Photo Credit: Carin Baer/FOX
As usual, last night's Glee was super-fun. The early, masterful "dance" sequence -- Artie (Kevin McHale) wheeling around the high school, singing Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself" -- managed to be both entertaining and poignant. And Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt's (Chris Colfer) dueling, yet soaring, rendition of the Wicked song "Defying Gravity" deftly connected back to Artie's wheelchair number. ("I'm through accepting limits cause someone tells me so / Some things I cannot change, but till I try I'll never know.") As usual, the show was able to pull off a life-affirming message--you can rise above the things that restrict you (even a wheelchair)--without getting all treacly and sentimental about it. ("I want to be very clear," Artie tells Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz), during a tender conversation about his accident. "I still have the use of my penis.")
But also as usual, Glee devoted several scenes to a deadly serious teen issue, without acknowledging its seriousness. Early in the episode, Puck (Mark Salling) hands his pregnant cheerleader crush, Quinn (Dianna Agron), a wad of bills. "It's what I had left over from my pool cleaning money, after I bought dip and num chucks," he says. "I was kinda getting that you need money for our kid."
Admittedly, this is funny: How naïve can he be? (Thanks for the $18, Puck! Quinn can buy half a used high chair now!) And the conversation leads to an egg-smashing, flour-flinging food fight that's, well, more of the feel-good jollity that makes this show so endearing.
But later, in one of the "moving" moments, Puck says, "I could get us a house, some stuff, furniture. We could be a family." And this is where I start fidgeting. Ever since the teen pregnancy storyline was introduced, I've had squirm-in-my-seat moments, and this is one of them. Teen pregnancy is no laughing matter. The girl's going to have a baby, and her baby daddy's response is to scrape together some stolen bake sale cash for a house and some stuff?
Of course, the show isn't just a musical comedy. It also runs on subversive humor -- and satire is supposed to make you stop and think. So, I stopped to think. "Is Glee being blasé about teen pregnancy because it's so common these days?" I wondered. "Has it become just a typical quandary in the life of an average teen?" Movies like Juno, and news reports of teen moms like Jamie Lynn Spears, would support this. But the statistics don't: The U.S. teen pregnancy rate for teens aged 15-19 decreased 40 percent between 1990 and 2005. (There was a slight uptick in 2006, but just by 3%.)
No doubt the show's creators are well aware of the gravity of their subject matter. Agron thinks so, too. "I think what's brilliant about Ryan [Murphy]'s writing, and Brad [Falchuk] and Ian [Brennan], is that they understand that even if you are typically a bitter person or the mean girl, you're going to have moments that you cave, especially if you're put in this really, really tough experience, that is, teen pregnancy," Agron told The LA Times.
Glee softens hard issues all the time -- prejudice, physical disability, social ostracism -- by incorporating these tough themes into its musical numbers. It's one of the show's many unique facets. Taking on teen pregnancy and flashy, fast-paced choreography is ambitious. I just hope that this storyline doesn't have the same, unfunny side effect of Juno: Relaying the idea that cool, likeable girls get pregnant, and that it's not such a big deal.
It is a big deal, especially when your baby's father is as clueless as Puck.
Do you think Glee glorifies teen pregnancy? Chime in below!