American Express totally stole our idea.
OK, probably not, and perhaps I should be glad the minds behind our little outreach operation at Texans Care for Children, toiling for a fraction of the price of PR execs at a major corporation, came up with the same idea… Still, I was a little taken aback to see a plan we’ve been hatching around here for a big social action campaign tied to the FOX TV show Glee launch last night, only with the help of American Express.
The credit card company and the producers of Glee have teamed up for a new campaign encouraging people to get out and make a difference. If you’ve never watched the show, I should mention here that activism isn’t explicitly what Glee is about. The musical about a high school glee club is full of smart, funny, often awkward teens, navigating all the complexities of growing up while competing in singing contests. They are led by a do-gooder of a music teacher, Mr. Schuester, who’s locked in epic battle for the hearts and minds of kids and school administrators. His nemesis is cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch, who also stars in the social-action campaign. The campaign advises us not to be like Sue—ecologically unfriendly, condescending to the arts, bully of children, all-around purveyor of selfishness.
I can’t speak for the companies’ intentions in launching this campaign, but it is nice to see corporate giants work to get folks to vote and help children, and so forth. What I would change, though, is the breadth of this campaign. Glee, after all, isn’t about everything—the environment and museums and animals, all mentioned in the video.
It is a show about kids. Kids with passion and talent and concern for others. Kids who want their contributions to matter. Kids who make bad decisions sometimes and get into trouble. Kids in schools suffering budget cuts. Some of the kids cope with disabilities and discrimination. Some struggle with their weight. Some come from single-parent homes. Some feel very alone. Some get pregnant.
Sounds a lot like our Texas kids, right?
The show takes place in Ohio, but if it were Texas, the characters would be that much worse off. Imagine: after scuffling in class, Mercedes and Santana would get, not a visit to the principal’s office, but a run-in with the school police officer. Young Quinn might be on her second pregnancy by now, given our highest-in-the-nation repeat births to teens. Artie would notice a lot of public places aren’t accessible for his wheelchair. You get the idea (and please add more ideas in our comments section).
The point is that kids on Glee, just like real kids, need adults to stand up for them and help them through adolescent trials, so they can succeed later in life.
Each week, the Glee kids get out and raise their voices to be heard by the show’s fans, the so-called "Gleeks.” In real life, every day there are kids trying to get heard. Those of us who survived high school could at least listen; just as importantly, we can return the favor. If you’re going to Gleek out for a cause, make it to speak out for kids.