What We Can Learn From the Boys of Glee

As I’m sure many other members of Generation Z also did, I recently re-watched Glee in its entirety after discovering it was added to Netflix last June. However, if you are one of the few to never have had the pleasure of watching Glee, here is a quick overview. The award winning American musical comedy follows an ever-growing group of outcast protagonists, as they navigate their high school and young adult careers as part of their school’s show choir the New Directions. Glee’s main female characters include the driven and self-proclaimed star Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), American Sweetheart and head cheerleader Quinn Fabray (Dianna Agron), self-assured Latina lesbian Santana Lopez (Naya Rivera), and diva Mercedes Jones (Amber Riley). Nevertheless, as complex and inspiring as these young female characters are, today I will be focusing on the boys of Glee and what we can still learn from them 11 years on from when the show premiered.

(Warning: major spoilers ahead!)

  1. 1. What it Means to be a Man

    The boys of Glee are all incredibly unique but a standout character is Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith). When we first meet Finn, he is the clueless yet dreamy quarterback of the school football team. Popular and good-looking, he sees no ethical ramifications in dumping school outcasts such as the fabulously flamboyant Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) into the dumpsters, or giving show choir divas like Rachel Berry a ‘slushie facial’.

    Once Finn is blackmailed into joining the glee club, with marijuana planted into his locker (yes really!) by show choir director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison), we get to see him blossom into an inspiring young leader. After some initial problems accepting the homosexuality of his admirer Kurt who later becomes his stepbrother (again yes really), he learns that being a man is not what he first thought. At his mother’s wedding to Kurt’s father, he gives a heartwarming speech to Kurt, showing his newfound respect for those who are different from himself. Finn tells Kurt that he taught him more about being a man than anyone else in his life has, before dedicating Bruno Mars’, ‘Just the Way You Are’ to him in one of the shows many touching moments.

    Glee teaches us that there is not just one way of being a man, and what’s important is compassion, understanding and respect. This is a lesson for everyone, not just those who identify as male.

  2. 2. How to Make an Awesome Mashup

    It is no secret that Glee does musical mashups of several hit songs very well, and I am not ashamed to say that I definitely have a few on my Spotify playlist. The boys have no shortage of wonderful and creative mashups with honourable mentions including ‘Moves Like Jagger / Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘It’s My Life / Confessions’ and ‘Hungry Like the Wolf / Rio’. I believe the best by far however is ‘Stop! In the Name of Love / Free Your Mind’. For this mash-up the boys were challenged to perform songs traditionally sung by women and they did a brilliant job. Finn, Artie (Kevin McHale) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) take on the lead vocals and the mix of their voices with the fun and dorky dance moves from all the boys is a treat for both the ears and eyes.

  3. 3. How to Be a Wonderful Parent

    To any parents out there, take note from Burt Hummel. Mike O’Malley’s portrayal of Kurt’s father and Finn’s stepfather is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Burt does a fantastic job of raising Kurt as a single father after his wife passed away when Kurt was only 8 years old and will defend his son against anyone who attacks his sexuality and femininity.

    When we first meet Burt in the 4th episode, he comes downstairs to Kurt’s basement bedroom complaining of the noise that Kurt and two glee club girls, Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Brittany (Heather Morris) are making. When we first see blue collar, hyper-masculine Burt, watch his son practice the infamous ‘Single Ladies’ dance routine we take in a collective gasp, expecting him to be the typical old-fashioned homophobic parent that we have seen time and time again. However Burt turns out to be the most accepting character on the entire show, and the scenes we see between him and Kurt, were a breath of fresh air that broke down many walls for network TV. Kurt coming out to Burt is actually quite anticlimactic yet heart-warming as Burt neither disowns Kurt or gets him tickets to go to see Ellen live, instead he just says ‘I know’ showing his unconditional acceptance of his son.

    The scene as written in the script:

    KURT: “I’m gay.”

    BURT: “I know.”

    KURT: “Really?”

    BURT: “I’ve known since you were three. All you wanted for your birthday was a pair of sensible heels. I guess I’m not totally in love with the idea, but if that’s who you are, there’s nothing I can do about it. And I love you just as much. Okay?”

    This is not the end of Burt’s amazing parenting scenes however as there is much more to raising any child, whether gay or straight, than simply accepting their sexuality. In season 2, after concerns about the growing friendship between Kurt and Blaine (Darren Criss) and then finding Blaine in Kurt’s bed (although totally innocent) Burt decides it’s time for Kurt to have the talk, yes that talk. Although this can be awkward for any parent, Burt handles the situation with grace and teaches Kurt the most important lesson for the character and the audience, self-respect. He tells Kurt to make sure he never ‘throws himself around’ and to save sex for developing a connection with someone important, and then of course he gives Kurt pamphlets which have all the awkward and yet very necessary information inside.

  4. 4. Boys Have Insecurities Too

    We see female body insecurities played out on TV all the time, but we rarely see males dealing with the same problems. This is misleading for all audiences as it suggests men don’t have the same worries about their appearances that women have, and this is certainly not the case. By showing both Finn and Sam struggle with fears of their impending topless scenes in the upcoming Rocky Horror school musical in season 2 and Artie later opt out of the topless calendar fundraiser in season 4, Glee helps to break down the stigma that men cannot have or show weakness and insecurity, a huge step in the right direction for tackling issues of male mental health.

I could say so much more about how great the boys of Glee are, but I think the points I have discussed are a great representation of what the boys brought to this Fox hit. Not only is Glee hilarious and full of musical genius, it also touches on hard hitting topics and teaches us so much more than most TV shows and films of the kind. So, if you haven’t seen it yet I would highly recommend you find the time, at the very least it will leave you laughing and humming the songs for the rest of the day!


Ps. If you love Glee as much as me and don’t want to stop believing just yet, check out Glee actors Kevin McHale and Jenna Ushkowitz’s podcast Showmance on Spotify or PodcastOne, to hear episode by episode run downs with new gossip and guests like the one and only Mike O’Malley, every week.


Words by Alice Colton.


Edited by Sarah Goswami.