Content warning: This article mentions suicide.
When an optimistic Spanish teacher — Will Schuester — takes over McKinley High School’s “Glee” club, ambitious students express themselves with their voices in school. While they establish a close-knit community through show choir, they often find themselves battling the judgment of others on their long path to nationals.
Sounds like a good way to spend a dorm weekend, doesn’t it? “Glee” is a six-season musical comedy created by executive producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. The television show experienced a surge in popularity after being added to Hulu and Disney+ streaming services on June 1, 2022.
Why is a show that aired a decade ago still popular? Here are three potential answers:
Lea Michele’s Funny Girl Controversy
With multiple pieces from “Funny Girl,” including Lea Michele’s very own show-stopping rendition of “Don’t Rain on my Parade” in the show’s first season as Rachel Berry, it seemed only fitting the “Glee” community was buzzing when Michele was cast as Fanny Brice for the Broadway musical’s revival in July 2022. And it did, but for all the wrong reasons.
Michele’s casting was extremely controversial and sparked allegations of creating a toxic work environment from colleague Samantha Marie Ware, who portrayed Jane Hayward in the show’s sixth season.
Amongst all controversy, Michele is currently still starring in “Funny Girl,” often selling out the August Wilson Theater. But, this dramatic dispute continues to bring attention back to “Glee.” As they say, bad publicity may be good publicity.
Paving Social Progress
Like many American high school performing arts programs, “Glee” club is made up of an enormously diverse student body with LGBTQ, Black, Asian and handicapped representation. Chris Colfer starred as Kurt Hummel, who undergoes homophobic bullying from classmates and a major struggle of coming out to his father.
Lauren Potter, a prospective actress with Down syndrome, made her triumphant “Glee” debut as Becky Johnson in the show’s first season. Finally, Kevin McHale starred as Artie Abrams, who must overcome being paralyzed in a wheelchair after his dream of dancing is halted.
“Glee” reminds viewers that everyone goes through something — even those who seem like they have it all together. Cory Monteith starred as Finn Hudson, the star quarterback who goes through a decline of confidence when it comes to body image in the show’s second season. Dianna Agron starred as Quinn Fabray, the popular cheerleader who experiences a teen pregnancy that derailed her cheerleading career in the first season.
These challenges and their overcomings are paramount to feel-good American television and provide comfort for those who identify with each struggle depicted on the show, a resounding reason to watch it back countless times.
Life is Temporary, “Glee” is Forever
One thing “Glee” is sadly known for is the number of young deaths since the season’s airing. Three of the twelve original members of the “Glee” club have since passed. Cory Monteith — who played Finn Hudson — passed away in 2013 due to an alcohol and heroin overdose. Mark Salling, who played Noah Puckerman, passed away in 2018 due to suicide by hanging. The most recent, Naya Rivera, who played Santana Lopez, passed away in 2020 due to drowning.
The death of these actors correlates with the death of a viewer’s adolescence surrounded by friends, laughter and music. While all viewers have said goodbye, the only way to relive these iconic moments and characters is by rewatching their beloved comfort show.
“Glee” is not just a show, but an experience. It is an extremely fulfilling one, having provided the viewers with over 700 songs, interesting Broadway drama and social representation for over 13 years. So sit back and enjoy the “Glee” revival — or should I say — the “Glee-vival!”