Yeah, I admit it, I watch Glee. It’s actually not a terrible show. They do have cheesey pop music sequences and dorky male teachers doing pirouettes, but the show’s practical plot is pretty good. I like it because they make fun of High School Musical by having horrible lives, and I think that’s cool. For the most part, Glee can be summed up as a collaboration of social outcasts trying to be a part of something which is Glee Club, along with juggling a teenage social life. How Glee ties these characters together makes for a really illuminating phenomenon on how people associate with others people.
At first glance you could pretty much already see which characters are the main characters. You could see the typical High School jock, Finn, who, like his male vocal strength, his leadership skills are heavily relied on and is somewhat the inspirational backbone for the whole team. Then you have Rachel, the studious, tedious, over achiever, who’s knowledge and experience is crucial for the Glee Club’s success. Then you have the two conflict characters which are always essential for a teen drama when there are no villains or specific bad guys. These two characters are Puck and Quinn. Puck, the overly rugged jock trying to make an effort to be a good guy; he’s your typical Wolverine. And Quinn, your overly sensitive, angry pregnant teen idol, whose reputation is everything; she’s your typical Blair Waldorf. (Gossip Girl) We’ll skip the teacher as he’s more like your Professor Xavier or Charlie from Charlie’s Angels. The boss figure doesn’t exactly do much when everyone else goes out to fight for world peace.
Then you have these guys:
Who are these guys? What do they mean to the group? What do they do for the overall storyline? A lot of them do pretty much nothing, except for maybe Kurt and Mercedes. Kurt, the gay fashionista whose storyline pretty much isolates around himself. And Mercedes, the girl who seems rather as if she’s being dragged into a storyline by becoming Quinn’s newly best friend. You have two Asian people, where one of them doesn’t even talk. And since there are two of them, their Asian’ness ends up canceling each others out. Same with the random quiet black guy whose main storyline is nodding his head when everyone sings. You have two extra cheerleaders and a guy in a wheelchair. There seems to be little or no value to this large group of marginal comic relief characters when it comes to the main storyline of the show.
This large cast of people are pretty much extra people, with extra personalities, with nothing that turbulent or extreme that pulls or pushes the main storyline of a love triangle (or love square) between the four more important characters: Finn, Puck, Rachel, and Quinn.
The four main characters are what Malcolm Gladwell, the author of The Tipping Point, would call connectors. They’re the driving force between social interactions. They end up being the backbone in most decision making events. And they make great business partners because they have a way of bringing people together. This idea of connectors is what actually separates the losers and the jocks in High School.
Finn, he’s your typical connector. He’s a jock, he’s social, and he has friends. His main storyline is about balancing a club which seems like it’s for losers and his jock reputation. He views his jock reputation as something of value. Why? Because he likes having friends. Typical connectors will go out of their way to build friendships, keep friendships, and retain a great social reputation. In business, these are the ideas sparkers aka “the marketers.” You could have the best idea for a product, but if you can’t get the word out, you’re pretty much screwed. If you can’t make any friends and “connect” with people, then your product isn’t going to reach very much people. Good marketers and good connectors have a large ocean of friends and acquaintances that could spread information like wildfire.
Rachel, she’s your different type of connector but still as effective. She’s what Malcolm Gladwell calls a Maven. The thing about Rachel is that her social skills aren’t that great. She’s a whining know-it-all who believes that she should become popular simply through hard work, paper gold stars, and consistent exercise. However, the thing that sets her apart is that she’s knowledgeable. When people ask her for her help, they ask because she’s a compact resource of knowledge. Mavens aren’t the type of people who spread ideas by telling their acquaintances, they spread ideas because their acquaintances are the ones that come to them. This makes Rachel’s role in Glee club integral to everyone’s success.
Those are the two main connectors, your typical connectors and Mavens. Malcolm Gladwell also talks about sales people, but I couldn’t find a way to incorporate salesmen without stretching the idea too far out of the circle. Puck and Quinn are still connectors, but in comparison to Rachel and Finn, they’re just not as powerful. More importantly they provide conflict to the storyline which is essential for a captivating plot.
As for the large class body of comic relief marginal characters, Gladwell defines them as “weak links.” They provide stoic value to the connectors. Weak links do play their part in setting off an idea. They are the information neurotransmitters that sends messages to the frontal lobe and the amygdala. Without them, messages would never get to the connectors, or the connectors would not be able to get their message across to so many people. Without weak links, how would they make the Mavens look helpful without inquiring about their advice? Without weak links, how can a connector spread information amongst a large population? The weak links are basically workers. They’re the employees. The CEO runs the company, but the CEO pretty much doesn’t do anything but make agendas and tell people what to do. They don’t go out and sell the product themselves, they outsource that work. However, if nobody listens to the CEO and everyone chooses not to work for them, the CEO is left trying to run a business on their own.
In conclusion, the random other, not main, characters in Glee are essential to Glee being a club, much like employees are essential to a company. If Glee didn’t have these numbers then the whole show would probably be about these two to four friends who got together and made an a’cappella group. In which nobody’s really going to buy that idea.