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