Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glee – "Blame It On The Alcohol"?

Any “Gleeks” in the audience? Fans or regular viewers of “Glee”, the popular show on FOX, know that the show doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter.  

Last week’s episode was no exception. Underage drinking is on the rise among McKinley High students, and the Glee Club is asked to highlight the dangers of drinking by performing at a school assembly. In the week leading up the assembly, however, it’s the Glee kids who are experimenting with alcohol, at home and even in school. Characters talk about drinking as a way to have fun, let loose and be cool. 

The feedback they get from adults is mixed. Mr. Schuester, their mentor and Glee director, takes this opportunity to condemn teen drinking and, especially, drunk driving, but isn’t sure how to respond when the kids challenge his opinions. He goes out drinking “to relax and blow off steam” with other faculty members, and comes to school with a strong hangover the next morning. As for the kids, they face few serious consequences for their actions.  

What messages will kids and teens glean from this episode of “Glee”? That depends on the way adults around them react. If parents don’t speak to teens about alcohol and drugs, they will learn about it elsewhere, and what they learn may not be accurate; “Glee” is only one example, of many. As character Mercedes notes, much popular media these days glorifies alcohol, and there are very few songs out there that send the message that drinking is not okay.  By engaging kids in a conversation that encourages critical viewing and listening, we can use this as a teaching opportunity to help our kids resist these messages in the future.

To get the conversation started, Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County offers a list of questions for parents whose kids watch Glee: 

  • Do you think that the episode of Glee realistically portrayed high school drinking?
  • How do you think it could have been different?
  • Do you think there was anything that the producers left out that would have made the awareness message stronger?
  • Do you agree with Coach Bieste’s statement – “We can’t stop them from drinking. It’s inevitable but we need to make sure they are educated on the dangers and hope that they are smart enough to make good decisions on their own”?
  • We've seen the Glee kids having tons of fun before this episode without the use of alcohol. What were some of those things? Did they seem to have any more or less fun with the addition of alcohol? 
For a summary of the episode and an excellent analysis of the show’s messaging, check out this blog post from the Drug Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County:  

If you’d like to watch the episode for yourself, it’s available for free at for the next few weeks. Bear in mind that you may not consider the subject matter or how it’s presented appropriate for your kid or teen.

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