Spoiler Alert-Literacy in Glee

Over the break I realized that we haven’t talked about literacy and pop culture at all. We’ve talked about literacy in the Amish community, in schools, in the past, present, and future, but never in pop culture. Over the break I was catching up on Glee and one of the characters admits that he can’t read and later on finds out he has dyslexia. There were a few hints leading up to his big confession, but I didn’t catch any of them! The climax where he finally admits it accurately depicted how non-literates get by which we discussed with the GPLC women. Here’s what happened (not word for word, but close!):

Jake: Here’s my biggest fear. (hands a piece of paper to Ryder)

Ryder: Be a man and read it to me!

bla bla bla

Jake: You have to tell me your secret now. You just told me to be a man and read mine out loud to you.

Ryder: I told you to read it out loud because I CAN’T READ!

Dramatic, I know. But when it happened my reaction wasn’t “oh my gosh! No wonder Ryder has a C- average!” It was more like “Literacy in pop culture! Now the whole world can see what a major problem illiteracy is in America and how we can’t keep passing kids on through school and assuming they’re stupid and lost causes! If only everyone knew as much about literacy as I do! Here’s their opportunity!” This episode of Glee has come at an excellent time. Our Literacy Problems essays are being workshopped on Monday and I someone is surely trying to solve the problem of illiteracy. For many issues, the first step is acknowledgement and getting the word out. Remember KONY2012? A major television show with a wide audience has just introduced problems with literacy in American high schools. Ryder had been passed through school, never tested, too embarrassed to ask for help, and convinced he was stupid. He had made it to 10th or 11th grade with minimal reading skills. There’s an entire scene that shows him going through the testing process when he finally gets help. Although this is just a TV show, I was excited to see an issue of literacy being addressed. As an avid television watcher, this is the first show I can think of that has introduced a character that cannot read. I’m searching for the scene of Ryder taking his test to add for you non-Glee watchers out there, it’s pretty interesting! Until then, I’ll be keeping my eye out for more literacy problems in pop culture. Have you noticed an?y

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One Response to Spoiler Alert-Literacy in Glee

  1. cpfb3w says:

    The same thing happened to me just today as I avoided work by watching “My So-Called Life” on Netflix! In one episode, Angela (Claire Danes) realizes that Jared Leto’s brooding, mysterious, twice-held-back character Jordan Catalano can’t read. In one scene right after Angela’s discovered his secret, Jordan is quick to insist that he CAN read… just not any of the big words. He’s careful to keep this hidden from the rest of the school; in one episode, Jordan asks another student what happened at the end of Kafka’s “Metamorphasis”, making it look like he’d simply blown off the assignment instead of being unable to complete it. Only one teacher at the school is shown noticing Jordan’s reading problem, and he gets angry at the system for failing him, but said teacher is fired a few days later for reasons unrelated. Other teachers are frustrated with Jordan and refer to him as “one of the bad ones”. Eventually Jordan agrees to work with a tutor, and is declared “a rudimentary reader with low literacy skills.”

    I haven’t watched “Glee” in a while, but where Jordan seems to differ from Ryder is that Jordan seemingly has no interest in improving his school performance and academic abilities; rather, he’s content to drift through the system until he’s no longer obligated to attend. Jordan is the more cynical character of the two, because he doesn’t seem to have any faith in his abilities as a reader to improve at all. Jordan is largely apathetic about learning and even when he’s in tutoring, no real progress of his is shown. This is probably a combination of his personality and the low self-esteem that many people with literacy problems suffer from.

    I think it’s interesting that in both “Glee” and “My So-Called Life”, literacy takes its form in a young and handsome character that happens to be a love interest for a protagonist in the show. I suppose this helps to make the targeted viewing audience more sympathetic to the problem. It’s good that literacy problems are being represented in teen dramas past and present, and I hope that more awareness is raised because of it. I haven’t noticed any other examples of illiteracy in scripted entertainment, but I have increasingly heard of many actors diagnosed with dyslexia, including Orlando Bloom, Keanu Reeves, Keira Knightley, and Tom Cruise. With more celebrities opening up about their learning disabilities and literacy problems being portrayed in the media, I think difficulties with literacy will be perceived as less shameful for those who suffer from it.

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