Glee, the hit show about a high school Glee club, has very sharp claws, which is one reason kids like it so much. It is routinely, if hilariously, cruel (the sweet jock is described as so dumb, "he's cheating off a girl who thinks the square root of 4 is rainbows"). But no darker current--let alone motivation for parental monitoring--had occurred to me until I recently heard a bright, earnest youth minister tell a group of high school kids that he thought Glee was "anti-Christian."
It is easy to see his point, if you look at the specifics. In his view, Glee portrays Christians as phonies and hypocrites. He observed that the only self-identified Christian is the shiny blond Quinn, cheerleading president of the celibacy club, who is pregnant by one classmate but pretending the father is another. (To make matters more complicated, in a heartbreaking scene, she begs her parents' forgiveness; in righteous fury, they throw her out of the house.) Meanwhile, the glee-club director, Mr. Schuester, is unhappily married to a perky little spider, which makes the adultery subplot involving him look positively charitable. The students lie, they cheat, they steal, they lust, they lace the bake-sale cupcakes with pot in order to give the student body a severe case of the munchies. Nearly all the Ten Commandments get violated at one point or another, while the audience is invited to laugh at people's pain and folly and humiliation.
Which led my husband to pose the question to our daughters, What would Jesus watch? That in turn led to an intriguing--and useful--conversation around our dinner table. It's the oldest teacher's trick, better to show than tell: the Sermon on the Mount was clean and clear, but Jesus also offered parables, little mysteries to unwrap and examine for their coded messages. This is a delivery device especially good for teenagers building their rebellious muscles.
It insults kids to suggest that simply watching Characters Behaving Badly onscreen means they'll take that as permission to do the same themselves. The fact that Glee is about a club full of misfits already makes it ripe gospel ground; Jesus was not likely to be sitting at the cool kids' table in the cafeteria. And it's set in high school, meaning it's about a journey not just to college and career but to identity and conviction, the price of popularity, the compromises we must make between what we want and what we need.