When I texted my 15-year-old daughter this screenshot…
… she, of course, already knew the news. Naya Rivera was missing and had, apparently, drowned. Since, I’ve read that she likely mustered the strength to get her son to the safety of their rented boat and was, then, unable to save herself. My daughter, no doubt, knew all that before me, too. We’re past the tipping point where I tell her what’s going on in the world.
My daughter also knew why I was texting from my bedroom to hers, across the hall. See, we’ve been watching Glee together. It was her idea. And, now, it’s our thing. Settling into pandemic living and finding ways to occupy ourselves and fill our time with a little… well… glee… she wanted to revisit the iconic show and I had never watched a single episode. (Give me a break. I’m a Black man who turns 49 next week. I wasn’t exactly Ryan Murphy’s target audience.)
Anyway, my daughter wanted to watch it, and, given that I met her mom/my wife in an a capella singing group — #TrueStory — I was willing to receive a TV tutorial. What a perfect chance for the student to become the teacher.
Right from the start, we’ve been having a blast, “Black reacting” to the high school hijinx. Yes, “Black reacting” is a real thing. “Pause it!” “Rewind that!” Stumbling from the room, cackling at Sue Sylvester’s cartoonishly caustic shenanigans, as I proclaim, “I’m done. DONE!”
But I’m never really done. All of it… the laughter… the talking to the screen… the synchronized shaking of our heads as either or both of us sigh, “They are a mess…” All of it is part of the fun that explains why, depending on the outrageousness of the episode, we can take a good hour and a half to watch about 45 minutes of TV.
I’ve learned to be careful, though…
There I’ll be, explaining to my writer-in-training tour guide that Finn, that lovably oafish star QB turned Glee Clubber “is the moral guiding voice of this show,” when my baby girl turns to me and casually explains, “He died of a drug overdose.”
DAMN! Not my Finn! Don’t get me wrong. I’m a father, not a child. I understand that Cory Monteith, the actor who played Finn, died. But still… Finn OD’d?!
As a former defensive end, halfback, and president of my high school’s Glee Club, I had such high hopes for him as he learned how to balance the athlete and the artist, a lesson crystallized for me when one of our coaches once scolded the team,
“Just because you play football doesn’t mean you have to walk around here acting like a bunch of ‘football players.”
There I’ll be, shaking my head at Puck, with his soft center and his hard degenerate shell, when my innocent bundle of joy will off-handedly mention, “He committed suicide.”
“After he was busted with kiddie porn.”
DAMN! Not my Puck. Sure, he was the worst… but he was also kinda the best. Remember that time he thought it was a good idea to sing “Fat Bottomed Girls” to the… well… let’s just say… plus sized apple of his, usually wandering, eye? Ha! Dummy.
I had such high hopes for Puck, even as I warn daddy’s little girl, as we watch the Glee dating merry go round go round and round, that “Anybody you can steal can be stolen.” Thanks, Glee. I had forgotten to share that one.
“Anybody you can steal can be stolen.”
There I’ll be, cringing at Rachel’s latest egotistical attempt to hog the spotlight and crush her foes when–
Ok. I should’ve seen that one coming. It was pretty much on brand for the girl who sent her vocal competition to a crack house. I mean… Really, Rachel? REALLY?!?!?!
I know the story is tragic, a light extinguished after just 33 years to shine, but I couldn’t help but think, “I knew Santana would turn out great.” Naya Rivera brought her fans, including a 48-year-old Black guy sneaking in some daddy-daughter time, just about the most lovable self-proclaimed “bitch” you ever did meet.
There, just beneath the sass and insults and the absurd attempt to claim street cred by letting everybody know she was from Lima Heights Adjacent — I, literally, laugh out loud every time she screams it, mid-tirade — there is so much heart. Of course she died saving her child. Is there any greater love?
As a parent, I imagine Santana — I mean Naya — I mean… both…? I imagine… her… summoning every bit of grit and strength to get her son safely into that boat, her final act an act of ultimate love. I guess what shone through her character was a bit of the character she possessed.
And I relate, knowing that as a parent, you’ll do anything for your child. You’d even join your teenage daughter in watching a TV musical targeted at adolescent girls and be amazed by how much you love her… errr… umm… it… how much you love it. Well… both really.
But I bet she already knows that.
We’ve got multiple coming-of-age stories going on here… and I think one of them is mine.
Looking for more from the amazing Jane Lynch? Watch these titles for free right now!
After the Reality