Thursday, September 16, 2010

Alpha Hound Dog: the Puckster

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.


Vivi Andrews said...

Me! Me! I'm a Gleek! And oh baby, I know exactly what you mean about Puck. The bluntness, his periodic attempts to do the right thing - Love love love!

I also initially found Rachel excruciatingly annoying, but then through the course of the season came to totally love her. I think my favorite part was when she tried to explain to her boyfriend how she had known what she was going to do (theatrically cheat on him in a music video) would hurt him, but she had a pathological need to be popular and couldn't resist.

I absolutely adore the fact that the show's subtext is always right in your face and the characters are all disturbingly self-aware. Can't wait for Season Two!

Erin said...

Well said! I have to say that Puck is one of my faves on the show, for all the same reasons. He's not running around whining about this or that. He does what he does, and he's not going to back down because someone else thinks it makes him weaker. In fact, he'll fight back. Love it!

Erin Caudill said...

I'm a huge GLEEK!!! I love the real issues the kids struggle with in a theatrical, spectacular, unreal way. The music is a blast too!

I would have to say that Kurt is my favorite. He's so sure of who he is and is seemingly unashamed. However, watching him try to convince everyone else that he's okay is just devastating to watch.

I think Chris Colfer brings a depth to this character that belies the corny and stereo-typical love of fashion and interior design the writers heap on him. Kurt is someone I would love to be friends with. My favorite episodes always feature him.

Kurt Hummel forever!

Kate Diamond said...

Erin, I love Kurt, too! I think Kurt's relationship with his dad is about the sweetest thing ever... do you remember at the end of the football episode, where he told his burly mechanic of a father that he was gay? And his dad said he's known since Kurt was three, and all he wanted for his birthday was a sensible pair of pumps.

Their dynamic just gets to me: the fact that they can't understand each other, but they love each other so much.

Kate Diamond said...

Vivi and Erin E: one of my favorite Puck lines ever was actually ABOUT Rachel... "The wheelchair kid's right. That Rachel chick makes me want to light myself on fire, but she can sing."

This, of course, was before he decided "Rachel was a hot Jew and the good lord wanted me to get into her pants."

GMR said...

*ahem* Hi, my name is GMR, and I'm a Gleek-aholic.... ^_^
YAY GLEE! Yes, big fan of the show....though not certain I'm quite as "in love" with Puck's character as you. The soft side is nice to see, but overall....still not thoroughly impressed, but that's okay! As you pointed out, characters like him in TV/books/movies, etc are needed to make things interesting. As for my fav character....hard to say. Probably a toss up between Finn and Will for the "leading man"....they may not always choose the right course, but eventually they get there. Supporting character wise....gotta give credit for Kurt and Artie....the underdogs but with golden hearts. Can't wait for Season 2 to start!

MsHellion said...

I have to start watching Glee. (Like I need another TV show to watch. *LOL*) That scene on the football field sounds hilarious.

Well said, and I totally agree with your "how to make a jerk likable even though you'd never date him yourself". I'm always amazed when they do this for cheerleaders (or their equivalent) on these shows. Can't stand the witches...can't imagine them ever being someone I'd empathize with, but if you want a good 3-D villain, you need to give them backstory, you need to humanize them.

Lexi said...

K, it comes as no surprise at ALL that you (and I) have a big fan crush on Puck. He is Spike: a big hot asshole with punky hair and a surprising ability to come through in the crunch.

Kate Diamond said...

Lexi... he IS! He is Glee Club Spike! (I say this as I listen to Puck's rendition of "Sweet Caroline" and feel inappropriately giggly. Song made all the better because he chose it to get in Rachel's pants.)