Glee is known as a show that gives a voice to the outcast and underrepresented. The gay and lesbian community often praises the show for its positive and empowering portrayal and acceptance of homosexuality, especially in a high school setting. Thanks to Glee, I’m seeing more Asians on TV than I have since Margaret Cho’s short-lived All-American Girl was on the air. The Asian community, which is generally excited whenever a fellow Asian appears in mainstream media, is proud to be represented by Jenna Ushkowitz, Harry Shum Jr., Charice, and the Filipino half of Darren Criss.

Though Glee serves as “home” for many minority groups, I identify with one group that still struggles to find a place in mainstream media – even on Glee. The good kids. Nice kids. Teens or young adults who follow the rules and obey the law. People who stand by their personal convictions and principles. Frankly, we just don’t make for good TV, because everything that today’s shows are made of are things we try to avoid. We try not to lie, cheat, or steal. We don’t like gossip or petty fighting. We don’t smoke or do drugs. We don’t have casual sex. If we drink at all, we wait until we are 21 to start and don’t drink to the point of drunkenness.

Unless they are the subject of comedic ridicule or portrayed as religious fanatics, characters like this generally don’t exist. I can’t think of a character (on any show) who successfully resisted peer pressure (and wasn’t ashamed to do so) or whose decisions were shaped by principle instead of lessons learned “the hard way.” On Glee, characters either aren’t virgins or lie about their “v-card” status because they are ashamed of their virginity. Students and teacher alike pledge not to drink (until after their big competition, of course) only after humiliating incidents taught them the social consequences of alcohol and drunkenness. Chord Overstreet’s character of Sam Evans, whose v-card status is unknown, was probably the closest to a “good kid” I’ve seen on Glee, but with Overstreet’s departure from the show, good kids may have lost their champion.

I was a good kid in high school, and I maintain the same behavior as a young adult. I know I wasn’t the only high schooler who didn’t attend weekend house parties and raid parents’ liquor cabinets; I’m not the only young adult who chooses not to drink. And I’m not the only person with my v-card in tact. So if I’m not the only one out there, why are good kids hard to find in media?

Movies and TV have this great ability to let people know they’re not alone. Shows like Glee have shown people that being different is okay, whether it’s their sexuality, size, or skin color that distinguishes them from others. So why can’t Glee let the good kids know that their lifestyle is acceptable?

In real life, people try to make me feel like an oddity or try to make me feel bad about my life choices. They tease me about drinking and make me feel obligated to consume alcohol. They insist my standards are too high. They tell me I am not normal because of the way I live my life, but maybe if the media started to portray good kids more positively and more frequently, people would realize that this behavior is more normal than they realize.

P.S. I focused a lot on Glee in this post, because that show has developed such cultural significance for minority groups, but in doing so neglected one super awesome good kid on TV. Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn) on ABC’s Castle is so perfectly good (but not in an annoying, goody-two-shoes way) that viewers and characters wonder how she turned out the way she did with a father like Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion). She is responsible, mature, intelligent, and funny. She balances out the childishness of her father with a sensibility and maturity beyond her years. She is good, though not perfect (she once jumped a subway turnstile and tearfully confessed this offense to her dad). For good kids, Alexis Castle and Molly Quinn are like breaths of fresh air in the midst of a polluted Hollywood. I’m excited to have characters like Alexis Castle on TV and to have actors like Molly Quinn, who is also mature beyond her years, making a positive impact in the entertainment industry.

Next post: Missing from the Media, Part 2


8 thoughts on “Missing from the Media, Part 1: The Good Kid, or Why I Miss Chord Overstreet

  1. There used to be good kids on Tv, obviously. When I was growing up, we had TGIF. Family Matters and Full House were packed with good kids trying to figure out life and make tough decisions, often with the help of their upstanding citizen parents. It was good Tv. And then there was Boy Meets World, which is about the quintessential good, average guy Cory Matthews. It’s gone way, WAY downhill the last ten years or so and it’s sad. I can’t think of any shows about a family that don’t contain bratty, selfish, (skinny!!!) popularity obsessed teenage girls. And the opposite of that is always a snobbish bookish girl, a brat in her own right. Nerd guys usually fair a bit better. But teenage boys are always written as a jock or nerd (loser) and girls are slutty or smart. Heaven forbid that a girl shows up on Tv who is a funny, sassy, smart, and modest girl. That would be Hollywood blasphemy! Or that another Cory Matthews type would make an appearance. It’s a major bummer. Needless to say, I appreciate this post. I lived it, I get it, I hope Tv will turn around (unlikely as it is). In the meantime, I’m gonna keep watching Boy Meets World & Family Matters re-runs and will eventually probably get them on DVD so my kids can watch them one day. (Along with Perfect Strangers, I Love Lucy, the Carol Burnett show, etc etc ;>)

  2. *I find pretty much every Disney channel show now SUPER depressing. Every episode involves lying, mischief, and irresponsible hijinks. Authority figures are dumbed down and doofy. And that’s the Disney channel! Family Channel is even worse. Pretty Little Liars? Are you kidding me?! I hate to admit in public that I used to watch 7th Heaven, but I did – until it turned into a soap opera. Then I couldn’t stomach it, even at 14 or so. And whatever happened to Flash Forward or the Babysitter’s Club? Or even Even Stevens? Oy. The 90s may have failed at music but they were good at family programming ;>)

  3. You make an excellent point about diversity in teen character portrayal. I used to lie about my V status in high school also. However, I also think that the thing that stands out as “good” isn’t about staying a virgin or having a drink. It’s about thinking and acting responsibly, thinking things through, being able to resist peer pressure and stick to your principles.

    Alexis Castle is a great character, mature, and as you said, wise beyond her years. However, if she were to think about becoming sexually involved with her long-time steady boyfriend I wouldn’t say that she became not good. I would look at her process. Is it against her religious background? (Because that is a legitimate guiding principle.) Is she feeling pressured by him or by her friends? Is she afraid of losing him? All of those are clear reasons to say “no.” However, if she’s talking these things over with a trusted adult and these things aren’t in play, I wouldn’t brand her a “bad” kid if she concluded that she’s ready for having a sexual experience. (Also, despite all the jokes about Alexis raising herself, it’s clear that her father has been a very present and actively involved parent, which is the counterpart to “the good kid.”)

    Likewise, in some countries a teen having a glass of wine with dinner is seen as perfectly fine. However, heavy drinking is a general health risk and a foolish behavior. Drunk Alexis – no. Alexis having a glass of champagne at a wedding – maybe.

    I would like to see more “good” kids in television’s landscape. However, I hesitate to link “good” with a specific action because it risks becoming stereotypical. (Much like Glee’s “virgin club” in season one.) It becomes too easy to make fun of a choice when it’s just about doing or not doing something. Rather, I see good kids as those who honor, value and respect themselves as well as others – and yes, I do think the character of Alexis Castle is a good kid. (Molly Quinn is a good actress – and a nice change from some of Hollywood’s young stars. She seems to be very grounded.)

    1. Thank you, Joy, for your honest and thoughtful feedback on this post. You make a good point about the importance of responsibility and thinking things through, which I think is also lacking from today’s characters (of all ages). You might be interested in reading “Missing from the Media, Part 2,” posted tonight, in which I explain my motivations for being a good kid. My decisions are shaped by Christian faith, so for me, there IS moral value in maintaining virginity until marriage. For those not concerned with religious beliefs, virginity may not be as essential as avoiding promiscuity. However others perceive the definition of “good,” my convictions still shape my opinion of such behaviors in general.

      Like sex, alcohol is not inherently bad (I have had alcoholic beverages but have never been drunk). It is our use or abuse of it that is good or bad. And yes, various cultures, both within and outside the United States, have different opinions on the consumption of alcohol at younger ages, but it remains that in the U.S., drinking alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21. Also, it is my opinion that drunkenness at any age is irresponsible.

      Being “good” does not have to be defined strictly by virginity and sobriety. As you say, it is important for people to honor, value, and respect themselves. (I think virginity and sobriety are two ways people can do that.) However, I wish that the media – and society in general – weren’t so quick to make fun of such actions and for once respectfully honored a person or character’s decision to live such a lifestyle.

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