You’re so nice, you’re not good you’re not bad you’re just nice’-Stephen Sondheim, Into the woods
One of the defining aspects of Season 3 has been the notable absence of Will Schuster as choir director. We’ve seen him in his private life but his place in the kid’s lives has become increasingly redundant. They’re growing up and no longer need him but, more importantly, are starting to reassess the sort of things he preaches which in the past they have either blindly or grudgingly accepted.
The first hint came when he stated he would not be directing West Side Story, passing it over to Emma and Coach Beiste. Yet we never actually see them directing. The writers even make a point of having them disappear when there’s actual directing to be done — leaving it to Artie’s clumsy hands. The second was Finn actively taking control of the Lady Music week lesson, even going so far as to invade Will’s territory-yes I am talking about the whiteboard.
Leadership has been a constant theme of this season, and more subtly in the last two; the elections for Student Presidency and Ohio Congress representative have been actively explored. Also on the other end of the spectrum-who will win the coveted role of the ‘lead’ in the school musical? The victors and the leaders we have seen have all fallen into popular preconceptions of who a leader should be but their suitability is one of great debate. At the centre of these coveted positions have been people to whom leadership positions are constantly denied; the homosexual, the handicapped and the black woman.
Kurt Hummel, despite being more than able, has been denied leadership all throughout the series. In Season One he had the nerve to covet the lead in the extremely ambitious Defying Gravity solo. His father had to threaten the school with legal action to even get him an audition with the ‘ever tolerant Mr Schuster’. In private we see Kurt easily hit the note and his decision to flub it is on his own terms. Yet Schuster has never offered him the male lead in competition or even in rehearsal. In Season Two we saw him organise a wedding for his father on a limited budget, whilst incorporating school and the daily torment from Karofsky. This shows that he is a brilliant co-ordinator. In Season Three we have seen him covet and lose the positions of male lead and school president. Of course the song he auditioned for Tony with was inappropriate, but then again so was Mercedes’. Yet she was offered a callback for her ‘radical re-interpretation of the part’. Not once did we see the audition panel offer him any direction as to how to read for Tony, as we also saw in Season One he is more than able to butch it up if he has to. His loss of student presidency speaks volumes about the term ‘popularity contest’, which I found to be an amusing call back to Rachel’s fear that her Diva off against Kurt would be rigged because he was more popular than her. He stood no chance against cheerleader Brittany despite the fact he was the only genuine candidate with a clear agenda and the leadership skills to actually pull it off because at the same time he organised his father’s winning campaign. Once again it’s Will Schuster who tries to usurp a position he assumes he’s appropriate for. I would be very interested to see Brittany as President though or the show having proven it’s point just drops it.
Finn Hudson consistently tries to maintain his position of leader because his social position all but entitles him to it, as quarter back and male lead. Yet Season Two highlighted two insights into these positions — Jesse says that the rest of the guys in glee club sing better than him and Mike can at least dance-so what right does he claim to male lead? Also he also only wins back his position on the football team by default after Sam gets injured. As Season Three arrives, reality is slowly creeping into his privileged world as he realises that what he holds has very little weight — he gets his first competition in the form of the all- round talent Blaine and is passed up for a football scholarship. Also, as a sidenote, he can’t help but forget that Rachel initially had romantic designs on Blaine and they now have a close friendship not to mention terrific vocal chemistry. Yet while Blaine may have won Tony he has still thus been unable to lend his leadership abilities to the Glee club and — given that he clearly knows what he’s doing — New Directions is losing a valuable commodity. Surprisingly the one that has most stood in the way of victory has been their own director Will Schuster.
It has always been clear that Will is using the Glee Club to relive his own high school days and as we see in a brief flashback he was clearly unpopular and an ensemble member in the Glee Club-as far as I can recall he was never the male lead. He constantly sides with Finn and makes sure that his ego is stroked as both a man and performer. There are two possible reasons for this a) Will sees himself in Finn and is trying to relive his own glory days or b) he is still that young gleek pandering to the popular kids in desperate hope that they’ll like him. The areas he has failed as a teacher have been discussed heavily by other essayists and Sue Sylvester so I need not elaborate to further. But for all his talk of inclusions and the supposed master of the misfits he is clearly more comfortable with two attractive middle class white kids as the representation of the club.
Sue Sylvester, on the other hand, has always been a clear foil. One of Glee’s favourite devices is to play with people’s preconceptions of people by casting them in certain roles. It’s never been about whether Sue is a villain or a danger to the Glee Club we must judge her on her actions. She is an eccentric and proven champion, not just of her team but of the misfits. She is one of the few people to actively try and help Kurt when he was being bullied but she found she was not a match for the establishment. Also her two leaders couldn’t be more different-a Latina Lesbian and girl with down syndrome. Yet these two, under her guidance, have proved themselves to be two of the strongest, most able and fiercely independent characters on the show. All three have a quick and biting wit and all three have at one point been called ‘mean’. They may have said or done things people would classify as ‘unkind’ but you can’t deny they get the job done. Sue was not showing favouritism when she hired Becky; the girl has proved time and time again she can hold her own.
I’ve often maintained that Glee has one of the slyest grasps on social satire in pop culture. Unlike many other tv shows I don’t believe it is not exaclty motivated by plot but more of a stunning insight into individual character and/or a particular theme.