“The Glee Project” doesn’t find you interesting

Sarah Harper

 

You were always on my mind, Maxfield. You were the soft-spoken southern hunk who wasn’t enough of a ham to thrive in the big group numbers. And you didn’t survive: you got kicked off of the first episode of “The Glee Project’s” second season, which aired last night. Maxfield, I’m thinking that the world isn’t ready for your kind of wonderful. 

I can only speculate as to why the “Glee” overlords weren’t into your quiet personality, Maxfield, but I think I can take a decent stab. My guess is that it’s twofold: first, they are lazy, and second, Tim Riggins already exists. Heaven knows that head writer Ryan Murphy wasn’t going to stretch his (or his staff’s) imagination to dream up a character from the South who didn’t fit that “Friday Night Lights” mold. That’s why they called you “simple,” that’s why they made you sing “Always On My Mind,” and that’s why you got kicked off. That’s why you’re never going to be on the cast of “Glee,” unless the producers pull the ol’ “Let’s bring back people who got kicked off!” stunt. 

I’m about to go deeper into this, so I should take a break to disclaim something: I went to high school with one of the contestants on this season of “The Glee Project,” which was actually part of the reason I was watching the show so intently. If you were watching Oxygen last night too, you’ll know him as Charlie L., the guy from Chicago who took immediate creative control over the group performance of “Born This Way” because, as was immediately explained, he has attention disorder issues. 

Why did the explanation for his behavior came right with the display of his behavior? That was so fast. Here’s my personal philosophy on reality TV: When you find out something semi-personal about a person, it’s supposed to enlighten everything you’ve seen prior, and that “everything” is supposed to entail a slow build-up of frustrating exposition, punctuated by inexplicable behavior. 

The revelations are supposed to happen six or seven episodes in, after the biggest jerk in the passel of jerks has thrown a shoe at somebody’s head or had sex with someone else’s squeeze. Everyone gets pissed on the show. Audience members get mad too, because this person has been wreaking havoc since episode one and they haven’t understood why. THEN THE BEST THING EVER HAPPENS: You get the fiend in talking head mode, and he says something like, “I ran away from home when I was six and have been living from foster home to foster home ever since. That’s why I don’t trust people, that’s why I’m volatile and that’s why I threw the piñata into the hot tub last night!”

Charlie might not be the best example of the poorly designed emotional layout I’m trying to describe here. His description of his attention deficit disorder came in tandem with his explanation for how it endowed him with  irrepressible creative energy and why he got into acting in the first place. Still, it was a little overwhelming to get it all at once. An even more jarring episode-one-revelation came from Taryn, who started crying about how much she loves her mom. I’m shocked the producers didn’t stretch either of those emotional threads out, especially considering that neither of them wear these issues right on their sleeves.

Look at me now, doing exactly what I’m about to criticize “The Glee Project” creators for doing: I’m reducing Charlie down to a character, who needs exposition and mystery and a shoe-throwing climax. Charlie is a real person. He was a senior when I was a freshman, and we did theater together. I’ve eaten dinner at his house, we know a lot of the same people, we probably had a few of the same teachers and we live in the same neighborhood. I know he’s not a character. 

If I get that, why don’t the producers of “The Glee Project”? They kept saying things about how they need someone who’s “interesting to them.” This is partially understandable because they need somebody who they can write a character for. What wasn’t understandable was how they admonished people constantly for not being themselves, which I found totally bizarre. 

“You’re not being yourself,” is something that nobody should have to hear, ever, especially when “yourself” means an unreal exaggeration of whatever it is that makes you stand out from the rest of the group. Why couldn’t Charlie have gone on a little bit longer being judged for his actions and his actions alone? Why did the judges tell Aylin to be sassier? Why were all the talking heads talking about their issues? What does it mean to “be yourself” anyway? Are we our issues? What are issues? How do we know that the contenders aren’t forcing themselves to be caricatures of their real selves, taking the few parts of them that are unique and magnifying them before pasting them to their sleeves?

Something I’ve ignored this entire time is that “The Glee Project” is a fun show about teamwork and people who sing like angels. But seriously, this mess is a grotesque display of distorted identity politics.