So here’s what you missed on Glenn Beck. His “Restoring Honor” rally on the Washington mall drew throngs of Tea Partiers who voted Republicans back into power. Then Fox dumped Beck’s TV show, and he moved to Texas where he’s continuing his radio show. Now he’s making his TV comeback by producing a conservative rival to Glee, that show about the high-school glee club. And that’s what you missed on Glenn Beck.
At last month’s Faith & Family Coalition Conference, Beck said Fox’s hit television show covered ground he’s not willing to cede in the culture wars. “It’s horrifying some of the things that they’re teaching high schoolers,” he told the conservative conventioneers, “but it’s brilliantly done. It’s produced, brilliantly. Its music, brilliant. Its acting, brilliant. Its cinematography, brilliant. All of it!”
The problem, Beck says, is the sex. “Except everybody is sleeping with everybody else. There’s no values. It’s all self-gratification. It’s a nightmare.”
Of course it’s a nightmare. It’s about high school, where teenagers make mistakes at full speed. They text and drive and total their cars. They have sex and get pregnant. They get drunk and vomit onstage during a pep rally.
But the kids on Glee also pick each other up, take responsibility for their screw-ups and learn from their mistakes. They set goals, work hard, and achieve success. But dear lawdie, worries Beck, they’re having sex!
Sure, the head cheerleader got knocked up in Season One. But she had the baby, gave it up for adoption, and joined the Chastity Club where she offered compassion and hard-won wisdom—and got into Yale. It’s exactly what you would want her to do, but Beck can’t see that because he’s too busy condemning her for having sex in the first place.
As much as Glenn Beck might hate it, the reality is that high schoolers didn’t need Glee to discover sex. The National Risk Behavior Survey finds that about half of American high school kids have had sex despite the constant drumbeat of abstinence education.
Part of the problem for guys like Beck is that some of the kids having sex are gay, including Kurt Hummel and his boyfriend Blaine who always sing romantic holiday duets on the Glee Christmas episodes without causing plagues of locusts to black out snowy skies.
But the most heartfelt gay storylines have featured Kurt’s widowed dad Burt, an auto mechanic-turned-congressman, who would rather take in a ballgame than a ballet. His struggle to accept his openly gay son has dramatized how straight America can accept gay America. But through Burt, Glee also facilitated a rare discussion about the profound emotional consequences that teens need to consider before having sex.
In a 2011 episode, Kurt was being blasé about having sex with his boyfriend for the first time, and Burt tried to get him to understand that it’s a bigger deal that he realized. The result, said the New York Times, was a “moving father-son talk [that] should be required watching for any parent.”
“Once you start doing this stuff you’re not going to want to stop. You just… you gotta know that it means something. You know, it’s doing something… to you, to your heart, to your self esteem, even though it feels like… you’re just having fun,” Burt told his son. “Kurt, when you’re ready, I want you to be able to do everything. But when you’re ready, I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person. Don’t throw yourself around like you don’t matter. ‘Cause you matter, Kurt.”
Glee takes care to depict the real-world consequences of sex, from pregnancy to the emotional wallop it packs on a teen’s psyche, but all Beck see is “everybody is sleeping with everybody else.” Beck plans to preview his anti-Glee offering at his “Restoring Love” event in Dallas on July 28. He promises that his show will be a Trojan horse of conservative values and even brags that he’s hired a real rapper. But all I expect to hear is Beck singing “La, La, La” while he covers his ears. When it comes to having the guts to tell kids the truth, Glenn Beck just doesn’t want to hear it, and he’d prefer you didn’t talk about it.
This column was posted on The Huffington Post on July 10, 2012.