Reigning Over Glee: Why Kings of Leon Were Right to Turn Down Ryan Murphy

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in TV

This week Glee creator Ryan Murphy lashed out at indie superstars Kings of Leon for declining the show’s request to use their song “Use Somebody.” In addition to calling the band names and sounding like a spoiled three-year-old, Murphy made one curious and bizarre accusation: by turning down the chance to have a song on Glee, Kings of Leon hate arts education.

Brushing aside the obvious — that Glee is a for-profit TV show, not a school or charity — Murphy’s temper tantrum surprised me. After all, I genuinely never thought Glee was an altruistic endeavour to promote the arts. The mean-spirited characters, all the screen time spent on personal drama, and the perky-but-bitter tone led me to believe the show was aiming for satire, not didacticism. If it genuinely wanted to promote the arts, there are a lot of things it could do, but showing sexy twenty-somethings playing teenagers being mean to each other isn’t one of them.

Of course, there’s no doubt that Glee might make someone want to sing (or that it can be a fun watch). But how is it any better at that mission than other programs, like High School Musical? In fact, the satirical character of the show probably renders it less effective in that regard than more straight-faced media about the arts. I’d rather watch Glee than High School Musical any day, but I also wouldn’t necessarily use it as a marketing tool for the arts. In the end, if Glee exists just to hook people on singing, then it is truly an epic failure.

Throughout this whole feud, Kings of Leon vocalist Caleb Followill has seemed baffled and fairly apologetic, even saying the band didn’t mean to slight the show. Drummer Nathan Followill, on the other hand, more recently shot back, colorfully telling Murphy to get over it. And though New York Magazine criticizes Nathan for losing the high ground, I was pleased to see someone stand up to Murphy. Kings of Leon are rock stars, after all.

In any case, while the days may be over when not being a sell-out actually meant something, I was pleased to find out the band kept “Use Somebody” off Glee. So they didn’t want to help Ryan Murphy line his pockets in more gold? Good for them. It gives them that much more street cred — and besides, if you’re going to sell out, Glee really isn’t good enough to be worth it. Not even by a long shot.

The bottom line here is that like every other TV show out there — even the good ones — Glee is a business, and not having access to a hit song means lower revenue. The fact that Murphy threw a fit about it just confirms something I’ve suspected all along: the creators of Glee have a some sort of grotesque messianic complex. They believe that they are genuinely carrying the torch of righteousness, while instead making a clunky show that reinforces bigotry and gender stereotypes. Oh, and now they’re greedy too.

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