Monday, February 28, 2011

Disappointed in Glee

This post is going to say a couple of things beyond what I want to get at, so let's address those things first so we can get to the nitty gritty. Yes, I watch Glee. Yes, I enjoy it. Yes, I also like musicals--in fact, being in the pit orchestra for my high school's production of Guys and Dolls was pretty sweet. I realize all these things may make you question my manhood. Go ahead and question it. I'm comfortable enough to admit these things (also that I don't follow any professional sport, don't have a gun, don't see the point in owning a truck when I live in the city [but having friends who have trucks is nice when the occasion calls for it], I like to cook, I like Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos, and--while I'm still able to kill them--spiders freak me out), and I still don't feel the need to figure out sports statistics because you might tease me if I don't know anything about sports (though I'll still say the Chicago Bears are my favorite team, even if I don't even know the name of their quarterback). I'm comfortable in my skin. Also, when I rant, my blog posts are really long. So now let's move on.

Glee the other night was a huge disappointment. The singing was fun and all, but the overall message was that teenage drinking is fine, except when it makes you throw up. The producers and writers of the show thought it was ok to show high school kids drinking at parties (where the kids broke into the parent's liquor cabinet to get plastered), in the halls of school, and while performing at an assembly in school, and have no repercussions whatsoever. Oh, except for hangovers and throwing up.

That's not the biggest disappointment, either. None of the adults could offer any reasons why teenage kids shouldn't drink. The biggest argument the kids could provide was, "You adults drink to take off the edge or have fun, so why can't we?" In the end, the only resolution to this argument was, "Well, I'll stop drinking then, too." While I'm all for abstaining from alcohol at any age, I'm not na├»ve enough to think that everyone stays stone cold sober all the time, and many people do drink responsibly. So to those who may eventually drink in their lifetime, it might be better to give stronger arguments against underage drinking than I'll-stop-drinking-if-that-makes-you-stop-drinking. Because if you drink alcohol as an adult who has influence over kids, there is a likelihood that there are other adults in the lives of the kids you're trying to influence who also drink. And you can't make EVERYONE in the world stop drinking all at once. Remember Prohibition? The world just isn't ready for that.

So, Glee, while I don't mind that the weekly stories often have holes or don't really make sense, and any viewer with half a brain can see that all you're trying to do is figure out some way to transition from Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" to Britney Spears's "Toxic," at least TRY to do a little research before treating underage alcohol abuse so lightly. There are, in fact, MUCH WORSE outcomes to underage drinking than just headaches and upset stomachs. Here are a few:
  • In 2006, more than 19% of drivers ages 16 to 20 who died in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking alcohol.*
  • The younger you are when you start drinking, the greater your chance of becoming addicted to alcohol at some point in your life. More than 4 in 10 people who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.**
  • Underage drinking is a leading contributor to death from injuries, which are the main cause of death for people under age 21. Each year, approximately 5,000 persons under the age of 21 die from causes related to underage drinking. These deaths include about 1,600 homicides and 300 suicides.***
  • Long-term risks of alcohol use include liver damage, pancreatitis, certain cancers, and literal shrinkage of the brain.****
  • Studies with animals and alcohol dependent adolescents show that alcohol has the potential to impact adolescent brain development. Given recent research which shows that the human brain continues to develop throughout adolescence, we need to better understand the short- and longterm effects of alcohol on the developing brain. (Basically, the human brain is still developing even when you're a teenager. Alcohol can screw up how your brain develops and damage it irreparably, especially if you binge drink like the kids on Glee were doing)***
  • Youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience school problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades; social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities; legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk; physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses; unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity; disruption of normal growth and sexual development; physical and sexual assault; higher risk for suicide and homicide; alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls, and drowning; memory problems; abuse of other drugs; changes in brain development that may have life-long effects; death from alcohol poisoning.*****
What I listed above were just things I know about, but now have sources to back up my knowledge. Check out the references below to find out even more crap that can happen to underage drinkers.

Finding these resources wasn't hard, Glee writers. Come on. Everyone knows that teenage drinking is a big deal. We know your key demographic probably consists of teenagers that want to be cool but may not be very popular, so you don't want to make them change the channel if they feel like they're getting some kind of lecture, but seriously, all you could come up with is to make the Glee coach say he wasn't going to drink either? No mention of liver disease, brain development, alcohol poisoning leading to death, or anything?? It was all a big game to these kids, and there were no consequences. In real life, almost half of these kids would go to binge drinking parties again, become addicts, and ruin their lives.

The Glee kids drank on multiple occasions AT SCHOOL, and no one was even sent to detention. Their teacher knew about a few occasions of the drinking, and not only didn't do anything to stop it, he didn't give them any kind of consequence for BREAKING THE LAW. (As a side note, Hayley and I have steeper consequences for the kids in our Sunday school class who talk too much during a lesson!) At the very least, the kids should have been suspended. In my opinion, they should have been suspended, banned from regionals or sectionals or whatever (I watch mostly just for the singing and the quirky, mean wit of Sue Sylvester, I can't be bothered with details like the name of the competition), and required to attend some kind of underage alcohol education course to be held after school hours. Expulsion wouldn't really be out of the question. But that would make for bad TV, wouldn't it.

Underage alcohol use is a big deal, Glee. There is a lot more at stake than just hangovers and puking in public. Next time, be a little more adult about how you deal with issues that result in the deaths of thousands of Americans each year.

I'm still trying to decide if I should stop watching the show altogether because of that episode...

*http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/810801.PDF
**http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa59.htm
***http://www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/UnderageDrinking.pdf
****http://www.teendrugabuse.us/teensandalcohol.html
*****http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm
(The links to Glee are left out on purpose. You'll find the show if you want to, but I don't need to promote it on my blog right now...)

6 comments:

Beth said...

i totally agree with you g-ward. Roy is an avid watcher of the glee as well, but I watch it every now and then. I thought the entire episode was more encouraging of underage drinking then anything...totally warped reality...that's just what teenagers need more of.

Hayley said...

i was highly disappointed. before we started watching last summer, i thought the show was dumb. then i got sucked in. now, i'm leaning more towards the dumbness.

Tori said...

Have to agree with you. I told one of my dancers that it wasn't my favorite episode and she said she "loved it!" Not really what i wanted to hear from a 16 year old. I told her i liked the singing, but wasn't too hip on the message. But have to totally agree. There was not one single consequence for ALL the drinking going on. Not right.

rebekah said...

Amen! Loved your post. it's one of my pet peeves with young adult books, too. The lack of realistic consequences for poor choices.

Chelsea said...

Garrett,
You are both incredibly intelligent and fantastically eloquent. This is something that needs to be sent to newspapers! Plastered on Facebook! All over!

I am not a fan of Glee, I think the whole show is like this to one degree or another. Infidelity is cool! As long as the person you are with is mean and the person you want to be with is nice! Teenage pregnancy is awesome! And bonus! Back on the cheerleading squad! Bleh. I can't stand the show.

I have not, nor will I ever see that episode, but from what you have said here, it would just anger and enrage me all the more. Please, please, PLEASE show more people this blog post!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't watch the show and never will, but when I saw the commercials advertising this episode I was appaled! How disgusting.....I think that alot of what is shown on TV today has alot to do with what is wrong with our society.