely been able to say. Finn, the football player and Rachel’s boyfriend–his only two identities–doesn’t know what he wants to do after high school. He’s surrounded by people with dreams, but he just can’t figure out what his next step is. In a heart-rending speech, he admits to his teacher that he doesn’t want to graduate, that he believes he has little talent and that once high school is over, he’ll be lost in the crowd, destined to a mundane life watching others succeed as he lives on past semi-glory.

The actor playing Finn nailed the range of emotions, and the writers got the speech down almost exactly to how I hear it, every year, sometimes multiple times. They were basically right about the context, too–just the senior and the teacher, alone in a classroom, fairly certain that no one will wander in–it’s usually after school, or during lunch, a time it’s easy to predict who’s around.

The first few times I had these conversations, I was stymied; even kids who sit in classes enthusiastically counting down days till graduation with their friends have been among the ninjas who sneak in my confessional to unburden themselves.

I’ve taught 26 years. In that time, there have been very few years that I haven’t had the “I don’t really want to graduate” speech, sometimes from a kid who seems to have the world by the tail, sometimes from a kid who is sabotaging his/her graduation in amazingly passive-aggressive ways. The reasoning and emotions are nearly the same: the kid feels unprepared in some way (intellectually, socially, emotionally, financially) for life after high school–even if there’s evidence that he/she is ready to cope–and the kid feels that his/her high school years may be their peak. It may be the smartest, the most popular, the most talented that they will ever be.

I could whistle a happy tune and tap dance the platitudes that spout like dandelions in May throughout the school, attempting to “encourage” these kids. Instead, I listen, and just listen some more, often as they choke up and look for tissue to wipe their tears–and yes, the males cry in this conversation as often as the females. They cuss and get angry, too–they’re not ready to go on, and they’re pissed that they have to. And I admit to some of them that yes, they probably will remember high school as a golden time, and depending on how they handle the next few years, it could be downhill after they wear their cap and gown and walk across the stage to shake hands and get their diploma.

I have a lot of issues with Glee, and have gone through times of only half-watching because my daughter wanted me to. And I have plenty of comments to make about Rachael’s cover of “How Deep is Your Love” tonight–it was not a perfect show. And I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll just say that a couple later scenes with Finn have no ring of truth resonating. But the scene when Finn finally tells Mr. Shue how he feels–that was real.

I could prove it….I’ve had conversations in my room in the last month that the writers of Glee could have been scribing for that scene. Bravo for writing it right…for once.






When people write about Davy Jones’ death, “Daydream Believer” will probably be the song mentioned most. That’s a favorite song of mine, of course, but the one that impacted me most was  Shades of Grey. When this song came out, I was in elementary school–maybe junior high. I appreciate the irony of this being my favorite Monkees song; it begins “When the world and I were young, just yesterday–” I was young, and really, so were Davy and Co as they sang it. But something in the ambiguity of the lyrics and the starkness of the music called to me. A couple years later, when I learned a few guitar chords that I insisted on playing for everyone, “Shades of Grey” was one of the songs I figured out the chords to and played endlessly.

In one of those odd synchronicities that Jung says are crucial signs of God, or Allah, or Yogi Bear or something, I thought of this song for the first time in ages last Sunday. In my Sunday school class, I made some comment–I don’t remember what, now–and my teacher looked at me and said, “You see shades of grey everywhere, don’t you?” I nodded and admitted that there are very few black and white issues in my life. I hummed this song the rest of the day. Odd, huh?

“It was easy then to tell right from wrong,

it was easy then to tell weak from strong…

It was easy then to tell truth from lies

Selling out from compromise…”

Right now especially, heading into the festivities of next week, those lines really call to me. I’m old enough now that I can remember “when the world and I were young,” and mourn the passing not just of Davy, but of the innocence, hope and belief that seemed to surround me years back.

So I could tell about baking cookies for Davy when he appeared in Toledo, or playing pool with him and him kissing me–all important events–or even that I’m possibly the pop culture hound that I am because of devouring 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat to learn all about Davy, then later Bobby and David Cassidy and Donny….but tonight, I’m drinking a bottle of wine and listening to this song, remembering when the world and I were young, and Davy’s death was decades away.

….and the match goes to…….Sigmund! Thoughts About Wrestling & Stripping

Epiphany #20437: WWE wrestling and strip clubs are essentially the same thing. Obvious differences, I’ll concede, but at a primal level, they function the same way. Maybe.

Beyond the obvious trait the two share (waxing–lots and lots of waxing),  both are vicarious proofs of Freudian principles. In Civilization and Its DiscontentsFreud claims that men have certain immutable drives, and that sex and violence were two of the strongest.  (yes, I know I’m simplifying, but I still think my theory works).   Wrestling and stripping  allow modern man, constrained by the morals and laws of civilized society, to feed those urges to some degree within a framework that doesn’t violate social norms…..at least too much.

In both cases, the human body is the center of the experience. In wrestling, the idealized male form is hyper-muscular and commanding; in stripping, toned and at least somewhat buxom–and highly flexible–is the ideal. The puritan Judeo-Christian heritage in this country is morally judgmental about the celebration of the body and the glorification of the carnal, and both wrestling and stripping are colored in mainstream America’s minds because of this bias–although admittedly, stripping is even more stigmatized in large part because puritanical America rejects sex as good, clean fun–strippers are either victims or sluts, neither good connotations; I don’t think wrestlers have the same moral condemnation overlaying their image in the covered-dish-dinner crowd, but neither stripping nor wrestling fans tend to champion their passion at the church potluck.

In fact, the celebration of brains over brawn as the hallmark of a “civilized” society resonants through Western culture. St. Paul talks about overcoming the flesh more than once, and Pythagoras admonished people: “Choose rather to be strong of soul than strong of body.”  Often, people who take “too much” pride in their body are viewed as superficial; both strippers and wrestlers make their living by reveling in their bodies–in our culture, that’s easy to dismiss as vain and shallow.

Both entertainments are highly profitable–in a capitalistic society, that matters. Even in this economy, wrestling is showing a solid profit. Larry Flynt, sex business mogul, claims about $500 million a year profit--and less than $9 million of that is from his publishing. Flynt’s strip clubs are the anchor of his business–and like wrestling, there’s a solid market for what he’s selling even in these tough economic times.

The reason is simple, if Freud is right: his audience craves power/aggression and sex, especially when times are rough.  Watching a wrestler or a stripper both offer ramification-free escapism: no cops involved for really punching whatever needs punched; no nagging about taking out the garbage or bills that need paid when sitting in a strip club watching an idealized female.

This isn’t the whole picture, and there are some crucial differences, too. Because I’m not a regular patron of either, there are important angles I’m sure I just don’t get. And as much as I want to wave a feminist banner and write a screed about why these appeal to men for vicarious release, I suspect that I’m going to have Epiphany #20438 when I realize what the female equivalent of these two entertainments are. I’m sure there’s something, but I’m not sure what….yet. Reality TV? Shopping? Lifetime movies? I hope not….still thinking.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Disclaimer: I’m a fan of media. When I finish writing this, I’m heading to watch a couple episodes of Buffy. I own an impressive collection of dvd’s and cd’s–although not as good as my daughter’s. I raised her right, I think. I have oodles and oodles of music on my Amazon cloud, which has some but not all of the same music as my iPod, which still only has part of my collection. I use streaming Netflix and Hulu Plus pretty much daily. I like media.

BUT…..the Mexican restaurant I like now has television screens everywhere I look. So does Applebees and the Beer Barrel. And McDonalds and Burger King. And WalMart. In fact, WalMart has small screens at the end of some aisles, just in case you get bored making your way between the big screens, I guess.

AND….now my high school has random huge screens in hallways. We have enough trouble with kids blocking the intersections between classes; now there’s a constant stream of…I’m not sure what they will play….to distract the human roadblocks even more.

Then I went to put gas in my car today, and the pump was blaring country music at me.

When did America become allergic to silence? When did people become so boring that any entertainment is better than conversation? Recently, I went to a popular restaurant in Lima–one big room–with 8 televisions all on different programs, all with subtitles and sound, AND music was playing as well. Major sensory overload–and impossible to talk. I didn’t even attempt to stop my daughter when she pulled a book out of her purse to read as she ate; conversation was impossible. I sat there reading twitter and RSS feeds; yes, I see the irony in that: more media saturation, when that’s what I’m grousing about.

I didn’t say I’m holier than anyone else in this case. If I could find a Sy-Fy/Alt Bar, playing Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, Buffy, and other favs, I’d be there. Especially if they had amazing nachos like Applebees used to have.  But, if my hypothetical bar existed, I promise I’d be there arguing Kirk v. Picard, and counting the times Luke whined–not just sitting there comatose, senses too overloaded to function.

My Patron Saint

2020 Note: I no longer am Methodist or want to turn Quaker, but St Clare is still my patron saint.

Ok, so a Methodist who wants to turn Quaker probably shouldn’t have a patron saint. I understand that. But when I discovered St Clare, there was no choice. As a saint, she’s got impeccable creditials. She was one of St Francis of Assisi’s first followers, and was noted for her disdain and disinterest in worldly possessions and events. She is described as having a “radical commitment to poverty,” (wikipedia) meaning she did not believe in personal or even communal ownership of anything. She is the founder of the order of nuns nicknamed the Poor Clares, who are among the strictest about not having personal property. She lived from 1194-1253.

So far, typical nun. No doubt holy and awesome, but…ho hum. BUT, in 1958, Pope Pius XII surrendered to a massive fit of irony and named Clare the Patron Saint of Television. Pius was obviously an insightful man, to realize as early as 1958 that television would need a patron saint, so I applaud his choice. St. Clare, the saint of poverty, also the saint of conspicuous consumption, culture-altering advertising, and total shifting of the societal zeitgeist? I need a T shirt for her. Or him. Using irony to make the point about how television would impact post-modern sensibilities, as a statement about the commodity-driven paradigm shifts that would occur because of the flickering influence of Lucy, Mike Wallace, AlkaSelser ads, Disney channel, and Saturday Night Live–the pope was a prescient genius.

I know that the cynical amoung you will suggest that the pope didn’t anticipate all that, couldn’t have guessed that TV would turn our population cynical, selfish, and sedentary–that’s the impact of television you’re feeling, you know! Yippee for St Clare! August 12th is my new Feast Day. I’m writing the ceremony now!