Blame it on Glee

We all did regretful things as teenagers. One too many drinks at a friend’s party lead to one too many drunken words. Heck, it still happens. And now the once-innocent glee-clubbers of Fox’s inanely popular show have now joined a new club: one that glorifies shots of Goose and Henny instead of singing the woes of teenhood in carousel horse sweaters.

In this week’s Glee ep (“Blame it on the Alcohol”), Rachel Berry threw a house party for her fellow glee members, all of whom, with the exception of Kurt and Finn, got drunk off of wine coolers. Despite the warnings of Mr. Schuester, the episode continued with some alcoholic hangover cures and some pre-performance jitter juice.

Although the episode was intended to show the negative effects of drinking, it presented two contrasting ideas.

Many of the songs performed, such as Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” and Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It”, glamourize drinking and the partying lifestyle as a whole. Even though there was puking and hangovers involved, getting drunk together looked like the most fun those glee kids had ever had. The more serious consequences of drinking — drinking and driving, alcohol poisoning, and the unprofessionalism of drinking before performing — were only discussed briefly.

Studies have shown that the more exposed teenagers are to images in the media that promote alcohol are more likely to participate in underage drinking. Avoiding such glamourization of alcohol is much easier said than done. Bobby Wiggins, the director of Drug Education of Naconron International, feels that “many of today’s reality TV shows with young adults contain plenty of on-camera alcohol abuse, which can legitimize or even idolize that behavior in the eyes of impressionable teenagers. At the very least it sets a poor example.” Even in the “Glee” episode, Rachel preaches that there are no songs which drinking is portrayed in a negative manner, because she felt there were no bad side effects to drinking.

Rachel is wrong. There are actually quite a few bands who promote being sober:

Canadian band Simple Plan released a music video for their song “Untitled (How could This Happen to Me)” in 2004. The song was written for a friend of the band who was killed in a drunk driving accident. The lyrics illustrate the pain and heartbreak that comes with losing a loved one, and that those who are affected can feel as if it is their fault. The video, which is sponsored by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) depicts a drunk driving accident and portrays the devastating effects it has on the family.

Plain White T’s’ “Friend’s Don’t let Their Friends Drunk Dial” is about the frustration of girls who drunk dialed them: “You can say all of these beautiful things, but they don’t mean a thing”. And ZZ Top explained that although their song “Arrested for Driving While Blind” seemed to promote drinking and driving, it is actually one that is against drunk driving, as Billy introduces the song by stating “Don’t get arrested for driving while blind”. Although the band is not being preachy about the issue, bass player Dusty Hill claims that getting into such a wreck has terrified him.

Teenagers are still going to drink, whether anyone likes it or not. However, if teenagers (or anyone for that matter) are to drink, they should still be responsible and aware of its possible devastating effects.

Some entertainment industry execs have said before that it is not their job to educate the masses — that should be left up to the schools and families. While this might seem fair enough, statements like that ignore the major influence of entertainment in today’s culture. We need accountable entertainment. Glee has in the past presented itself as an entertainer and educator (the influence of its bullying-themed episodes can’t be denied), but lately Glee seems to be increasingly avoiding creative responsibility for commercial power.

So, who is really to blame? Sound off below!

3 thoughts on “Blame it on Glee

  1. Great story, Emily!

    That said, I think that we hold Glee’s responsibility as a role model television series way too high. Take a look at what is going on over on MTV with Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, etc. Those lifestyles are not going to be setting a good example for any teenagers, but it is about entertainment value. What do people want to watch? This episode of Glee is not promoting alcohol use in my opinion.

    You are right though, what is acceptable in the media seems to become acceptable within adolescent culture. It is definitely a shame, but these are trends, and you have to try and make your own decisions for yourself.

    • Very good point- and I agree, the bar is way too high for Glee (or anyone for that matter) in terms of being good role models. There is always someone who seems family friendly then BOOM! Something happens that makes them such terrible people! Which is ridiculous-kids who are too young to understand adolescent culture shouldn’t be watching it in the first place.

  2. I think the way alcohol is treated by the Ontario Government is ludicrous.

    Ontario’s drinking age is among the highest in the world, the LCBO is an extortionist institution, and 2 a.m. closing times for bars would be laughable if we didn’t live here.

    I don’t understand how restricting (and thereby stigmatising) alcohol is meant alleviate any of the alcohol-related problems in Ontario, especially when it is so rarely explained in a level-headed way by any official channels.

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