Why I dislike Glee Part 1: Character Arcs and Character/Plot Development

Back in September 2009 I was being tested for a sleeping disorder (I have sleep apnea! fun!) and while the nurse was plugging me up to a million wires and putting this disgusting stuff in my hair I was watching this relatively unknown show called Glee. And it was amazing and fun and SINGING! ALL OF THE SINGING! The first episode had premiered back in May, and my sister was telling me about it because Matthew Morrison stars in it, and we were obsessed with him– he was the original Link Larkin in Broadway’s Hairspray. I was also a huge Lea Michelle fan from her days in Spring Awakening. Needless to say, this show was going to be good. And it was……until it wasn’t.

The first half of the season had spunk and heart and relatively good story lines. Yeah, the writing was a bit shaky and there was no real depth to the characters. But we had the rest of the season! It could only get better from there. OR SO I THOUGHT. I’ve been avoiding writing this post because I can’t really pinpoint what it is exactly that I dislike about the show; it is mainly just a lot of smaller things. But let’s begin with, to me, the biggest disappointment of the show in what I call Why I dislike Glee, Part 1: Character arcs and character/plot development.

I completely understand how the Glee kids find Rachel annoying. But, I mean, COME ON. We are going into the third season and they are still major hating on her. At the beginning it was because she was shallow and stole/hogged the spotlight and was a diva, but in my mind her character has changed…somewhat. She is still an attention hog (she sent a girl to a fracking crack house because she was jealous) but she has become less selfish, even if it is minor. And they still treat her like crap. Finn throws her emotions around, always pitting her against Quinn. I could understand them hating her for the entire first season but seriously, they like her for about ten minutes at the end of an episode and then are back to hating her. Ryan and Marissa’s relationships lasted longer than the Glee club’s friendship with Rachel, and that’s saying something.

Along with that, the other characters are just as shallow as they make Rachel out to be. I would even argue that Mercedes is more of a diva than Rachel. I see that she is upset Rachel gets a lot/the majority of the solos in the first season, but that has changed. Mercedes has been given a lot more spotlight recently and 1) does not seem appreciative at all and 2) still whines about Rachel getting everything. What about Tina? What about Quinn? What have they gotten in terms of solos? Why not give them more than a few bars in a group song? (I really, really dislike Mercedes.)

But even more than Mercedes, I hate, loath, and despise everything that Lauren Zizes is. If I could actually kill a television character, I would choose her- no thought about it no questions asked. She is a horrible, horrible character. I know she is supposed to be on the “evil” side, maybe even a softer villain than Sue. But that does not excuse what she really is: a bully. There is no other way to describe her. She is a bully. And for a group of kids who are constantly being picked on by others, being called losers, etc. they sure are quick to let someone in that continuously feeds into the hate, gossip, and bullying of the Glee club. She starts fights and disagreements, she enables Mercedes to be a diva (and charges her for it), and completely humiliates Quinn. I teach high school students and sadly, I have come across bullying in my own classroom. It was terrible and I saw my own student cry and shut down in class, which only propelled the teasing. Everything Lauren does, I have seen a small form of and the fact that she is supposed to be…helping Puck? Yeah. Right. [And I believe that most of this applies to Santana as well.]

I think most of the adult characters are simply astonishing, and not in a good or positive way. As previously stated, I am a teacher. I’ve been training for the past five years about what to and what not to do in the classroom. We would actually have discussions in my seminar classes about how terrible Will is, and how he would have been fired (if not taken away by the cops) by now. Yes, he does some redeeming things like helping Emma start to recognize/treat her disorder but I just don’t think he is right to be the Glee club sponsor/teacher. For as much “good” as he does, he does far more bad. And Sue is the villain of the show, I get it, and while she has quite a few funny moments, I just don’t even understand how she gets away with saying over half the stuff she says. Yes, I know, this is a television show and there are going to be unrealistic elements and I should just get over it, but Sue is mean. Although she does pleasantly surprise me through her relationship with her sister, and she has shown moments of sincerity and general niceness, so I am definitely willing to give her that.

The other characters who have not been mentioned here I don’t really have too much trouble liking. I’m on the fence about Kurt (please stop screaming at me) because yes, he has had difficulties with people accepting his sexuality, but Kurt is relatively mean to a large majority of people. I’m not saying you should change who you are to please others, and I’m not saying that Kurt should stop being who he is [though what I’m about to say is going to be misinterpreted/attacked by someone I’m sure] but Kurt throws his sexuality in people’s faces, and then gets mad when they don’t immediately love him regardless. Take the prom episode. I was pretty shocked at the results of prom king/queen, and yes, that was horrible. But when getting ready, Kurt wore an outfit that clearly made Blain uncomfortable. He didn’t care- he wanted shock, he wanted wow, and he wanted to be bold. Again, you shouldn’t change who you are to please others, but for Kurt getting mad about others apparently shoving God or religion in his face (like when his father was in the hospital) the same can be said about Kurt shoving issues such as homosexuality and whatnot in other characters’ faces.

As far as plot development, let’s first look at Quinn. She spends the whole first season pregnant and then gives away the baby and then acts like nothing ever happened. Yeah, she references the pregnancy thing here and there, but for building up such a huge story line, even bringing in Idina Menzel (don’t worry- we will come back to her in a later post) to actually adopt the baby, it kind of just fizzled out. Rather upsetting really. There is no way Quinn is that fine after being ridiculed and teased so much whilst pregnant.

Quite a few plot lines last for four or five episodes, but everything sort of drops off. I don’t feel like there has been much continuity. (If you disagree, compare plot lines, continuity, and character development of season one of The O.C. to season one of Glee.) Actually, the only story to have any sort of arc and continuity would be Kurt’s story line and honestly, that has been done to death. I mean, the poor kid cried in almost every episode. Rightfully so, but they’ve focused on one story arc so much that it has lost its luster for me. Time for something new and fresh. My Twitter friend Heather (find her here) agrees with me. She said, “I think the idea of Glee is cool–following a HS glee club that nobody thought could make it as they defied odds, etc. However, there is SUCH a huge focus on the music that there’s not much time left for character development, which does little for plot development as well. If characters can’t grow, neither can the story. What’s left is a flat image of flat characters that sing. And it’s good singing, but if there were no songs, the show would tank.” And I completely agree with her. If there was no music, I would not watch Glee. At all. In fact, that is really the only reason I’ve stuck around (though, to be honest, I’ve never finished the last two episodes of season two).

Overall, Heather has done a nice job at summarizing part one of my posts about Glee. I do really, really like the music which makes it hard to stop watching Glee (therefore making me feel like a hypocrite for watching it). But like I said, without the music I would have stopped watching a long time ago.

I look forward to your comments, but please keep it civil. We may have differing opinions but that is no need to be nasty. And keep a lookout for post two coming soon!



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11 responses to “Why I dislike Glee Part 1: Character Arcs and Character/Plot Development

  1. Well done indeed!

    I think a lot of Glee fans may get uproarious about this post, but I bet if we were to take an episode and re-cut it so that there were no songs, they’d see our point. Granted, these are opinions (yay, America! Land of the free, home of the brave, and place where people can speak their opinions freely!), and nobody’s required to agree or disagree, but all of the points you’ve made are valid, thought out, and based on what you’ve seen in the episodes, not just what you’ve heard or been told. The world appreciates a well thought out argument.

  2. improbablefiction

    Thanks Heather! I tried not to include anything I couldn’t back up with an episode reference. I will be interested to see what those who disagree with me have to say…

  3. I completely agree. I started watching because it was fun & the music was fun, but after a while I realized it’s an entire show about people being horribly mean to each other. Every episode is about one character trying to tear down another character. Then they realize they’re being mean & apologize, only to go back to the same behavior in the next episode. It got old & the music wasn’t good enough to make me want to sit through all the mean-spirited drama.

  4. improbablefiction

    Exactly! I can understand having “mean moments”; I mean, we are humans, we have emotions and not all of them are nice. But like you are saying, it is every. single. episode.

  5. okay okay. you know my thoughts. I ADORE GLEE. But I have to say I do agree with you on some things. Character development has been lacking except on the Kurt front ( but I love love love him so that isn’t an issue for me). However, have you read the teasers/spoilers for season 3?! I think you will be quite happy because everything you have said Ryan Murphy has addressed. He says season 3 is about getting back to basics—no more guest stars to take away from the principle characters and far less music so they can focus on their development. He knows that is what is needed so hopefully you’ll like season 3. Also the thing with Quinn is going to come to a head as well because like you said Shelby aka Idena is back! So obviously that is going to bring up things with Quinn. I really truly believe that Quinn isn’t fine with the pregnancy thing. That she deals with it by trying to get back on top and she acts out by cheating on every relationship she is in. Girl is messed up. I think she has a lot of emotions but can’t express them–she is suppose to be the popular one but Rachel (the one everyone loves to hate) still gets the man and the solos–her father cheated on her mom and her parents threw her out for being pregnant so she strives to get back in their graces (as any normal child seeking attention would do). As she said in the last ep (WHICH YOU NEED to WATCH) she just wants to be loved. You might think we’ll she was loved… she had Sam.. and Finn and is the most popular girl in school, but that can be lonely. She wants to be truly loved–by her parents, by her peers, by a man. She feels popularity will win her that love but it doesn’t– I really believe they explore that this coming season (spoiler– Dianna was leaving the set yesterday with PINK hair and funky nails— i think she comes a bit unhinged or becomes her true self this season).

    I could go on and on… but I’ll wait for your next post 🙂

  6. improbablefiction

    Hahaha Well season three should be interesting now! You do bring up some interesting points about Quinn. I think she is a misunderstood character, but since we don’t know anything really about her besides the pregnancy story line, I hope they tackle some of her issues next season. My next post was going to be about the music/guest stars, which you have talked a bit about here so yay!

  7. I agree with everything you said here, but since you said the music is the only thing keeping you watching, I’m assuming that won’t get it’s own post. I’d still like to discuss it though since even the music has been losing me.

    When the show started the music was the reason I loved it because I thought it was really entertaining to see how they’d choose songs from classics to some SLIGHTLY newer stuff to showtunes. Seeing what songs they would use and how they would change them up was enough to keep me interested alone because the plot has more or less always been just something to link songs together. The show has NEVER had impressive plot or character depth. The roller coaster of Rachel hate (I also hate her, but that’s not what I’m trying to talk about) is just as bad as the revolving plot that everyone just wants to be popular and the school still hates them even though they do something AMAZING for the school every three episodes.

    Nothing ever changes to point that it’s ridiculous. The football team wins their first game because they do the Single Ladies dance and everyone forgets about it the next episode. The most recent episode has almost always, without fail, completely made the episode before it meaningless. It’s like in the beginning of Alien 3 (worst Alien movie ever) when you learn everyone that survived Aliens died in their sleep chambers on the way home. It just leaves you feeling stupid for being so excited when the previous movie ended and everyone was NOT dead. There’s no consistency which, plotwise, makes each episode feel more like an episode of an old Disney or Nickelodeon sitcom than Primetime Emmy material. The plot is typically so simplified and ultimately irrelevant to everything that it doesn’t matter what they do in between songs.

    There are some good jokes in between songs which makes it bearable, but at the beginning the main reason I watched was to see what songs they would use and how they would recreate them. The cover of Don’t Stop Believing or Bohemian Rhapsody or the mash-ups… all clever throw backs and great introductions for today’s youth to awesome old music, but still unique takes on them that make it worth putting them on the same iPod as the original recording.

    But the second season seemed to suffer horribly from the success of the first. Suddenly they could have guest stars to make the plot even MORE pointless (like what the hell did the Britney Spears episode accomplish on ANY level? Reminding us John Stamos is still alive?) and even worse than that they had free reign to use practically ANY song they wanted (rather than having to dig in the past and modernize classics) and they used that free reign to make the most boring karaoke versions of dozens of Top 40 songs. Aside from the Warblers awesome acapella stuff and one brilliant mash-up of Singing In the Rain and Umbrella, the songs at this point are Kidz Bop sounding covers with the only changes being that they enunciate more but sound worse than their original counterparts.

    So now the music sucks, the plot sucks, and as you’ve stated, most of the characters are terrible people. At this point I’m watching because I hate quitting things (the only TV show I’ve ever given up on was Smallville, which ran out of plots during season 4 and chugged on for 6 MORE seasons anyway). I hope Jessica is right and that they’re going to be going back to basics for Season 3 because Season 2 sucked. Kurt had the only interesting story line because it was the ONLY continued storyline. The love triangle (pentagram?) doesn’t count anymore at this point and the Will/Emma plot only lasted about one episode.

    If the O.C. can balance 4-6 plots (2 adult, 2 teenage) for 4 seasons, Glee should be able to handle at least 2 plots for one single season. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

  8. improbablefiction

    “If the O.C. can balance 4-6 plots (2 adult, 2 teenage) for 4 seasons, Glee should be able to handle at least 2 plots for one single season. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” <— TRUTH.

    Also, preach it brother. My next post is going to be about the music and guest stars, so I won't say too much on here, but I agree with everything you've said. I think a lot of the songs sound like kidz bop songs, not to mention are totally and completely inappropriate for the situation in which they are singing them. I like most/if not all of the mashup songs (except for the Hair song. They ruined one of my favorite broadway songs) but if they use them more sparingly it would make me look forward to them.

    And you've hit on one of my other pet peeves about this show, but I'm going to just quote you in the next post rather than talking about it here 🙂

  9. Sounds great! Sorry to step on your toes. To me, it sounded like you were still happy with the music and it was something I’ve been wanting to bitch about. Looking forward to the next post! I’m sure I can find more to complain about in detail once the actual topic comes up.

  10. Father

    The show started out with a bang but, in my opinion, it is now pushing an agenda. What is intersting is the agenda they’re pushing is getting crammed down our throats, but they continue to bully and be mean, which has its own agenda in the real world.

    BTW, did you know the rodeo clown at Cowtown pushed his barrel from DC to Cowtown in one week last year? More importantly, do you know the cause he was tying to bring awareness to? SCHOOL BULLYING! I doubt he watches Glee.

  11. improbablefiction

    Interesting thoughts daddy-o! Also, are you serious about the rodeo clown?! That is awesome! And I doubt he watches it as well. I mean, I’m sure he has a headache every night from being kicked by bulls and whatnot.

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