“Grilled Cheesus”: Glee’s enjoyable religious episode

While watching last night’s episode of Glee on E4 I started to worry that it was going to fall in to familiar territory when dealing with religion. As my experience with American television shows goes, whenever religion rears its ugly head the default position seems to be that everyone’s religious and to suggest otherwise just doesn’t happen. As such, I was pleasantly surprised when the character Kurt’s atheism was brought up and (more importantly) not trampled all over by the other characters religiosity. There was certainly more than one occasion when the writers could have made Kurt buckle under peer-pressure/pandering to the religious views of many Americans. The episode’s main focus was the dwindling relationship between Kurt and his father, Burt.

Side note: seriously, of all the names they could’ve given Kurt’s father and they went with Burt. Kurt and Burt. No, that doesn’t sound like a last minute decision, late on a Friday afternoon, just before everyone buggers off for the weekend. Not one bit.

I digress…

While at school, Kurt’s father, Burt *gnnn*, suffers a heart attack and falls in to a coma. The story then unfolds with Kurt realising how much he values his father, simultaneously intertwined with faith-themed songs from the rest of the “New Directions” group and a comic-relief story of Finn thinking he’s found God on his grilled cheese sandwich; hence the episode name.

Anyway, back to my point. Near the start of the episode when all the kids were gathered in the music room and they were discussing their various religious points of view and it ended with Kurt stating his atheism (much to the astonishment of the rest of the group), there was a relatively hostile reaction to him, though the script writers gave Kurt a rather excellent and succinct put-down of God. It made me suspect that perhaps the writers of this episode may be atheists themselves.

A few scenes are also given over to Kurt & Mercedes clash of viewpoints even though they are BFFs; Kurt being an atheist and Mercedes being a church-going Christian.  Now usually I find Mercedes a likeable character, but in this episode I found she rubbed my atheist sensibilities up the wrong way. I found it irritating that Kurt’s lack of faith left her floundering as to how to talk to him, as if everything she did, she did through God and interacting with someone who has no faith doesn’t compute with her brain. Perhaps this is how many devout people are? What really took the biscuit though, was when she sang a religious-themed song (Whitney Houston’s song “I Look To You”) and then dragged him along to church, bribing ‘The Gay’ with the chance to wear a “fabulous hat”. While obviously lightly playing on the stereotype, it was still annoying how he yielded quite so easily. Perhaps I’m being cold? Maybe I would do the same if a close friend made that suggestion in a similar situation, however I don’t think that I would have a close friend whose first port of call in their hour of need was God, as I find it difficult to respect highly religious people.

written by R Kelly about looking for strength through God. Although I criticise the usage of it, it is a beautiful ballad.
 

The most obvious point in the episode when I thought they were going to make Kurt have a sudden epiphany of faith was when he started to cry by his father’s bedside. Clearly at his lowest point and distraught over his father’s condition, I was expecting the emotional break-down and cries for God, but no, Kurt stayed true to his atheism; a most pleasant surprise. Could this be a minor turning point in religious depictions in American television shows? I do hope so.

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