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TV Snapshot: Ripple effect of choices

High school quarterback Finn Hudson and Glee Club coach/Spanish teacher Will Schuester toss a football as they discuss Finn’s caving to social peer pressure to stay in football instead of Glee Club—a decision prompted by the football coach who purposely forced his players to choose between the two.

Finn: I’m not coming back.

Schuester: These are the moments, Finn. They’re the crossroads. The ones you look back on when you get old and think "what if"…

Finn: I don’t buy that. I don’t think any one decision makes your life unless you accidentally invent some kind of zombie virus or something.

Schuester: No? You’re right. Life’s a series of choice, a big combination of moments. Little ones that add up to big ones that create who you are.

Schuester catches the ball and walks over to Finn.

Schuester: You’re letting other people make those choices for you, Finn. You’re letting them decide who you’re going to be, people you’re not even going to know in three years, people whose names you’re going to forget when you run into them in the hardware store.

Finn: You don’t understand the kind of pressure I’m under.

Schuester: Yes, I do. Because of all the students I’ve ever had, you remind me the most of me.

Finn looks over at Schuester, startled.

Schuester: Come back to Glee, Finn. It’s where you belong.
I must admit, I have a love/hate relationship with Glee, Fox’s breakout musical comedy-drama hit about a high school Glee Club. While I thoroughly enjoy most of the musical numbers and a good segment of the underlying themes, the series has had more than one moment that left me rolling my eyes (from the writing and lack of depth in exploring certain issues to its use of stereotypes and its choice of certain songs, the latter of which I wouldn’t want my three-years-from-high-school-age daughter anywhere near, heh).

But "Mash-Up" is an exceptional episode, and I really resonate with the idea that the path we walk in life and who we are is determined by the series of choices we make. It's an idea that runs throughout the series and a theme I appreciate in other good stories as well. But I particularly appreciated the effect this truth has on Finn. The power of that truth on him came less from its revelation (which everything around him tells him to reject) than that it is someone he respects and admires who reveals it to him. Schuester is older and more experienced than Finn, and he’s has been down Finn’s road; he speaks with authority and Finn knows he has his best interest in mind. Often, it is extremely difficult to accept a truth that seems to run counter to our immediate situation unless we have had experience to the contrary and know it to be true—or, like Finn, someone we regard with trust reveals that truth to us.

This conversation not only causes Finn to reevaluate how he’s been thinking and the choices he’s making, but also changes his vision of how things could be. Later, he goes to football coach Ken Tanaka and has this conversation:
Finn: I’m the quarterback, right? The leader.

Tanaka: Sure.

Finn: Well, all this stuff about having to choose between Glee and football is making it hard for me to lead. Leaders are supposed to see things that other guys don’t. Right? Like, they can imagine a future where things are better. Like, Thomas Jefferson or that kid from the Terminator movies.

The coach looks up at him, and Finn sits down across from him.

Finn: I see a future where…

He pauses.

Finn: …it’s cool to be in Glee Club. Where you can play football and sing and dance and no one gets down on you for it. Where the more different you are, the better.

The coach looks back at Finn, silent.

Finn: I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t want to have to choose between them anymore. It’s not cool.
After this conversation, Coach Tanaka (who I think gets where Finn is coming just as much or even more than Finn does) rethinks his own thinking and choices, and cancels the practice that was conflicting with Glee. As Finn was invited to change by Schuester, the coach receives the same invitation from Finn. And the school and its students and teachers take a step closer to becoming a better, more just and whole community. (Though I’m sure arch-nemesis Sue Sylvester will continue to make that journey quite challenging).

All this reminded me of Jesus’ call to “repent and believe”—to rethink our thinking as Mark Scandrette puts it in Soul Graffiti, or as Dallas Willard puts it in The Divine Conspiracy, “review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity.” And I love the way this episode explores how the revelation of truth and an invitation to rethink our thinking and embrace a new and remarkable opportunity in light of that truth doesn’t simply change how we think about and act in the present but also how we think about the future. And the choices we make to turn around and walk down another path towards a new and better future we hadn’t contemplated before often can’t help but ripple out into our relationships with others and the world around us. Often our decisions to embrace and base our lives on the kingdom and Jesus’ offer of new life will seep into our relationships with others and move our communities towards something better. That’s the way God designed it, this redemption and salvation of his creation.

So, even though I still have my beefs with Glee, I appreciate this episode and the God-talk it’s brought into these open spaces.

(Images: Fox via Hulu)


Anonymous said…
I'm with you on the love/hate of Glee--and I don't even have children. And I really like your reading of this episode, too.