Thursday, February 24, 2011

Popular TV show tried to bring in content about Alcohol Awareness

I do not consider myself a “Gleek” or even a frequent watcher of Fox's popular TV series, Glee however after hearing about it from a co-worker I decided to tune in. The latest episode is titled "Blame it on the Alcohol" and is about alcohol awareness.

The shows description says, "The glee-club learns firsthand the dangers of underage drinking". I can't decide if I agree with this description or not. I think that I can go both ways. The writers hit the nail on the head several times. I think teens often relate with character Santana’s comment that she is as aware as she needs to be about alcohol and the fact that is fun. The show portrays goodie two shoes Rachel wanting to drink to fit in and be a “real teen”, succumbing to peer pressure and then losing all sense of judgment due to alcohol consumption. Principal Figgin is right in saying that most pop music glorifies binge drinking. Later in the show character, Mercedes, says that there are no songs that depict that alcohol is bad. Any of the following songs would have worked as a musical reminder of the dangers of alcohol use; Pink's "Sober" or Pearl Jam's haunting cover of "Last Kiss" or Simple Plan's moving "(Untitled) How Could This Happen to Me?”.

There are also several things that the producers included that I as a prevention educator cannot support. Rachel’s idea of a “safe” party means that everyone is allowed to only have 2 drinks. Rachel suggests that alcohol is not dangerous as long as you don’t drive. Mr. Shue (the choir director) and Ms. Bieste (the Football Coach) use drinking as a way to “unwind” and “de-stress”. Ms. Bieste takes it a step further by stating that drinking by teens is inevitable and suggesting that alcohol awareness is a waste of time. And in the end the teens are rewarded by their principal for performing drunk in front of the entire school during the alcohol awareness assembly.

I am cautious to suggest that you or your teen watch the show, however, I think that if you already have or are planning to, this episode provides an opportunity for meaningful and important conversations about underage drinking.

Start with these questions:
  • Do you think that the episode of Glee realistically portrayed high school drinking?
  • How do you think it could have been different?
  • Do you think there was anything that the producers left out that would have made the
  • awareness message stronger?
  • Do you agree with Coach Bieste’s statement – “We can’t stop them from drinking, Its inevitable but we need to make sure they are educated on the dangers and hope that they are smart enough to make good decisions on their own”?
  • We've seen the Glee kids having tons of fun before this episode without the use of alcohol. What were some of those things? Did they seem to have any more or less fun with the addition of alcohol?
A visit to the Glee facebook page shows several teens saying that this episode was "their favorite", “absolutely hysterical" and "so funny" which is probably not the message Glee producers were hoping to get, or maybe it was. Regardless the show leaves parents and teachers with the opportunity to engage in dialogue about the true danger of underage drinking. Visit for more tips on talking to your teens about underage drinking.

Written by Katy Travis, Program Director for the Drug-Free Coalition of Tippecanoe County.

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