Alt-right troll says Glee ‘invented wokeness’. That’s really, really not the case

The cast of Glee and show creator Ryan Murphy

A right-wing news website has credited Glee and its Tumblr-driven fandom for starting the “wokeness epidemic” and we’re not sure we watched the same show.

Human Events, a right-wing outlet co-owned by former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam, launched a surprising attack on Glee and its “Gleeks” almost seven years after the series wrapped.

Senior editor and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec shared the nearly 6,500-word essay on Twitter, announcing: “We found a Tumblr post where they literally admit that the Glee fandom (Gleeks) went toxic and created wokeness and cancel culture.”

Indeed, writer Bill Hurrell tracked down a rather dramatically-written Tumblr post from 2017 that tore into the “fandom wars” Glee touched off.

“We turned on each other. Klaine vs Kum and Finchel vs Faberry,” the post read, name-checking “ships” (canon and made-up character relationships).

“There was no Glee fandom. There were character fandoms and ship fandoms and that is it and our mottos were all f**k Glee.”

A lesbian user, twelveclara essentially grew up with Glee, she said in a 2017 interview with Slate. Her blog would draw more than 11,000 readers after every episode aired – but some readers would clash over how “problematic”, she said, the show can be.

Twelveclara was, at the time of the interview, working as a consultant in Los Angeles’ entertainment industry.

“That seems like pretty convincing proof of the existence of a pipeline from the dregs of Tumblr into Hollywood’s boardrooms,” the Human Events piece genuinely reads.

In the meandering opinion piece, Hurrel referred to Glee as a “curse not merely on the United States, but on its own cast members”, recounting the deaths of Corey Monteith and Naya Rivera.

Hurrel argued that the show popularised a movement to ensure better representation of all stripes of people on television as if that’s a bad thing.

Somehow, he writes, people, er, identifying with fictional characters is the root cause of “wokeness”.

“The ‘representation’ on Glee was apparently so significant and so accurately done that it reawakened ancient tribal hatreds among the teenagers watching the show,” he wrote of the fandom, “because they could no longer tell the difference between the show and themselves.”

“This is the reality of wokeness: It is not a utopian philosophy. It isn’t even really a Leftist one, though it uses Leftist language to mask its true intentions.”

Glee, to Hurrel, is a “sad, pathetic teenage wish-fulfilment fantasy, one in which “petty, cruel, emotional infants like them can […] have power”.

But where do conservatives fit in this fantasy?

Hurrel notes that Sue Sylvester, the domineering gym coach, is meant to capture how the right-wingers are nothing but “cartoon villains bereft of inner emotional life short of Darwinian, winner-takes-all malice”.

Twitter stunned at right-wing hot take: ‘There is nothing less “woke” than Glee

Twitter users were stunned at this claim, to say the least.

Even Kevin McHale, who played Artie Abrams, joked on an Instagram Story Wednesday (5 January): “It’s true. We did do it. Glee also made me gay.”

From the time that star quarterback Finn Hudson effectively outed cheerleader Santana Lopez to when, er, Santana and Finn threatened a sex worker to get him to break up with the powerfully-piped Rachel Berry, users refused to believe that Glee was exactly “woke”.

Who could forget classic Glee plot lines that made light of sexual assault and disordered eating or saw students sent to crackhouses or teachers plant drugs in their lockers to… get them to join a high school glee club.

Users brought into focus the show’s sometimes clumsy handling of race and disability as they drudged up long-forgotten – or rather, long-repressed – storylines and moments from Glee history.

But as other users sought to stress, Glee was also, for many viewers, a “safe space for people who were marginalised and discriminated against by society” – just like the characters themselves.

Critics and views alike praised Glee as a show that so deeply committed itself to tell stories often rarely, if ever, told. Often breaking ground with some of the most visible LGBT+ characters on prime time network television at the time.

Such as the heart-wrenching scene when a timid and well-moisturised Kurt Hummel comes out as gay to his father only for his dad, Burt, to take accountability for his past internalised homophobia and fully accept his son.

In one scene, the show featured a choir made up of more than 200 real-life trans singers as part of a stunning performance by trans character Unique, whose gender struggles are put front and centre in the fourth season.

“One of the things I’ve loved doing in my career, particularly on Glee was putting very specific young people — be they gay or trans — on television,” Murphy told The New York Times in 2018.

“Because even if you don’t know them, these characters become your friends. They seep into your subconscious.

“‘Oh, they’re not so bad; they’re just like me.’ Representation matters.”