Lesson to Unlearn from Glee – Season 3, Episode 11

So the first thing I have to slug through here is my feelings about Michael Jackson, and how he was a(n alleged) child molester but now that he’s dead it’s become, like, blasphemy to say that and he’s all sainted now, to the point where we’re pretending that in a clutch of 12-ish high school students in 2011, 11 people revere him and one doesn’t have strong feelings either way. And maybe that’s not pretense; I haven’t talked to a lot of teenagers about how they feel about Michael Jackson. But it bugs me and I’m trying not to let it bug me because I’m not really sure that the (alleged) activities of an artist in his/her personal life should affect how we view their work but . . .

So yeah, that kind of messed up this episode for me.

Plus, are they saving “Billie Jean” for the Warblers to do at Sectionals/Regionals/Nationals/Whatever competition they haven’t already done this year? And if not, why wasn’t it in this episode?

Anyway, on to the important things.

The lesson: Quinn got into Yale. Like all American teenagers on TV, Quinn and gang have only heard of a very select number of colleges – an Ivy league and a fictional one – and Quinn got into the Ivy League one! After having the ambition to do so for about five minutes! Go her!

The truth: No fucking way.

Look, I could go into all the ways Quinn in no way got into Yale. In fact, I just did, and then deleted it, because it’s pointless. Y’all know. Yale is f-ing hard. Quinn had not at any point seemed like a Yale candidate. And Yale? F-ing hard.

But there’s a deeper point to be made here, and it also speaks to Kurt and Rachel freaking out about Fictional NYC Drama School. (Finalists? What school has finalists? This is just so you can go back to this conflict in May, isn’t it?)* Kids – real kids – are freaked the fuck out about their futures. Colleges are harder and harder to get into every year. The future is bleak, and many kids feel that a school with a big name is the only route to success, and that there are only two options – phenomenal success, or sucky loserdom.

Actually, we reviewed this in my first Lessons, where we talked about how kids shouldn’t be given the impression that they are either Prom Queen or Nobody?

Anyway, real kids really do feel this way, and shows like this normalize that feeling by having, say, Kurt and Rachel respond to NYADA the way they are, which is realistic for them since they are both a) teenagers and b) drama queens, but with no “rational” voice to check them. No Kurt’s dad saying, “Even if you don’t make it, there are other schools, or you can go to New York and look for work acting and if that doesn’t work out, in a few years, go to school.” No Finn saying, “Hey, let’s look for public venues for you to sing now instead of waiting until graduation/New York.”

And of course it would be blasphemy for anyone on this show to say, “You know, a career in the performing arts is pretty much a crap shoot. Maybe we should look at pathways to an actual paying job.” And hey, I don’t blame them, entirely. Because on the one hand, Lea Michele and Chris Colfer are undeniably talented, and obviously they “made it”, so why not Rachel and Kurt? And on the other hand, there are millions of Rachels and Kurts in the world. So I don’t know what I would do if I were one of their parents. Probably encourage them to go after their performing arts dreams as long as they could live on waitstaff’s salaries, and then support them while they went back to school.  But I digress.

But then to have a character like Quinn – a character who spent her junior year determined to become prom queen, marry Finn, and remain Queen of Lima, Ohio – get into Yale, really affirms the idea that there are only super-dooper winners and utter losers, because they can’t even contemplate for Quinn, say, Ohio State. Okay, I have no idea how hard Ohio State is to get into. But I know there are tons of colleges in Ohio of varying degrees of academic rigor. In fact, there are hundreds, nay, thousands of schools around the country with varying degrees of academic rigor, and frankly, your odds of having a successful life don’t increase that greatly, all other factors being equal, with or without a degree from an Ivy. (All other factors are rarely equal. That’s what skews the statistics.)

So anyway, kids, here are your lessons:

1. Making it in the performing arts is roughly as likely – and as related to your level of talent – as getting hit by lightning. 

2. Making it into an Ivy League has only a slightly higher probability rating, and is somewhat more related to your actual talent, although the relation and probability are still slim.

3. Getting accepted to a particular school – or not – will not make or break your future. 

Oh, and finally . . .

4. Don’t get engaged in high school.

*I stand corrected. Apparently this is a thing some schools for performing arts do.


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