One of my favorite quotes ever is one from Glee: “A unicorn is somebody who knows they’re magical and isn’t afraid to show it.” I remember the episode fondly—Season Three, “I Am Unicorn.” The whole concept of said episode revolved around the importance of being true to yourself, yet another vitally important life lesson taken from a television show.
I remember the first time I saw Glee. The pilot episode aired after the Super Bowl that year; quite honestly, it provoked what will probably be the most interest I ever have in a Super Bowl. I waited in eager anticipation and then it came on—a beautiful show about a group of high schoolers who could sing. The best part was, they were outcasts. One with a big nose, one with a stutter. One in a wheelchair, one who was pregnant. Together with a football player and a cheerleaders, the characters shaped their reality into this really cool thing, a group that could seemingly do anything. I had to wait a few months for the next episode, but wait I did. I watched it, and every episode after. There was something special about Glee, something that I couldn’t quite put a finger on. I sang along to pretty much every episode and bought many of the songs on iTunes.
The show went on hiatus the following December for the holidays, a break that would last until April. I watched the television and said, “The next time I watch this, I’ll have a baby.” It wasn’t necessarily about sharing the show, per say, with my child, but the magic of equality that it promoted. The inclusion. The idea that it really was okay to be a unicorn in a sea of ordinary horses.
My son never saw Glee. He never saw anything, really. He didn’t know what it was like to be included, or excluded for that matter. He gets to always be a unicorn, because no one will ever tell him he is anything else. I am not so lucky. After he died, the show became something else entirely for me. It was what I looked forward to each week, in a completely different way than before his death. I no longer sang along. The characters had crappy things happen to them, but they were still happy. I wanted to be happy. It sounds cheesy, but the show really kept me going. I even went to see them perform live. Eventually, I started to sing along again. To find music in a new way, in a way after my son.
I stopped watching the show last year. It wasn’t that I didn’t need the happy anymore. It was more that I needed different things. I got frustrated that it wasn’t what it had been before. It came more about the ratings and less about the message of inclusion. Less about the idea that everyone could have happiness in some way. Less about being a unicorn. Today I was doing some work on my computer when an ad popped up on Hulu Plus—the original characters were coming back to Glee in the new season, starting this week, to “save the glee club.” I was intrigued, so I figured, why not? I went back to the beginning of last season and started watching again. I hit Episode 100 and broke emotionally, because the magic was back. I still can’t tell you what, precisely, that magic is. But I can tell you that it was one thing that helped get me through some pretty shitty times. The idea that there can be music in life, that there can be happiness.
Too often, I let people tell me that I’m just a horse. But today, as I watched Will Schuster turn off the lights to the choir room for “the last time,” walking away to leave only a single piano bench behind in an otherwise empty room, I remembered that I too am a unicorn. That I’m still a unicorn, that I will always be a unicorn. Sometimes, that’s a very good thing to realize.
Maybe Glee is still a little magical. And maybe I will continue to watch through the final episodes. Because any show that can remind me it’s okay to be me deserves to have my viewership until the end.