It is not surprising that I love Glee. And I am about to share that love, along with a whole boatload of season one spoilers.
As a teenager, I was a theater nerd. Now, I'm a high school teacher. Show tunes and sarcasm? Yes, please! I was hooked from Glee's very first moment, which featured Jane Lynch screaming belligerently into a bullhorn. I felt as if the show had been written just for me.
Yet much as I love Glee, I'm a little surprised by how hard I've fallen for Puck.
Don't get me wrong. I hated guys like him in high school and, frankly, they're still a challenge to have in class. Puck is an extreme Alpha male, flaunting his muscles and Mohawk. A bully and a jock, he throws kids in the Dumpster. He goes through girls and women like Kleenex. He expects the world to fall in line for him--and frankly, it often does. That's so frustrating! He doesn't earn his success: he manipulates or intimidates his way into it. None of these things are qualities I admire. Puck doesn't exactly scream "hero material." Frankly, he's a pig.
So why do I adore him on TV?
Because he's an entertaining pig.
I officially fell in love during the football episode, when Puck trash-talked a kid across the scrimmage line: "I slept with your mom. No really. I cleaned your pool, and then we had sex in your bed. Nice Star Wars sheets."
And therein lies Puck's greatness: he's both blunt and confident, in a way that I've never been. He doesn't think five steps ahead (will this kid try to beat me up after the game?) He says what he thinks and he does what he wants. I find that both totally alien and incredibly riveting.
Yes, Puck is consistently and unabashedly awful. But this is what makes his glimmers of vulnerability so poignant. For instance: he impregnated his best friend's girl--and yet somehow I ended up feeling bad for him. After all, the girl tells Puck to his face that he's a loser who'll never get out of town, and rejects all his offers of help. (And yes, he then goes back to man-whoring.)
He's very selfish in his love/sex life, but as a friend he's loyal. His bark might be bad, and he might mock the other Glee club members, but he bites the outsiders who threaten to hurt them. I like that, and I like Puck. There's no way in hell I'd ever want to date someone like him, but I sure love watching him on TV!
So... what's the take-away message for romance writers? Yes, there is some relevance to this post. It wasn't just a fan rant. Puck is my introductory lesson in Alpha hero boundaries and opportunities. (I tend to write beta.) Perhaps we readers/viewers can forgive a lot of belligerence so long as...
(1) The Alpha character is entertaining
(2) his actions are sometimes admirable
(3) his choices create fascinating conflict (see 1)
(4) Readers/viewers understand his motivation
(5) We occasionally see vulnerability and/or sensitivity
(6) He's smokin' hot (shallow but true...)
Hurray! I've now justified this long look at TV.
Any other Glee fans out there? I'd love to hear about your favorite characters, episodes, lines... or, even better, any writing lessons learned from this delightful show! Any thoughts you have on Alpha heroes would also be much appreciated.