Photo: Keith McDuffee

Why I’m Proud to Be a Gleek

High school was a challenging time in my life, from dealing with rigorous coursework and tough teachers to fitting in, and I found myself pretty miserable more often than not. When I finally graduated in 2009, I celebrated the idea of leaving my high school days behind. Little did I know at the time, though, that I had another reason to celebrate – a new television show had just premiered on Fox one month before that would eventually have a big impact on my life.

That show is none other than Glee, which ran for six seasons between 2009 and 2015. Few people would have predicted that a musical comedy-drama show about a high school Glee club would end up being one of the most popular television series ever. For me, there are two main reasons why I love that show: 1). I really enjoyed the catchy songs and musical renditions; 2). The teen drama about high school and various social issues was relatable, but also a fantasy to admire when compared to my experience.

Interestingly, I did not become a “Gleek” – that term was coined by fans to express their admiration for the show – until 2011. That was because college coursework took up most of my time, and I just didn’t know much about the show or understand why it was so popular. It wasn’t until I watched Glee win three Golden Globe awards in January 2011 that I decided to give it a go. It took one episode and I was hooked, and I remained faithful to it ever since.

When it comes to my own personal opinion on why I found the show so appealing, I think the characters are very original and genuinely groundbreaking. Glee did an excellent job of broaching a variety of social issues and developing them around the characters.

The depiction of gay relationships between Kurt and Blaine as well as Brittany and Santana changed the face of television. The show was bold enough to do an episode entitled “First Time,” in which the different couples (Finn and Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, and Brittany and Santana) each have their own “romantic” experiences while preparing for the high school stage version of West Side Story. The portrayal of both heterosexual and homosexual love was tastefully depicted and put a spotlight on relationships instead of sexual preference.

Another example of Glee addressing sexuality was when Kurt Hummel (played by Chris Colfer) performed a duet with himself during the season 2 episode “Duets” in which he performed the song “Le Jazz Hot” from the gender-bending classic Victor Victoria (1982).

The show’s treatment of homosexuality implied the notion that sexual identity does not entirely encompass an entire person’s persona simply because sexual orientation is only one facet of an entire individual. The way the show approached this controversial issue also suggested that queerness is just a normal part of modern society given the fact that such a contrast to normality even exists. This message spread the idea of being comfortable with who you are, and that we should accept others regardless of sexual preference. It also helped give Glee fans a sense of pride rather than shame in being true to yourself.

One of the high points of the show occurred during season 2 in the episode entitled “Born This Way” in which the different characters all wore T-shirts with their individual quirks while belting out a group rendition of the Lady Gaga song “Born This Way.” Kurt Hummel had the phrase “Likes Boys” on his shirt while Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) had the phrase “Can’t Dance,” yet everyone in the Glee club came together to celebrate their imperfections. Basically, the show is the epitome of the idea of being “imperfectly perfect.”

Two great episodes that dealt with the acceptance of differences occurred in both Season 2 and Season 4. In Season 2, there was an episode entitled “Original Song” in which the Glee club members composed and performed an original song entitled “Loser Like Me.” That song basically celebrated the fact that they were underdogs with lyrics like,

“Go ahead and hate on me and run your mouth
So everyone can hear
Hit me with the words you got and knock me down
Baby, I don’t care
Keep it up, I’m tunin’ up to figure out
You wanna be
You wanna be
A loser like me (A loser like me)
A loser like me”

This song was very popular because it offered the idea that it was okay to be different. It also relates to the idea of the minority being different from the majority, but all people remain fundamentally the same. The new characters that started appearing in Season 4 (like Ryder and Kitty) also performed another song with a similar message called “Outcast.” The lyrics include the stanza,

“We are, we are, we are
Stronger from every scar, (Yeah)
Brighter than any star (Yeah)
The outcast”

The overall theme of the show Glee is that there really is no shame in being yourself, and that was part of why the show became so popular after it premiered in 2009. Indeed, this show truly was for the underdogs within everyone because the Glee club members had to endure a lot of pain and struggle as they navigated through the complicated walls of William McKinley High.

My favorite character on the show is Rachel Berry, and Lea Michele is actually my favorite celebrity just because she played that specific character. I just think that Rachel is a very fiery starlet because she acts a lot like Barbra Streisand. For me, I found pleasure listening to Rachel perform her own renditions of songs from the 1968 musical classic Funny Girl as her character sang songs like “Don’t Rain on My Parade” during Season 1 and “People” during Season 5.

Rachel might be a bit spiteful, but boy can she sing! I also enjoyed the love triangle that she was stuck in because of her love for both Finn Hudson and Jesse St. James. This complicated love story within the show had me rooting for Rachel as she struggled to figure out which boy she truly loved. I also think that the portmanteaus developed during the show’s run, such as “Finchel” and “St. Berry” are very cute. I actually liked both of them because it added drama to this high school musical series.

2013 proved to be an incredibly difficult year for me. I was suffering from depression after graduating from Pasadena City College in May. I had such a wonderful experience at Pasadena City College that it was difficult for me to leave it behind and start a new chapter in my life. I felt as if I had woken up from the most beautiful dream that I had ever known, and that the actual dream was over.

In July, when Corey Monteith died from a drug overdose, I was just devastated. His shocking death served as a powerful reminder that not all dreams last forever (and that many of them either literally or figuratively die in the face of reality). Corey’s death made me realize that change is inevitable, and that not everything that is beautiful lasts forever. As difficult of a time as this was, I came to accept the changes in my life even if it was a fundamental truth that was hard for me to endure.

I ended up pursuing my B.A. in English at California State University—Los Angeles. When I graduated in 2015, I wondered if I would feel a sense of loss after finishing school. I also feared that I would suffer from depression again now that I had to figure out the next chapter in my life. Luckily, there was a wonderful song that played during the final episode of Glee that aired on March 20, 2015. The song is called “This Time,” and it taught me two important life lessons.

For me, “this time” has a double meaning: It refers to my collective experience as a college student (and this time I’m moving on), and it also means that I wouldn’t go into a depression after graduating. Glee officially ended in March 2015, but I was determined to enjoy my graduation ceremony in June 2015 knowing that “this time” I would not mourn the loss of my school mates. I found a lot of the lyrics very relatable to my academic journey because I was not the best student in high school, yet I still made it to my graduation day from CSULA.

“I look at everything I was
And everything I ever loved
And I can see how much I’ve grown

And though the mirror doesn’t see it
It’s clear to me, I feel it
I can make it on my own

I’m not afraid of moving on and letting go
It’s just so hard to say goodbye to what I know, I know”

This song made me realize that I changed a lot since I was a teenager. My college experience was the best time of my life, but I had to let that go. “This time,” though, I would celebrate how far I came in life rather than feeling empty without my classmates. Just like Rachel sang, “This time that we had, I will hold…forever!” I will hold my college experience in my heart now and forevermore.

Many years have passed since the TV show Glee premiered in 2009, but I am truly grateful for the fact that I had characters to look up to even as I struggled with the stress of college. My time as a college undergraduate might have already come to an end, but I will always have the fond memories of being around other students and completing assignments while singing and dancing along with the kids from Glee club.

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Alex Andy Phuong graduated from California State University-Los Angeles with his Bachelor of Arts in English in 2015. He currently writes film reviews and creative pieces. His sincerest hope is that his writing will inspire anyone who reads his work.

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ENGAGE IN THE CONVERSATION

Why I’m Proud to Be a Gleek

High school was a challenging time in my life, from dealing with rigorous coursework and tough teachers to fitting in, and I found myself pretty miserable more often than not. When I finally graduated in 2009, I celebrated the idea of leaving my high school days behind. Little did I know at the time, though, that I had another reason to celebrate – a new television show had just premiered on Fox one month before that would eventually have a big impact on my life.

That show is none other than Glee, which ran for six seasons between 2009 and 2015. Few people would have predicted that a musical comedy-drama show about a high school Glee club would end up being one of the most popular television series ever. For me, there are two main reasons why I love that show: 1). I really enjoyed the catchy songs and musical renditions; 2). The teen drama about high school and various social issues was relatable, but also a fantasy to admire when compared to my experience.

Interestingly, I did not become a “Gleek” – that term was coined by fans to express their admiration for the show – until 2011. That was because college coursework took up most of my time, and I just didn’t know much about the show or understand why it was so popular. It wasn’t until I watched Glee win three Golden Globe awards in January 2011 that I decided to give it a go. It took one episode and I was hooked, and I remained faithful to it ever since.

When it comes to my own personal opinion on why I found the show so appealing, I think the characters are very original and genuinely groundbreaking. Glee did an excellent job of broaching a variety of social issues and developing them around the characters.

The depiction of gay relationships between Kurt and Blaine as well as Brittany and Santana changed the face of television. The show was bold enough to do an episode entitled “First Time,” in which the different couples (Finn and Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, and Brittany and Santana) each have their own “romantic” experiences while preparing for the high school stage version of West Side Story. The portrayal of both heterosexual and homosexual love was tastefully depicted and put a spotlight on relationships instead of sexual preference.

Another example of Glee addressing sexuality was when Kurt Hummel (played by Chris Colfer) performed a duet with himself during the season 2 episode “Duets” in which he performed the song “Le Jazz Hot” from the gender-bending classic Victor Victoria (1982).

The show’s treatment of homosexuality implied the notion that sexual identity does not entirely encompass an entire person’s persona simply because sexual orientation is only one facet of an entire individual. The way the show approached this controversial issue also suggested that queerness is just a normal part of modern society given the fact that such a contrast to normality even exists. This message spread the idea of being comfortable with who you are, and that we should accept others regardless of sexual preference. It also helped give Glee fans a sense of pride rather than shame in being true to yourself.

One of the high points of the show occurred during season 2 in the episode entitled “Born This Way” in which the different characters all wore T-shirts with their individual quirks while belting out a group rendition of the Lady Gaga song “Born This Way.” Kurt Hummel had the phrase “Likes Boys” on his shirt while Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith) had the phrase “Can’t Dance,” yet everyone in the Glee club came together to celebrate their imperfections. Basically, the show is the epitome of the idea of being “imperfectly perfect.”

Two great episodes that dealt with the acceptance of differences occurred in both Season 2 and Season 4. In Season 2, there was an episode entitled “Original Song” in which the Glee club members composed and performed an original song entitled “Loser Like Me.” That song basically celebrated the fact that they were underdogs with lyrics like,

“Go ahead and hate on me and run your mouth
So everyone can hear
Hit me with the words you got and knock me down
Baby, I don’t care
Keep it up, I’m tunin’ up to figure out
You wanna be
You wanna be
A loser like me (A loser like me)
A loser like me”

This song was very popular because it offered the idea that it was okay to be different. It also relates to the idea of the minority being different from the majority, but all people remain fundamentally the same. The new characters that started appearing in Season 4 (like Ryder and Kitty) also performed another song with a similar message called “Outcast.” The lyrics include the stanza,

“We are, we are, we are
Stronger from every scar, (Yeah)
Brighter than any star (Yeah)
The outcast”

The overall theme of the show Glee is that there really is no shame in being yourself, and that was part of why the show became so popular after it premiered in 2009. Indeed, this show truly was for the underdogs within everyone because the Glee club members had to endure a lot of pain and struggle as they navigated through the complicated walls of William McKinley High.

My favorite character on the show is Rachel Berry, and Lea Michele is actually my favorite celebrity just because she played that specific character. I just think that Rachel is a very fiery starlet because she acts a lot like Barbra Streisand. For me, I found pleasure listening to Rachel perform her own renditions of songs from the 1968 musical classic Funny Girl as her character sang songs like “Don’t Rain on My Parade” during Season 1 and “People” during Season 5.

Rachel might be a bit spiteful, but boy can she sing! I also enjoyed the love triangle that she was stuck in because of her love for both Finn Hudson and Jesse St. James. This complicated love story within the show had me rooting for Rachel as she struggled to figure out which boy she truly loved. I also think that the portmanteaus developed during the show’s run, such as “Finchel” and “St. Berry” are very cute. I actually liked both of them because it added drama to this high school musical series.

2013 proved to be an incredibly difficult year for me. I was suffering from depression after graduating from Pasadena City College in May. I had such a wonderful experience at Pasadena City College that it was difficult for me to leave it behind and start a new chapter in my life. I felt as if I had woken up from the most beautiful dream that I had ever known, and that the actual dream was over.

In July, when Corey Monteith died from a drug overdose, I was just devastated. His shocking death served as a powerful reminder that not all dreams last forever (and that many of them either literally or figuratively die in the face of reality). Corey’s death made me realize that change is inevitable, and that not everything that is beautiful lasts forever. As difficult of a time as this was, I came to accept the changes in my life even if it was a fundamental truth that was hard for me to endure.

I ended up pursuing my B.A. in English at California State University—Los Angeles. When I graduated in 2015, I wondered if I would feel a sense of loss after finishing school. I also feared that I would suffer from depression again now that I had to figure out the next chapter in my life. Luckily, there was a wonderful song that played during the final episode of Glee that aired on March 20, 2015. The song is called “This Time,” and it taught me two important life lessons.

For me, “this time” has a double meaning: It refers to my collective experience as a college student (and this time I’m moving on), and it also means that I wouldn’t go into a depression after graduating. Glee officially ended in March 2015, but I was determined to enjoy my graduation ceremony in June 2015 knowing that “this time” I would not mourn the loss of my school mates. I found a lot of the lyrics very relatable to my academic journey because I was not the best student in high school, yet I still made it to my graduation day from CSULA.

“I look at everything I was
And everything I ever loved
And I can see how much I’ve grown

And though the mirror doesn’t see it
It’s clear to me, I feel it
I can make it on my own

I’m not afraid of moving on and letting go
It’s just so hard to say goodbye to what I know, I know”

This song made me realize that I changed a lot since I was a teenager. My college experience was the best time of my life, but I had to let that go. “This time,” though, I would celebrate how far I came in life rather than feeling empty without my classmates. Just like Rachel sang, “This time that we had, I will hold…forever!” I will hold my college experience in my heart now and forevermore.

Many years have passed since the TV show Glee premiered in 2009, but I am truly grateful for the fact that I had characters to look up to even as I struggled with the stress of college. My time as a college undergraduate might have already come to an end, but I will always have the fond memories of being around other students and completing assignments while singing and dancing along with the kids from Glee club.

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