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Freaks and Gleeks

One of the amazing things about growing older is that the hurts and the slights of one’s youth don’t sting any longer. As a matter of fact, in many cases, it’s downright impossible to believe that we were ever so thin-skinned, so quick to bruise and to be offended by harsh critiques or idle gossip.

Whole portions of my adolescent life had been gleefully forgotten and buried under the concerns that entwine me today. That is, until “Glee,” the Fox “dramedy,” hit the airwaves. It’s difficult to believe that this critical powerhouse has only completed one season, because its cast, creators, and spin-offs are everywhere you look. You can’t shop at a Barnes & Noble without one of its CD tie-ins wafting in the background. The Yahoo search engine homepage is constantly abuzz with updates about the prior night’s episode, next week’s storyline and season 2’s plot spoilers (Paul McCartney wants to be on the series, Susan Boyle is going to play a lunch lady, John Stamos will be on board as a dentist).

Awards are being heaped upon the show, and its fans (including me) are worried if success will spoil the freshman series’ freshness and the infectious “little program that could” attitude. I love the show “Glee,” not just because I was a high-school “overachiever:” member of the glee club, drama club, newspaper, yearbook, booster club, French club, Honor Society (believe me, I’m just getting warmed up)! I have an affinity for the show and its collection of misfits and outcasts, prom queens and social climbers, because my heart actually aches each time one of the maligned characters takes a great big Slushie to the face. (For the uninitiated, the school’s bullies and jocks terrorize the poor glee club members by throwing Slushies, full force, at them. It’s a cold wake-up call, in every sense of the word, for the unpopular kids.)

What’s most amazing about “Glee,” and what makes it rise above other school-based musicals, like “Disney’s High School Musical” and “Fame,” is that there’s a campy, self-aware thread running through the production. Its producer and head writer Ryan Murphy knows that setting a battle between “good” and “evil” in an Ohio high school is a tad ridiculous. He knows it; he knows we know it; and we’re all in on the joke together. (Part of the insider status comes from knowing that the fictional high school William McKinley is named after a U.S. president who was assassinated while greeting the public at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, N.Y.) Even with that realized, it is still impossible not to get caught up in the struggles of Will Schuester, the hapless choir master, and his archenemy, Sue Sylvester, the coach of the cheerleading squad, the robotic, relentless Cheerios.

The people who follow this show just don’t watch it. They live it. As such, forums about “Glee” are everywhere on the Web, on Twitter, on Facebook and on every other social media network. One of the threads that consistently catches my eye has to do with “Where are the Glee dolls?”

I must say I agree with the posters who wonder where are the Mattel or Tonner or Jakks Pacific look-alikes? The ensemble lends itself to doll re-creations. There are the requisite good-looking guys, comely girls, sassy supporting players and earnest role models. The clothing is ripe for reproduction: from Sue’s ubiquitous tracksuits to Kurt’s fabulous designer tops and bottoms. Why hasn’t this franchise been licensed and promoted?

The clever fans of “Glee” have taken matters into their own hands and have been making their own doll doppelgangers.

But, where oh where, are the professional versions? The message boards unfurl heated debates about this topic. Some respondents fear that dolls will herald the end of this show’s “hipness”; others admit that they will buy two of each character (one for playing and one for displaying).

In each episode of “Glee,” the students learn a lesson from Mr. Schuester, and it very rarely has to do with the Spanish class he teaches. Instead, it’s a life lesson about self-love versus caring for others; standing up for what’s right and doing what has to be done, even when it feels wrong. The faculty members on the show are painted as flawed folks—they have imperfections and have made many faux pas. They are inherently human, even though they are painted with such broad strokes.

That’s why they would make such ideal dolls. The characters have a “realness” that comes through, despite how cartoonish or contrived the circumstances might be. That’s essential for a well-made doll: it has to seem both alive and artful. In the case of “Glee,” there is a dream team of expected stereotypes (the confused, closeted gay boy; the plucky wheelchair-bound student who moves us weekly with his courage; the catty queen bee who really has a soft side), plus the unexpected revelations (Josh Groban will hit on anyone, and Olivia Newton-John is a bit of a bitch).

If all of us who love dolls and who love the show band together, perhaps we can get some promises or some feedback about whether or not Rachel and Finn, Puck and Quinn, Tina and Artie, are going to be converted into dolls.

Think of this blog as an episode of the show, where we, the ragtag members of the student body, learn to cooperate and to petition the powers-that-be about having our voices heard.

Sure, we can’t vocalize or harmonize or do jazz hands simultaneously, but we can leave a comment asking for “Glee” dolls to be made. Or, we can make our own versions of the cast and post them for all to see. Let’s do that now. Let’s do that for the kids of New Directions, the program’s star-making show choir.

If they can take a Slushie in the face for our youthful memories, then we can take a moment to ask for a “Glee” doll to be made in their honor. I guarantee, a chorus of these dolls will give all of us Gleeks something to sing about.

Photo Captions

Each member of the “Glee” cast has his or her own defining fashion sense (top), whether it’s splashy, bright rhinestone-studded jackets, little-girl cardigan-and-skirt sets, or sportswear in every imaginable hue. Wouldn’t it be a treat to deck out Mercedes and Kurt, Rachel and Quinn, in their characters’ appropriate ensembles?

Since so much of the action happens onstage, the kids of New Directions often wear special costumes for their singing-and-dancing extravaganzas. Costumes and everyday outfits could be designed for the “Glee” dolls.

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Sign me up for a Glee doll or any merchandise from the show. Can't get enough of it, personally.
Catherine , August 16, 2010
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I don't watch GLEE but I know plenty of people who do. I think they would like the dolls or some merchandise tied to the show. Besides the music, I think you can sell a lot of Glee merchandise. Years ago there were Beverly Hills 90210 dolls and Spice Girl dolls. Why not make Glee ones? And make them sing. Pull strings and have them singing songs from the show. That could be a big hit.smilies/cheesy.gif
Bette , August 11, 2010
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I think dolls might be a hard sale for GLEE merchandise. I don't think people will want fashion dolls of the kids or teachers. I believe cups, calendars, message pads, school supplies, jewelry is more marketable.
Linda , August 11, 2010
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I would buy a GLEE doll. Actually, I'd buy a few. When I was younger, I had NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK dolls. I didn't treat them too well, and feel bad that they got wrecked so soon. I'd treat these as decorations, not as toys. Good article. I am glad to see how popular GLEE is becoming.
Claire Simpson , August 11, 2010 | url

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