Culture At Large

'Glee': Celebrating the Corny in Culture

Nathan Bierma

When I first watched Glee, whose season finale is tonight, I hated it for its over-the-top corniness. Eventually I realized: the over-the-top corniness was the point of the show. You can either embrace it or try to avoid it; but you can't take it too seriously. The melodrama, the oddball plot twists, the costumes, the Broadway-showstoppers that break out in school hallways--it's calculated corniness. And maybe it's just because the songs are catchy, but I'm starting to like it.

I remember an excerpt I read of the book Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, by music critic Carl Wilson. Wilson examines his own long and deeply held negative feelings for Dion's music, which he found simplistic and schmaltzty, but he ends up sticking up for Celine and her legion of fans. Why is it, he asks, that throngs of people like her music even though snooty critics say they shouldn't? Could it be that the critics, picky as they are, are blinding themselves to something fundamental about music and the way it connects with people? “Between the sentimentalists and the antisentimentalists,” he asks, “who is the real emotional cripple?” And in a democracy, why should snooty elitists define what good musical taste is?

I'm still torn on this point. There's a place for appreciating beauty, skill, subtlety, and depth in any craft, and for regretting direct appeals to sentiment. And yet, there's a danger in being too stingy in doling out appreciation for popular art (if "popular art" isn't an oxymoron). So, putting aside my stinginess, I'll be watching Glee tonight, indulging in its corniness, singing along.

Topics: Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment