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  • Sarah Bauman, APA

What you missed on Glee: My impressions after watching it for the first time in 2020

As 2020 has (finally) come to a close, with a plausible finish line to this quarantine becoming hazily visible with the recent FDA approvals of the Pfizer, Moderna, and BioNTech vaccines, I think that everyone will, at some point, reflect on what got them through this year of constant strife. COVID-19 has pushed healthcare and other essential workers to the brink of sanity, doomed many small businesses and local restaurants to bankruptcy, shut down an incalculable number of schools, and, above all, has forcibly taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (many of them only having only the company of a healthcare worker in their final moments). 2020 has left its cruel, unabating mark on history to say the least. However, I am lucky enough to be a person in a position of relative privilege, so my main struggle this year was simply combatting the boredom and excruciating apathy that comes with quarantining. This quarantine has been challenging for me, personally, because of the fact that I am a big theatre lover, and theatre is a very social and interactive activity. Although quarantine has definitely prevented me from being involved in theatrical productions and seeing other live performances, I have managed to find solace in a surprising place: the television show Glee.

Now, as I am delving into the implications and overall narrative handling of many plotlines from the show, there will be spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

The show Glee centers around a high school glee club in a small town in Ohio. A glee club is a club in which you sing and vocalize with other people (typically without instruments, but Glee uses them all the time anyway). To sum up the plot of the show, the main character is an idealistic yet inspiring Spanish teacher, Will Schuester, who has a dream of reliving his high school glory days through the revitalization of the glee club at McKinley High (the school he graduated from n currently teaches at), which unfortunately disbanded due to budget cuts and the original glee club teacher passing away. To achieve this goal, Will talks to McKinley’s principal, Principal Figgins, and convinces him to recreate the school glee club on the condition that he, Schuester, teaches the club and pays for the club’s endeavors in full.

Now the other main characters of this colorful cast come into play. There’s Rachel Berry, a passionate theatre-lover who has a tendency to be overzealous and, consequently, annoying to others; Finn Hudson, a kind and accepting quarterback who defies the stereotypical high school social hierarchy of McKinley (i.e. jocks and popular girls being above the theatre kids and nerds) by eventually joining glee club; Kurt Hummel, a brave and unapologetically creative young man who faces many prejudices throughout the series for being openly gay; Mercedes, a confident and talented girl who is endlessly supportive of her friends; and Quinn, a character who loses importance and is essentially neglected as the series goes on, but who later creates friction with Rachel, as she is the head cheerleader at McKinley and Finn’s girlfriend at the start of the series. Now mix in a cheerleading coach intent on dismantling the glee club, a bunch of other high schoolers who are also played by grown adults, teacher-student relationships that are just a little too personal for comfort, and a slew of musical numbers, and you have yourself a hit television show.

Due to Glee’s almost six years on air (It’s now available to stream for free on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video!) and its association with a genre of television that thrives on ridiculous drama and satirical comedy, one might assume it would be one of those shows that seems to explore all topics and possible storylines for its characters. (Think The Simpsons or Grey’s Anatomy.) And, one would be right. Glee, of course, has covered the more mindless entertainment tropes of “who’s breaking up with who?” and “will the main characters of the show win the glee club competition?” and, in quarantine, that’s honestly enough for me as a viewer.

However, what is so much more important in media are storylines that force the audience to reflect on certain aspects of society. Glee succeeded in this by creating storylines about teen pregnancy, suicide, homophobia, death and many more. For instance, at the start of the series, Quinn was kicked out of her house by her parents due to her pregnancy as a high school sophomore, a topic that was, for the most part, handled very well and with the maturity it warranted. The show didn’t try to make jokes about the subject, and it showcased Quinn’s entire experience all the way from her parents not being able to look her in the eye when they first found out to Quinn’s eventual reconciliation with her mother. In addition, when one of Kurt’s bullies, who specifically picked on him for being gay, was outed as gay himself online, he attempted to kill himself. It was a very raw and vulnerable moment for the series that made sure to reserve the time it needed to fully impact the viewer; from the bully’s actor flawlessly depicting the feeling of being trapped inside one’s own racing head, to the powerful and haunting rendition of Cough Syrup, being sung behind it all, Glee treated this topic appropriately and with the respect it deserved.

This show, however, is infamously problematic and politically incorrect. Throughout the show, there were plenty of controversial plotlines that fueled the show’s questionable reputation. For example, one plotline in Season 2 portrayed one of the main high school students, Santana Lopez, being outed as a lesbian.In the episode, Santana was still closeted and struggling with rumors of her being gay. The members of the glee club, her close friends, were all relatively aware of those rumors being true, but made sure not to say anything so that she could come out when she was ready. However, when Finn is in an argument with Santana, he ends up outing her. First off, outing is never okay under any circumstances, but on top of that, despite being very caring toward and protective of her friends, Santana’s whole character is built around her lashing out easily under pressure. Obviously, in the episode, Santana was practically speechless and truly enraged when Finn outed her in the middle of a busy hallway of McKinley, but everyone else was strangely in support of what Finn did, believing it justified. By the next episode, Santana forgave him in a manner untrue to her character, and the whole ordeal was simply forgotten about. In another example of problematic episodes, Will wants his students to embrace the rebellion of artistic norms by giving them a twerking assignment, in which he would dance alongside them. This is at least distasteful and at most cause for a lawsuit, and Sue Sylvester, former cheerleading coach turned principal, is rightfully not having these shenanigans, but Will insists on it, accusing Sue of repressing the glee club’s creativity.

So, all in all, why did I even watch this show? How can I look back at such an offensive and poorly written show and confidently say that it is of quality? Well, honestly, it’s because of the music that Glee showcases. It’s because of all of the songs and timelessly talented artists that I had either not known of or had forgotten about over the years. It’s because this show is a place for any music or theatre lover to truly appreciate and immerse him or herself in craft. During a time where many are heavily deprived of live music and live theater, it is especially comforting and important. Glee is an entertaining summary of American music, and I feel that that is all it needs to be. Sure, the privilege of airing one’s work on national television deserves well-written and well thought out content, but Glee knew that it was satire, knew that it was silly, knew that it was just another high school drama series with a musical twist, and knew that millions would still watch it despite that, because we, as Americans, are suckers for that genre anyway. If we simply value Glee for what it was intended to be― more of an homage to great musical artists that made American culture rather than a television show meant to be taken seriously― we can embrace campy tradition and whet our musical appetite for what we can only imagine is soon to come.

Craziest Places on Earth That Look Fictional, But Aren’t!

Seven continents, five oceans, 195 countries, 10,000 cities, and 7.8 billion people to see it all. There are hot, sandy deserts, bustling cities, rich and productive farmland, grassy fields of flowers that appear to go on forever, colorful rainforests teeming with life, and more. However, every now and again, there are certain places that just seem unreal, ethereal, as though they’re straight out of a sci-fi or fantasy movie, born from a miraculous feat of nature.

One such place is Mexico’s “Hidden Beach”, a large circular crater imprinted into the Marieta Archipelagos in Banderas Bay. Originally produced after repeated bombingss due to Mexican military target practice in the early 1900s, it can only be accessed through an underwater tunnel. To get to this pocket of paradise, one must swim through said tunnel during low tide in order to have as much space as possible to swim in between the water and the jagged, rocky ceiling of the tunnel. The tide propels a swimmer toward the end of the tunnel and, although the tunnel itself is relatively dank and dark, the perilous journey is more than worth it as the tide thrusts you into the clear, turquoise water of the underground beach, having you wash up on the beautiful shore.

Next, is Lake Hillier on Middle Island, off the coast of western Australia and—get this—it’s tinted the brightest bubblegum pink hue. Now, believe it or not, the color is natural, and all because of the lake’s heavy salt concentration. Microorganisms, such as Halobacteria and a type of algae known as Dunaliella salina, thrive in salty environments. Halobacteria and D. salina specifically secrete red carotenoid pigments (which are typically synthesized by plants but can also be produced by algae and bacterias such as these) that cause the pink lake’s bold appearance. Although visitors are advised not to swim in the lake due to its high salinity, the view on it’s own is surely enough to fulfill any desire for an otherworldly experience.

Third, are the salt pans in the Potosm and Oruro departments, areas of a country that are similar to states or provinces, of southwest Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is in close proximity to the crest of the Andes, located at an elevation of 11,995 feet above sea level. This feat of nature has been deemed “heaven on earth” because it serves as a natural mirror. So, what is a salt pan and why do these ones reflect the sky? Salt pans are shallow geological structures that hold the salt and minerals left behind from evaporated salt water. To qualify as a salt pan, however, the climate must prevent formation lakes or ponds by creating an environment in which the rate of rainfall is faster than the evaporation rate. When evaporation takes longer than the rate of rainfall, the runoff cannot drain and results in massive deposits of minerals with a thin film of water over the salt pans, allowing visitors to traverse across. However, this geological wonder isn’t just a popular tourist attraction; it also has many practical uses. Due to its flat surface that stretches about 6,500 square miles far, NASA uses it to calibrate satellite orbits from space. Additionally, 50 to 70 percent of Earth’s supply of lithium, a valuable component of many minerals, is harvested from *insert what it’s harvested from (Eg. mines)*. All things considered, if you’ve ever wanted to fly, walk amongst the clouds, or simply take a perfect photo for social media, grab some water shoes and get going!

Finally, found in the dry, vast Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan, this landmark is perfect for adventure-seekers and daredevils alike. “The Gates of Hell,” lesser known as the Darvaza gas crater due to its proximity to the village of Darvaza, is a menacing 230 feet wide hole that has been an inextinguishable fire for over 40 years. \. The hole was initially formed when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally ruptured a previously undiscovered natural gas cavern in 1971. This colossal mistake resulted in the ground collapsing underneath the drilling rig, causing it to fall into the newly formed crater. The drilling rig punctured a pocket of gas, causing poisonous fumes to rapidly leak from the area. To ensure the safety of the environment after this fiasco occurred, the Soviets set the crater aflame, allowing the poisonous fumes to slowly dissipate. The Soviets assumed that the fire would go out after a few weeks, but the pit just kept burning for decades. Despite being the product of an unfortunate drilling rig accident, this crazy landmark’s constant luminescent glow continues to be seen for miles throughout Turkmenistan. The Soviet drilling rig is still believed to be down in the depths of the crater somewhere today.

At the end of the day, any place on Earth is worth experiencing, whether it be a wild tourist attraction or just a tree in your backyard that you take a moment to look at and appreciate. Sometimes, we, as humans, can get lost in our own lives and forget how amazing even the smallest, most mundane aspects of nature are and how fortunate we are to have them surround us. Many of the places above have, unfortunately, been commercialized for tourists. As such,there are many more restrictions on conduct in and access to these areas, but those limitations don’t even come close to ruining the magic of these unique landforms. So, for anybody that loves adventure, once COVID restrictions are lifted, they should go to these places; take interest in the world and experience life! However, it is important to remember to never neglect the world as it is right now, it is just as breathtaking.

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