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Glee – condemned by U.S. conservatives, liked by our Conservatives?

One morning last week, I failed at making toast.

Simple enough thing, you'd think. Put the bread in the toaster, keep an eye on it (I stick with one of those old-fashioned, no pop-up machines) and you're good to go. Couldn't manage it. Burned the bread. Why? I was distracted, laughing away like a cackling eejit at the memory of the previous night's Glee.

In particular, the fact that Our Glorious Leader was trawling for votes during the show. Plus the fact that the conservative U.S. Parents Television Council condemned the show. Not the Conservative Party of Canada's ad, though they might have if they had known about it – the PTC tends to call on advertisers to abandon shows it says are pure filth.

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Oh, it was a joy, the episode called "Sexy" last week. It goes like this: Emma is heading up the Celibacy Club, which only has two other members, Rachel and Quinn. Emma is dismayed that her "chastity charms" didn't catch on with the kids who, apparently, wear them as nipple rings. Along comes substitute teacher Holly Holliday (Gwynny Paltrow) who is now teaching sex education. Next thing, she's performing Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) by Joan Jett while writhing around and tearing off her top. Then she tells the kids that every time they have sex with someone, they're also having sex with everyone that person had sex with.

Santana asks Brittany to do some cuddling. Brittany believes she's knocked up because a stork has built a nest outside her window. Brittany's boyfriend, the wheelchair-bound Artie, is pretty spooked that he might be a dad. Blaine and Kurt, both gay, have a discussion about being sexy. Blaine tells Kurt he can't really "do" sexy. Later, Blaine tells Kurt's dad to inform him about sex and stuff. Meanwhile, Brittany and Santana stress about their relationship – is it a full-blown sexy thing between girls, or what?

Lauren decides to become famous, so she asks Puck to make a sex tape with her as a surefire route to fame. Mr. Shuster and Holly sing and dance the tango to Prince's Kiss. Later, Holly gets annoyed that she's being criticized for teaching sex education. She huffily announces: "I'm off to have craaaazy sex. Because I'm craaazy informed about it. Kidding." Then Holly, Santana and Brittany sing Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. And Santana cries, because she knows that she's in love with Brittany.

On behalf of the Celibacy Club, Emma sings Afternoon Delight with Puck, Quinn, Rachel and her hubby, Dr. Carl (John Stamos). Their outfits are stunningly weird, seventies-style things. Emma says the song is about having dessert in the afternoon. She is mystified by the suggestion it's about having sex at lunchtime. To end all dispute, Holly says: "It's not about who you are attracted to ultimately, it's about who you fall in love with."

About two-thirds of the way through the episode, in a commercial break, the screen went red. There appeared the now-ubiquitous Conservative attack ad showing Michael Ignatieff blowing kisses and the viewer being told, "He didn't come back for you."

First thing that occurred to me was that, following on the "He's just visiting" attack ads, this campaign has turned into a surreal Canadian version of the American "birther" movement – people who insist Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and his presidency is therefore illegitimate. Hereabouts, the idea is that ceaselessly telling the public that Ignatieff spent years out of Canada puts the legitimacy of his Canadianness in doubt.

When Glee ended, though, I wondered who the Conservatives were hoping to reach. Those gay teenagers who cherish Kurt and his fraught exit from the closet? Teenage lesbian couples who worship Santana and Brittany? Irascible, demented cheerleading coaches who idolize Sue Sylvester? Who on earth among the Glee audience could possibly be persuaded to vote Conservative after having the splendid, biting mockery of the Chastity Club interrupted by an attack on Iggy? Go figure.

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Of course, as sure as the sun rises again, the noisy Parents Television Council announced its high dudgeon at the Glee episode. The Holly Holliday character was criticized for not being, well, "real."

"Real-world teachers don't lap dance with their students," the PTC said.

The Puck-and-Lauren discussion about making a sex tape brought this from the PTC: "Exactly what kind of message is that?"

It's all very odd. The gist of the episode is that teenagers are horribly uninformed about sex. They are gently mocked, as are teachers who promote chastity clubs. On the one hand, the Conservative Party in this neck of the woods uses the show to fetch votes. On the other hand, the show is castigated by an American conservative group.

Who's zooming who, here? Do the Conservatives know that some genius in the marketing department is using Glee to sell the Conservative view? Maybe they don't know, and that genius is, you know, toast?

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About the Author
Television critic

John Doyle is The Globe and Mail's television critic. His column appears in the Review section Monday to Thursday and on Saturday. He has been the paper's critic since 2000. More

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