It’s been five years since Glee went off the air, and it has not aged well. Here’s everything that’s gone down since the series finale.
There’s an undeniable comfort in rewatching a show you love. Reuniting with characters that feel like friends, even family, knowing exactly how the story is going to go, being able to jump to your favorite moments. It’s one of the great joys of the modern age.
Of course, there’s a caveat that comes with any rewatch.
As you head back to the beginning, you have to be prepared for the possibility of the show being more problematic than you remember.
Some shows, like Friends, are given a bit of a pass, considering when they were made. Friends went off the air in 2004; of course its jokes aren’t going to hold up 16 years later.
Then there are shows like The Office, which was intentionally cringe-worthy at the time (Scott’s Tots, anyone?) and now is widely acknowledged for its problematic aspects. Even Steve Carell has noted that a reboot wouldn’t work.
And then there’s Glee.
Glee ran for six seasons on Fox, clocking out at 121 episodes. For many, including myself, the show was simply a story about the underdogs of McKinley High School, singing and dancing their way to greatness. It was a feel-good show, most of the time.
But in the five years since the series finale aired, the sad truth is that Glee has aged like milk.
Granted, for a story and character arc to work, there has to be measurable growth.
Each character on Glee had their flaws. In fact, half of them started out as bullies. Even Mr. Schuester began the show by planting weed in a student’s locker to blackmail him into joining the Glee Club.
During a show’s first season, it’s easy to give everyone the benefit of the doubt that they’ll get better. The thing is, they never truly did.
Right out of the gate in season two, Rachel Berry sends a talented, potential new member of the Glee Club to a literal crackhouse.
In reality, being terrible and selfish was kind of the hallmark of Rachel Berry’s personality. But, thanks to well-placed heartfelt moments, viewers are made to feel sorry for her and empathize. In the end, it’s an emotional triumph to see her get everything she’s ever wanted.
But, even with a new crop of kids, things remained problematic throughout Glee‘s story.
Remember in season four, when Marley was shamed for not wearing a revealing outfit on stage not only by the male members of the Glee Club, but also by the male director?
She wasn’t just shamed; she was actively punished for choosing to be comfortable.
There are moments like these just littered through this series, and odds are, you’ve probably forgotten about a good portion of them.
Well, maybe not forgotten. Blocked them from your brain is more likely.
What makes things worse with Glee is that things appear to have been just as problematic off-screen as they were onscreen — albeit in different ways.
In 2013, Cory Monteith, who played Glee’s beloved quarterback Finn Hudson, died of an overdose. The devastating news came just months after Monteith had completed a voluntary stint in rehab.
The show chose not to focus on the circumstances of Monteith’s death, instead writing an episode centered on celebrating his character’s life. It’s a beautiful tribute, but devastating to relive, as Finn truly was the heart of the show.
In 2018, the legacy of Glee was rocked by the death of another cast member.
Mark Salling, who played Noah “Puck” Puckerman throughout the entirety of the series, died by suicide on January 30, 2018. The news came just weeks before his sentencing, after Salling had pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in October 2017.
Sadly, news of problems behind the scenes of Glee is still coming out.
In November of last year, Melissa Benoist, who played Marley Rose on the show, revealed that she had been the victim of intimate partner violence. While Benoist never explicitly named her abuser, the timeline of her relationship with Glee co-star Blake Jenner appears to indicate that they were married at the time of the incident Benoist regaled.
As recently as this week, news of even more vitriol on the Glee set was revealed.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, protests have sprung up nationwide, with more and more celebrities using their platform to voice support. This includes Rachel Berry herself, Lea Michele.
Her remarks were swiftly met by actress Samantha Ware, who played Jane on Glee.
Ware asserted that Michele behaved particularly poorly on set, accusing the actress of making her “first television gig a living hell.”
Fellow Glee actor Alex Newell soon jumped in, supporting Ware speaking out.
Even Amber Riley, who played Mercedes for Glee‘s entire run, subtly piled on, Tweeting a gif of her drinking some, presumably very hot, tea.
Riley has since addressed Michele’s comments directly, saying that she did not read Michele’s apology statement, nor had she talked to her former co-star in two years — until Michele reached out this week.
At this point, it’s hard to separate Glee‘s onscreen issues from the off-screen ones. The show has become shrouded in sadness and anger, and rumors of even more unsavory behavior from other cast members.
It’s hard to want to support the project post-mortem, let alone take solace in rewatching old episodes. As a result, it’s hard to support the idea of a reboot, even if creator Ryan Murphy has some ideas.
Of course, people change. And hopefully, they grow. The Glee cast was young at the time of filming. It certainly doesn’t excuse their actions, but at the very least, there’s the hope that they’ve grown.
And that’s what you missed on Glee.
Are there any shows that you find difficult to revisit? Sound off in the comments below.