Thursday, February 2, 2012

Modern teens wouldn't worship Michael Jackson, Glee!

I don't want to spend too long talking about this, but Glee did a "tribute" episode featuring the music of Michael Jackson this week and my suspension of disbelief kept being popped.  Can you guess why?

Was it the sudden musical interludes that bore no resemblance to reality? The fact that a spiked slushee was enough to send one character to the hospital? The completely unrealistic engagement between two high school seniors? No. (Though seriously writers, what the fuck? Why is every teen show obsessed with having their characters contemplate nuptials before they even get a diploma?)

No, it was the fact that throughout the show, the teen characters only speak of Michael Jackson in the most glowing of terms.  I can't stomach a rewatch to get direct quotes but they basically call him "amazing," "incredible" and other terms more befitting a demi-god.


Most of those characters are high school seniors.  That makes them 18 at the oldest.  So let's do the math. That means they were born in... where is that calculator ap? Ah! 1993 or 94.  Hmmm... 1993.  It seems I remember something important about Michael that year.  Oh yeah... THIS!

So none of these kids would have grown up in a world where Michael Jackson wasn't an accused child molester.  Much like I never lived in a world where Dick Nixon wasn't a corrupt SOB who resigned in disgrace rather than be tossed from office.  Now, whether or not you believe Jackson actually sexually molested those kids, there's no way that's not something they wouldn't think of when his name is mentioned. By the time these kids had memories, Jackson was a tarnished star whose best days were further behind him than Stephen Hawking racing the Flash.  I don't see where the worship and adoration would come from.

I mean, these are high school kids - making tasteless jokes is what they do.  It's weird that they speak of Michael with greater reverence than most people did even during his glory days.  Then there's also the issue of them being so enthralled with Jackson's whole catalog.  I grew up with a love of classic rock and 50s and 60s pop, so I can totally see high school kids being into music older than they are.  It's a little strange that everyone is completely into all of Michael's ouvre, though.  Even when I was in high school, I'm sure there were at least one or two people who thought the Beatles sucked, or who at least didn't know every major song of theirs.

So the character writing felt false on a lot of levels.  The characters felt like mouthpieces for writers in their mid-to-late 30s.  Writers who probably were also kissing some ass to get song clearances that would net them lots of money on iTunes.  So watch out for this when you write.  If your characters are significantly younger than you, do the math and make sure that their views and attitudes are appropriate for their generation... and not yours.


  1. Ditto - call me cynical but your last paragraph was the first thing I thought of.

  2. I only caught parts of it; wasn't there a guy from the preppy school who was slightly admonished for NOT joining in the performance of "Black & White"...

    True, he was making a stand as to the competition between the schools, but still...

    And it would be more interesting if that 'non conformist was African American and not a white jock type...

  3. I stopped watching Glee when they stopped having real story lines in lieu of "theme" episodes. Also, I couldn't take one more obscure Barbra Streisand performance. Nobody knows those songs, much less a bunch of 17-year old kids.

    I haven't looked back, and it feels GOOD.

  4. Yet another reason to not watch Glee. BSW, do you watch these because you feel you have to for your job? Or is it that you actually enjoy it? Because I found Glee to be just a crapfest with teens being autotuned to death. I'd rather watch shows like Royal Pains and Psych myself. And of course Burn Notice - but only because it has Bruce Campbell.

    As for the Beatles, my vocal coach loves to tell this story. One of his band students came up to him one day and seriously asked, "Mr H, did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?"

    And I felt very old the day a I mentioned the movie Labyrinth to my niece's best friend who's 15 and the girl told me she had no idea who David Bowie is.

  5. I think you are way to overboard with this. I thought it was a fun episode. This episode was a tribute to Michael's music. What can't you appreciate about that? And Rachel (Lee Michelle) does say in the beginning that she doesn't get him so there was that.

    And why wouldn't teens know who Michael Jackson is? Hell, there are 7 year olds that know who Michael Jackson is. Why wouldn't a teen?

    I think that the music interluding with everyone was really forced but they are probably pushing iTunes sales like you mentioned.

    But come on? You didn't think the Cello version of Smooth Criminal was awesome?

    1. Not saying they wouldn't know who he was, just that it's odd they'd ALL revere him to that degree.

      And yeah, Smooth Criminal was awesome, largely because Naya Rivera is the show's saving grace this season

  6. "further behind him than Stephen Hawking racing the Flash" ... not bad Bitter. Not bad.

  7. Sounds like an ep of "Glee" I'd actually watch.

    Takes me bad to the early-80s when I was a kid in primary school worshipping Michael Jackson at the height of "Bille Jean".

    So much so, I bought a replica sequined glove at the "Royal Show".

    Another kid in my class bought two sequined gloves and wore them to school.

    Two sequined gloves?

    He got bashed at recess for showing such flagrant disrespect...

  8. I willingly suspend my disbelief. These are the kids who joined the show choir. Who knows what random time travel they get into?

  9. I don't really find this unbelievable at all. Plenty of MJ fans of all ages are in complete denial about that aspect of his life. Choir kids might even see him as a martyr. I would suspect that the people in charge of the rights to MJ's music not liking to be reminded that he was a pedophile had more to do with it.

  10. This entire series is an exercise in how not to write characters. I mean, unless you're going for characters are inconsistent in their motivations and who repeat the same arcs over and over again.

  11. I'm 18 making 19 and I grew up sheltered household that loved old school music. Michael Jackson was one of my fondest memories growing up. I used to pretend we were related, we share last names, and even though there were bad tabloids, I never felt that he did that. I knew about the eccentricities and all but I didn't care. I loved how his music could make me smile on my worst days. I wanted to make a song with him ever since I could sing... I just wish he would've meant more to the world in the time before he died.
    I agree with you, though, about kids my age not knowing because they are more mainstream and I cringe whenever I hear the latest Nicki Minaj or Lady GaGa song and would much rather listen to late 80's, 90's, early 00's and up. I listen to music I can relate to.