According to a very short article that was circulated by the Associated Press Wednesday, the cast of Fox’s hit musical comedy Glee have surpassed The Beatles as having the most songs appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart by a non-solo act. The article cites last week’s Brittney Spears episode as the tipping point, giving the show six entries on the chart, boosting it’s number of charting singles to 75 versus The Fab Four’s 71.

In my opinion, this is very depressing news. If you can get songs to chart simply by rehashing already successful ones and give them a “High School Musical” makeover, then it’s only a matter of time before we see Artie asking girls to lick his “Lollipop,” or having Finn intentionally hit Santana so they can segue into a karaoke version of Eminem’s controversial hit “Love The Way You Lie.” If I am right about these predictions, somebody owes me a cookie.

I actually watched my first episode of the show last week, and was neither impressed nor converted by what I saw. I witnessed teenagers using laughing gas as a way to enter a world where they were the focal points of Spears’ songs, a jealous girlfriend who stalked her boyfriend after he rejoined the football team, and the members of the glee club guilt their initially reluctant instructor into performing the works of the one time Mickey Mouse Club member. While most dismiss criticisms of the show by saying that it is simply harmless fun, thereby implying that people like me are no fun for hating the show, there are several aspects of Fox’s new cash cow that are cause for concern.

First, I dislike the use of licensed music on Glee for the same reasons that I have refused to watch Across The Universe. There is something about seeing a bunch of actors doing rote versions of popular songs in order to fit a context that I find both predictable and lazy. At least High School Musical was able to use original, albeit annoying, numbers to convey it’s message. In terms of Glee, the writers can simply morph the whole story to reflect the kinds of songs they are going to use. Maybe I’m just a purist, but I’d rather listen to a quality cover of Britney Spears (hell, even the originals will do) than have to sit through last week’s episode again. The day I see the show try and gain indie credibility with a Death Cab For Cutie or Decemberists episode is the day I lose all faith in humanity.

A more pressing issue I find with Glee is the show’s social implications. A couple of months ago, an article on PopMatters (Full disclosure: I work for PopMatters, but I do not write columns for them) used the character of Kurt to explore the ways in which homosexual masculinity is portrayed through the media. It explained that the show reinforces the notion that only flamboyant and effeminate gay characters are acceptable in the media, and that “Americans prefer gay men to be more “feminine” than “masculine” (to use these heavily loaded terms) so that we can continue to be able to identify who is gay and who isn’t and to continue to construct homosexuality as non-threatening to “mainstream Americans.” It seems that Kurt does nothing more than play to type, and while it is always great to see homosexuality as openly as it is on Glee,  it’s another thing entirely when there is only one kind of narrative that is presented.

The same can be said about the rest of the characters on the show, as they tend to play to the stereotypes and assumptions that do nothing to challenge the hierarchies that run America’s high schools. The football players still run the school, the cheerleaders succumbing to their whims and using them as a vehicle for social advancement, and minorities are still portrayed according to dominant social constructions. For example, Jacob Ben Israel, the show’s most stereotypically Jewish character, is a member of the media, has a thick “Jewish” accent, and is socially awkward beyond all belief. And, of course, his character is made to provide comic relief. This is only one of the many instances of how the show saves the writers from having to strain themselves by formulating stock characters that act as they should on the drop of a dime.

There’s no doubt that the show will continue to be successful. Americans just can’t get enough of shallow, fake teen drama with a couple of bad covers and a little dancing thrown in. The show’s only saving grace is cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester, played by the always entertaining Jane Lynch. She sees a lot of what the glee club does as cheesy, inauthentic, and downright nauseating at times. Given many of the negative stereotypes and bad use of music that the show promotes, I would side with her any day of the week.

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