The Nerd in All of Us
Yeah, sure, we all know the show choir at William McKinley High School is filled with nerds. The original members of New Directions fit the usual definition of the word: they’re interested in things that are unusual for their age (e.g., Rachel Berry and Barbra Streisand), are physically or socially awkward (e.g., all of them), and are routinely excluded from more conventional activities (ditto). But here’s the thing: the popular kids at McKinley are just as messed up, lonely, and marginalized as their showbiz-lovin’ counterparts. Consider Finn Hudson, the confused, fatherless football player with the impressive pipes who still mourns the loss of his single mom’s mullet-headed, power-ballad-rockin’ lawn-painter boyfriend. Then there’s Quinn Fabray, the pregnant cheerleader who got kicked off her beloved cheerleading team by nasty coach Sue Sylvester, and then out of the house by her mortified parents. Or Noah “Puck” Puckerman, whose family celebrates Jewish holidays by parking themselves in front of the TV. The adults on the show who were once popular (Will and Terri Schuester, April Rhodes) seem pretty dang messed up, too.
At first glance, Glee seemed poised, like most TV or film vehicles about teens, to focus on the humongous differences between the geeks and the popular kids. The pilot opened with the popular kids (football players, mostly) getting ready to throw flamingly gay, ¼ber-talented, Marc Jacobs—attired Kurt Hummel into a dumpster. We soon learned that this kind of torture (particularly the slushie-in-the-face variety) went on all the time at McKinley. Indeed, there’s a …