On Glee

Minorities R Us

"New Directions" in Diversity

By Janine Hiddlestone

You guys look like the world’s worst Benetton ad!” declared glee club newcomer April Rhodes, looking at the group members seated in a row in “The Rhodes Not Taken” (1-5). (They looked perturbed, unsure whether to be offended, probably unaware that it was a cutting reference
to the multicultural advertisements popular with the fashion house during the 1990s.) She wasn’t wrong: New Directions boasts at least one member each of multiple racial minorities, in addition to representatives of several other less commonly addressed groups that are routinely discriminated against in society. Like Benetton ads, anti-racist social statements that are also intended to sell fashion, the mixed nature of the ensemble serves a dual purpose: the characters’ diversity allows the show to comment on social issues while also providing the chief source of its humor and drama.
 
The idea of choosing to base a show around a school show choir must have been as risky as it was inspired and original. (One can only imagine how that pitch went: “. . . and every ten minutes they burst into song!”) While there is no doubt that the popularity of High School Musical and Hannah Montana demonstrated the existence
of a market for music-centered productions, it was surely a
different matter to move away from the Zac Efron/Miley Cyrus/Disney
style to a more mature view of high school and society in general.
In Glee, life is messy, confusing, and often  …

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