by Yilin Liang
Whether people like it or not, they are constantly bombarded by the media. Society is fueled by the constant flow of information, and teens in particular are heavily influenced. This leads to popular entertainment that is targeted towards the teenage demographic, including the musical TV show Glee. However, the largest difference between Glee and other shows (besides being a musical) is that it has more of a positive influence on its young audiences.
In Glee, one of the main issues is teenage pregnancy. Popular cheerleader Quinn Fabray gets pregnant and her life quickly falls apart. While the media today muddles the effects of promiscuity, Glee realistically describes all of the repercussions of Quinn’s actions. She gets kicked off the cheerleading team, banished from her home and shunned by her former friends. By depicting Quinn’s experience in this manner, Glee positively influences teens by conveying that teen pregnancy is a serious issue with many consequences.
Another socially relevant issue present in Glee is of homophobia. In the show, Kurt is the only openly gay boy at his school and perhaps the whole town. In many other television shows, when a character comes out as gay they are often accepted by their friends and family. However, this is not always the case in society. Glee depicts this when Kurt struggles for his fathers’ acceptance. Kurt represents a strong and witty role model for kids who are going through the same struggles that he is.
Nowadays, teens feel pressured to imitate images of unrealistic beauty because of the influence of the media. Glee characters Mercedes and Finn are no exceptions.
Mercedes is a powerful singer and plus-sized girl. In the first season, she struggled with her weight because she thought that if she were thin she would be more popular. After many unfruitful diets, Mercedes ultimately realizes that her body is fine the way it is. Glee uses Mercedes’s experience to address the pressures society places on girls to be skinny and fit into size zero dresses. Because Mercedes is content with the way she is and refuses to diet, she is a positive influence on girls who are also struggling with their body image.
While many other TV shows that dive into body image only present the struggles of girls, Glee also discusses the struggle boys go through to look like body builders. Finn, a football player, struggles with people’s expectations of his body. He goes to lengths in order to try to achieve the socially ideal body before realizing that it doesn’t matter what others think of his body. This positively influences young audiences because not only does it bring to light the pressures males receive from society to be fit, but it also shows how Finn ultimately stands up against societal pressures.
Perhaps the most important message that Glee could convey is that of friendship. In the show, each of the characters are able to overcome their troubles with the aid and support the other glee club members offer them. Glee teaches teens by respecting the value of friendship.