The Fox television show Glee made headlines this week when two characters, both high school students, lost their virginity to one another. What's new and surprising about that? The characters were gay.
Thus the episode became fodder for the culture wars, with liberals celebrating another taboo broken, and conservatives lamenting same.
Actually, it's a bit unclear whether the TV show is ahead of its times or just the first to reflect changing attitudes. As Jonathan Rauch recently wrote in The Advocate, "In 2010 the number of Americans who support the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations crossed the watershed 50 percent mark. With that comes new challenges and responsibilities for a community still struggling for its rights." And Alex Ross has documented the changing sexual norms of teens in at least one well known high school.
Culture wars aside, what cannot be denied is Glee's popularity. Erik Hedegaard credits its executive producer and creator, Ryan Murphy, for making the concept work. "He's the great gay shaved-head zeitgeist-riding genius of weird TV. Nip/Tuck's 100-episode run starting in 2003 was his deal," his article recounts. "Then, in 2008, Murphy got hold of some dark script about high school Glee clubs, saw the potential in it for something else altogether, pitched it to Fox, got the go-ahead, hired lots of unknowns for the major roles, and then successfully navigated the puzzled Fox execs who, upon seeing the pilot, could only say, according to Murphy, 'What the hell is this? I don't know what this is.'"
Glee's success has made a sudden celebrity of the leading male. "The man behind Mr. Schuester provides grown-ups with a reason to watch," Claire Hoffman writes, "but he has even greater adult-contemporary ambitions — like becoming the next Michael Bublé."
And as every Glee fan knows, it has brought the song "Don't Stop Believing" to a new generation, which is fitting, given the relevant musicians' recent goings-on. "When the legendary rock band Journey needed to replace their lead singer, they turned to the Internet, where they found clips of an unknown 40-year-old singer from the Philippines," Andrew Hetherington writes. "Arnel Pineda was just a small-town boy, living in a lonely world, covering Journey songs in no-name bar bands, but he had the voice—and the hair—of a natural-born rock star. Now he's living a dream that goes on, and on, and on, and on…"