Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Glee Gets it Right, Holy Grilled Cheesus!

I have a very complicated relationship with the show Glee. Sometimes it blows my mind. But mostly it isn't as good as I want it to be. However, last night's episode (which I had to wait until tonight to watch on Hulu), was truly great. It wouldn't be Glee if it weren't a little heavy-handed and a touch sappy, but this was as close to brilliance as any show gets.

As I'm writing, I have mascara stains running down my face, because this episode, spectacularly titled "Grilled Cheesus," really touched me. The central storyline revolves around my favorite character, Kurt Hummel, whose almost too-good-to-be true father is in the hospital after a heart attack. Understandably, Kurt has trouble dealing with this, having already lost his mother and his faith at such a young age. Though I am lucky enough to have both of my amazing parents still, losing faith is familiar and painful territory for me.

Kurt is upset and irritated when his friends don't know what to say other than that they will pray for him. This leads to what I feel is one of the most eloquent explorations of spirituality I've ever seen represented in film or television. Many of the Glee clubbers are religious, and find solace in their respective faiths. But Kurt feels all alone, abandoned by God if there is such a thing. Finally Mercedes, my second favorite character, brings him to her church (sporting the world's most fabulous hat). She serenades him with a gospel version of one of my favorite songs of all time that is very special to me, "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water." It is only through this song that Kurt realizes that he may not believe in God, but he believes in something. This song and his best friend finally got through to him.

What I love most about this episode is that it addresses the subject of spirituality versus religion. It is religion that has persecuted Kurt for being gay and as Sue Sylvester rightly claims, has no place in schools. But spirituality has nothing to do with dogma or intolerance. I consider myself a spiritual person, even though I spew anti-religious vitriol any chance I get (apologies to my religious friends). Glee is probably the first show that ever encapsulated my belief in "something," even if I can't name what that is. Even when I was going to church, I only ever felt the spirit when we were singing. And it is only through singing, that these kids can also express themselves.

The obnoxious film geek in me would also like to point out that while it was extremely moving, the Grilled Cheesus subplot, where Finn prays to the apparition of a buttered deity on his sandwich, was utterly hilarious. It kept the show from getting too sappy, and also lampooned the ridiculous nature of these types of sightings that have more to do with exploitation than actual faith. And praying for winning football games and getting to second base, what could be a more accurate portrayal of a teenage boy's prayers?

The final reason why I love Grilled Cheesus so much, is the music selection. Yes Glee always has outstanding musical numbers. But many times, especially last week's Britney episode, most of the songs are filler that just happen to fit the theme o' the week. They're bland and not really relatable or even good. But every single song was dead on (with maybe the exception of "What if God was One of Us." That kind of went too far). I already mentioned "Bridge over Troubled Water," but I also bawled like a baby during Kurt's gorgeous re-imagining of "I wanna hold your hand." It's a song I never liked much, but with this new meaning behind it, and Kurt's beautiful voice and completely believable performance, I lost it big time. Finn's rendition of "Losing My Religion" was also very touching. I felt like it validated his silly grilled cheese-fueled behavior and I actually related to it. He's not the greatest singer or actor, but this was a shining moment for him.

So congratulations Ryan Murphy and fellow Glee writers (all of whom I met at the Glee writer's panel at the Paley Center a few months ago and Ryan waved at me from his Range Rover in the parking lot)! You finally struck the right chord.

Heheh, see what I did there? With the musical pun? 'Chord'? See, Carrie Bradshaw? I can do it too!

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