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When Glee debuted in 2009, the genre of the television musical series had a shaky history. Traditional episodic programs had previously aired musical episodes but these were seen as rare absurdities; the genre was an oddity to exploit on occasion, not something that could sustain an entire series (a belief proven when previous attempts had failed). The flash mob culture that emerged in the mid-2000s alongside the groundswell of social media changed this environment. The absurdity of people “bursting into song” in a public place was no longer a completely unrealistic scenario, and this reopened the door for the musical genre on television.
In this paper I argue that the viral spread of flash mobs and other spontaneous public performances generated an atmosphere in which the musical genre could succeed, and Glee directly benefited from this. In turn, Glee brought the underground culture of flash mobs to the mainstream, increasing the acceptance and even participation in music and other art in public spaces. Using examples drawn from both Glee performances and real-life flash mobs I hope to illustrate how the show, in mirroring a viral trend, helped to increase the overall popularity and approval of publicly accessible and participatory art by the mainstream culture.
glee, flash mobs, performance, social media, community
Film and Media Studies | Place and Environment | Social Influence and Political Communication | Social Media | Social Psychology and Interaction | Television | Theatre and Performance Studies
Downey, Elizabeth M. “It’s Not Unusual: Glee and the Mainstream Acceptance of Spontaneous Public Performance.” In the panel The Show Must Go All Over the Place: Glee and Off-Screen Cultural Transformations. Presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Popular American Culture Association Conference, Baltimore, MD, November 7, 2014.
Film and Media Studies Commons, Place and Environment Commons, Social Influence and Political Communication Commons, Social Media Commons, Social Psychology and Interaction Commons, Television Commons, Theatre and Performance Studies Commons