PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Television

To Sir, With Love?: ‘Glee’s’ Will Schuester Problem

In its second season, Glee finds itself facing its biggest challenge: what do do with Will Schuester? To solve the problem, the writers might need to do more than simply state that the adviser for New Directions is a good guy.

Glee

Airtime: Tuesdays, 8pm
Cast: Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch, Lea Michelle
Subtitle: Season Two
Network: FOX
Amazon

Since the first season, I’ve been indecisive about Glee; the writing is inconsistent, the episodes are uneven, and enjoying Glee always raises questions about whether or not the show is good or simply a shiny object. But now, in the show’s second season, the cracks in Glee’s construction are becoming more apparent. While season one tried to juggle the desires to be both a snarky critique of high school and a musical, season two has become about the set list, with obvious, underdeveloped vignettes disguised as plot to pad the hour. Character development, consistency, and pushing boundaries seem to have been sidelined in some unnamed quest to become a candy-coated crowd pleaser that throws a mildly risqué wisecrack in the mix to remind us that it’s clever.

The weak moments related to the show’s infrastructure could probably be ignored if they didn’t emphasize what’s arguably the most troubling aspect of Glee: the struggle to figure out what to do with Will Scheuster’s character. As the episodes increasingly focus on big performances and simple stories, the problem of developing the show’s central adult character has created a troubling, strange relationship between the students of New Directions and their advisor.

Teacher-student relationships on television are always unusually close; in real life, they’d likely set off parental and administrative alarm bells. Through the magic of television, however, viewers find a non-sexual type of romance in the supportive, mutually fulfilling teacher-student relationship. Teenagers become young adults and their parents’ roles become smaller, but the teacher-student plot reassures viewers that these almost-adults still have guidance. Over the course of a successful show, the fictional mentoring relationship takes on a new level when it takes a familiar plot turn: the insightful television teacher who preaches self-actualization finds that he or she is not above making mistakes and being a student him or herself.

But this fictional relationship is one of the more delicate ones depicted on television and must be carefully crafted by writers; in this relationship between attractive young people and slightly older attractive people, intimacy and appropriateness levels have to be carefully managed. Slippage beyond certain unseen boundaries can create awkwardness within the overarching narrative of the show and alienate viewers. At Glee, this television wisdom seems to have gone unheeded. And, in this season, these moments of slippage and inappropriateness have been occurring regularly.

In season one Will Schuester was over-sharey with his students, but that was easily excused by the cheeriness of the show, certain plot points (like Terry Schuester’s involvement with Quinn Fabray’s pregnancy), and fact that teenagers – televised or not – always seem to sniff our gossip about their teachers. The second season finds Will Schuester not only over-sharing with his students as he flounders at the hands of writers who can’t decide whether he should have his own adult story and whether or not that story should intersect with the lives of his students. As a result, the current trend on Glee is depict Will Schuester running around like a sex-obsessed, self-centered man whose colleagues must constantly state is “a good guy.”

And this has been the big problem – and an increasingly severe problem – with Glee all along: the show tells more than it shows. In this case, in which a character’s onscreen actions run counter to the rhetoric about him, a strong narrative conflict arises within the show which can quickly turn audiences against that character and the show as a whole. Compounding this problem is the fact that that character is, by most accounts, the center of the show.

The search to find Will Schuester a story and direction has resulted in a pattern of erratic, strange, and fully inappropriate behavior based around the conflicting impulses to depict Schuester as a model educator and a sexual being. For example, in the episode, “The Substitute,” Will Schuester nearly loses his job to the fun-loving but irresponsible substitute teacher Holly Holliday. But before his termination is complete, he’s rescued from unemployment by the collected testimonies of his students. In a well-cut and clever montage, the members of New Directions speak to Schuester’s strengths as a teacher and person.

Within the arc of season two, however, this moment rings hollow and verges on self-parody. Where are episodes where Will Schuester teaches Brittany the alphabet or counsels Rachel and Finn? Rather than show him as a teacher, we’ve been given the Will Schuester of season two’s second episode, “Britney/Brittany,” who made us uncomfortable by joining his students onstage at an assembly to do a raunchy version of Britney Spears’s “Toxic.” And two episodes before Holly Holliday rolled into town, Will Schuester used his students, school resources, and his position of authority to stage a production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in order to impress the woman he would like to sleep with and steal her from her boyfriend.

What ends up happening is that the moments dedicated to plumbing the depths of Will Schuester’s libido resonate as weird and memorable (in the bad way) while the moments when he sits on the sidelines and guides his students puts him at an awkward distance from his actual narrative function. As a result, Will Schuester becomes a different character every episode while the show’s villain, Sue Sylvester, has become the show’s mouthpiece of pedagogical wisdom and common sense. And really, where’s the fun in that?

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.