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glee-logo.jpgThis week’s episode of Glee – its second episode back after a hiatus of what seemed like a year but was “only” four months – has inspired a fierce devotion from its fans by invoking one of music’s most famous names as both musical inspiration and personal empowerment. One name: Madonna. The result was simply: OMGlee. (You can view the episode on Hulu.)
Spoiler alert – In an effort to empower her Cheerios, the acerbic, mean, but Madonna-inspired Sue Sylvester forced the blackmailed principle Figgins to play songs from her Madgesty’s oeuvre throughout the school (except in the guidance office, where Sue attacked wide-eyed Emma Pilsbury for not being in charge of her own sexuality). Meantime, Rachel’s still dating the singer from rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline, and he’s pressuring her to lose her virginity to him, and Finn is being harassed by cheerleader Santana who wants to take his innocence. This being Glee, it leads to both a chick-power anthem (“Express Yourself”) and a new interpretation of “Like a Virgin” – with three sexually inexperienced characters, one of them an adult.
While there were equally satisfying side stories about Kurt and Mercedes being marginalized in favor of glee club’s “stars,” and lots of great Sue-and-Schue face-offs, one of the most astonishing and invigorating things about this episode was the identification of Madonna as a force for women to take charge of their lives and bodies. It could have been another one of those “very special episodes” that air in an attempt to preach to the audience about peer pressure; but instead, the focus was on respect and empathy – the boys had no idea “what it feels like for a girl, in this world,” and Mr. Schue felt positive that Madonna’s music could help them understand.
The episode balanced the serious issues with the ludicrous epic-level battles between Sue and the glee club, and included both serious, dramatic songs and fun dance tunes – in addition to the visual treat of background actors dressed in all the various fashions reinvented and embodied by Madonna since the 1980s. Plus, there’s nothing like that intro to “Like a Prayer” to amp up the drama, especially in the capable vocal cords of Lea Michele.
The only problem with an episode this strong is that it sets an extremely high bar for the next episode that it can’t possibly meet – unless it’s another Madonna episode, or perhaps a backstory for dimwitted cheerleader Brittany. (How did she ever determine that dolphins are just gay sharks? And why does she sometimes forget her middle name?). Or maybe they’ll give “Asian dancing guy” an actual storyline. But if you’re really a hardcore Gleek, you’ll suddenly remember that somewhere on the horizon there is a Joss Whedon-directed, Neil Patrick Harris-starring episode (slated for May), bringing us all hope for a future of fab.

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