BY BETH WOJCIECHOWSKI
Like many, I rediscovered “Glee” – my middle school comfort show – during the 2020 quarantine. The general campiness of the show became a comfort to me, and has made “Glee” a show that I still regularly watch if I need a little bit of a pick-me-up.
However, my nearly yearly “Glee” rewatches are tainted. Why is that?
The recent feelings of apprehension I’ve experienced can be attributed to the many problematic storylines that the show features and the real-life scandals of some of the series’ stars.
“Glee” is the pinnacle of teen musical comedy, but it has featured many storylines over the years that are undeniably problematic. Many “Glee” fans have joked that the show covered every possible issue but did not handle any of them well and, honestly, that’s pretty accurate.
One of the most problematic scenes of the show has resurfaced on TikTok in recent years. The scene features glee club advisor, Will Schuester, played by Matthew Morrison, telling a group of “Glee” characters which includes people of color, gay and disabled students that the whole group — including their white, cisgender and heterosexual peers — that “you’re all minorities because you’re in the Glee club.”
Other problematic scenes on the show include multiple jokes about the LGBT+ community, the Asian-American community and the Black community that would not fly today, and I continue to find the scenes shocking during my rewatches.
In addition to the problematic things that happen on the show, some of the show’s stars have had highly publicized scandals.
Mark Salling, who starred as football player and glee club member Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the show, was convicted on the possession of child pornography in December of 2015. He later took his own life in 2018, two months before he was to receive his sentence.
Salling played a leading character on the show and, my upsetting knowledge of the case has led me to skip through most of his character’s scenes.
A couple years later, in the summer of 2020, Lea Michele – who played the leading character of Rachel Berry – was accused by former costars and crew members of being unpleasant to work with, as well as being just downright rude and condescending. She was also accused of “traumatic microaggressions” and being racist on set by season six recurring star Samantha Ware.
“Glee” was one of my favorite series of all time, but it has definitely not aged well, and the actor’s real-life problematic behaviors make it even more difficult to justify watching it.
Salling and Michele’s transgressions are obviously different, but both of them are hard to deal with in their own way, and their real-life behaviors make it super hard to root for their characters, or even become invested in their storylines.
Despite the accusations against Michele, she is unfortunately still getting work in Hollywood, with her most recent role being the starring role of Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of “Funny Girl.” Her talent is undeniable, but it has proven to be a difficult pill to swallow due to her behavior.
Overall, I will say that not watching a show due to an actor’s alleged crimes and/or behaviors is a perfectly valid choice, but at the end of the day it is a personal choice, and I can promise you that I will not be judging if you watch something despite the actor’s misdeeds. I understand that some people can separate an actor as a person from their work, but I know that some people cannot. Personally, I still enjoy “Glee” occasionally due to its’ LGBTQ+ representation and catchy song covers, but it has become less of a lighthearted watch. At the end of the day, it is up to you personally to decide whether or not to continue watching.