Arabella Ahearn and Saoirse Hickey
We would like to preface this by saying that we acknowledge that whilst glee has had some great moments of diversity throughout its run, there are a lot of problematic moments that we have chosen to ignore for the sake of this article, but still recognise as flawed representation.
As such this article should be read with a mostly sarcastic tone.
In Season 1, Episode 7, as the New Directions prepare for regionals, Sue decides to split up the glee club, making her own team called ‘Sue’s Kids’ consisting of Kurt, Santana, Artie, Mercedes, Mike, Tina, and Matt and states “I don’t want to participate in a group that ignores the needs of minority students”. So true. Sue’s kids sing ‘Hate on me’ led by Mercedes (who was being ROBBED of solos by Mr Shuester) and featured the dancing talents of Mike and Matt who until that moment had only had maybe one line each and a maximum of 3 seconds of screen time. Sue Sylvester single handedly ended discrimination.
Born this Way and Rachel's nose job
In season 2, episode 18, Rachel's nose is broken in dance rehearsal and she contemplates a nose job, Kurt returns to Mckinley after the guy that threatened to kill him starts an anti-bullying club (boo Dave!!), and Quinn's past as ‘Lucy’ and her nose job are revealed. Kurt organises a ‘Barbra Streisand’ flash mob for Rachel to remind her that Barbra was pressured to get a nose job and she didn't. (Also side note when asked if she would ever guest star on glee, Streisand replied “not if I can help it” so…) The New Directions then go on to sing ‘Born this Way’ by Lady Gaga and each member wears a shirt with one of their insecurities printed onto it. Be who you are, glee club!!
In this episode, Kurt's dad is in hospital at the same time that Finn has a spiritual awakening and begins worshipping a toasted sandwich that looks like Jesus. The glee club then begins trying to help Kurt find religion to support him through his dad almost dying. Rachel sings ‘Papa Can you Hear Me’ from Yentl, as an expression of her Jewish faith. In the end, while Kurt is initially against the idea, he attends church with Mercedes and then realises that maybe religion is valuable and then his dad is all better again. Religious diversity!
Unique Singing ‘If I Were a Boy’
Unique is a trans woman who in the 5th episode of season 5 is being bullied and harassed as she is being forced to continue using the male bathrooms. When Sue offered to allow Unique to use the gender neutral staff bathrooms,on the condition that Mr Schue stopped twerking, he refused (because of course twerking comes before the safety and wellbeing of students). Unique performs ‘If I were a boy’ for the New Directions to communicate her struggles with how she is being treated at the school. All jokes aside, this is actually a really important moment of diversity in the show.
Burt Hummel’s whole character
Upon our recent rewatch of glee (thanks Mike’s mic) it has become clear that Burt Hummel is by far the best character in the show. He stuck up for Kurt when he was being bullied (multiple times), cancelled his honeymoon so he could use the money to pay for Kurt to go to Dalton academy, performed single ladies for Kurt and was just an all round fab guy. After his character was nearly killed at least once every season it is clear just how important Burt is to Kurt and Finn #ally.
‘I’m Still Standing’
Following Quinn’s unfortunate car accident (don’t text and drive kids) and her subsequent wheelchair era, Artie takes her under his wing and they perform a moving duet of Elton John’s smash hit, ‘I’m still standing’. Fortunately for Quinn, episodes later she makes a full recovery, Artie however, seems to have forgotten about those bionic legs coach Beiste somehow managed to get for him for Christmas and remains in his wheelchair for the remainder of the series, but the message remains strong nonetheless.
In this truly moving performance, Santana, with the support of substitute teacher of everything master of nothing, Holly Holiday (played by Gwenyth Paltrow) communicates her love for her best friend, Brittany S. Pierce. Whilst I don’t necessarily understand how ‘Landslide’ by Fleetwood Mac (put some respect on their name!!) sends the message of “oh we’re best friends and I’m in love with you”, it is still incredibly moving, and important representation. Also SPOILER ALERT: Brittany and Santana later get married so I think they owe Gwenyth Paltrow a big thank you. #lordtubbington4eva
Sue and Becky
Becky is first introduced in season 1, when we see her audition for and successfully become one of Sue’s ‘Cheerios’. Sue proceeds to take Becky under her wing as she also has a sister with down syndrome. Mr Schue accused Sue of being too hard on Becky; however, she responded that Becky only wanted to be treated like everyone else, and therefore, Sue was treating her the same as her other Cheerios. Becky and Sue's comedic duo ended up becoming a fan favourite with their ruthless and hilarious one liners and tendencies to flip tables and or xylophones. Sue is also a support system for Becky and this iconic friendship see’s Sue from Head coach of the Cheerio’s to vice president of the United states with Becky as her secretary and head of security.
You’re all Minorities you’re in the Glee Club
At the end of Season one, Episode 7 after being called out for having favourites and overlooking the minority members of the glee club, Mr William Michael Shuester looks at this group of children and says “You’re all minorities. You’re in the glee club.” And thus, diversity was invented. Wow, powerful stuff!