Glee: A Stranger in Toon-town

Glee is a musical. Most precisely, it’s a musical comedy, although one with very dark moments. And one of the earmarks of a musical comedy is that it is often cartoonlike, even surreal. I mean, people burst into song almost randomly, sometimes to instant bands. Or with dance routines.

Glee, especially in McKinley, is very surreal. Everything is bright colors and sharp contrast. You can almost see the black lines around the characters. Who really are two dimensional caricatures, extreme versions of various types. It’s typical of musicals and part of the fun.

Even the New York setting is a little much. They live in a huge loft, they are in their dream schools or getting their dream jobs – or both. They have great clothes and hair and, despite being underage, have no problems getting drinks, and very little money problems unless that episode’s plot calls for it. But it’s Glee, so who cares?

And then in walks Starchild. And he looks as surreal as Blaine and his bowtie in his steam punk suit and heavy makeup. The first thing he does, though, is hand music to the band. THEN he launches into “Marry the Night.”

Starchild fits into the over-the-top cartoon world of the musical. He’s a caricature of the over-eager, but still somewhat arrogant diva.

Thing is, Starchild doesn’t really exist. He’s a creation of Elliott Gilbert, an NYU student from NJ with Adam Lambert’s voice. And face.

Ahem. Anyway, Elliott isn’t a caricature. He’s a hardworking, sweet, talented guy who just wants to be part of a band. He likes Kurt, but isn’t interested in more than friendship. He likes Rachel and Santana, too, but isn’t willing to be part of the drama. He’s not in high school, he’s not trying to be popular and he doesn’t care about old feuds or cliques.

He also plays several instruments, sews and likes to cook curry, and is short on money. He also prefers cinnamon buns to cucumber sandwiches. He’s a person, not a cartoon.

Even his songs-they start with sheet music or he asks if someone knows it or it’s clearly a rehearsal or a performance. It’s never just random. The one exception is “The Fox,” and that’s just odd. He does songs like he’s living in the real world, not in a musical comedy. He also sings a lot of rock songs, but look who he sings like.

He lives like a real person, he sings like a real person, he reacts like a real person. In fact, like an adult who assumes his friends are also adults. No one on Glee does that, except one set of parents. He feels like a breath of sane air, a window into a more logical world.

I don’t know why this happened. Elliott could have been a musical comedy character. It’s not like Adam Lambert hasn’t played such roles before. Even that Elliott shared more than a voice, a face and a wardrobe isn’t enough. Adam’s a pretty OTT guy himself.

Maybe it’s that Adam demonstrated a natural acting style that made a real person feasible. I don’t know. I do know I’ll miss him as much for his calm center as for his amazing singing.

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About mamadeb

I'm a devoted fan of Adam Lambert, but also of cooking, knitting, science fiction and pretty anything pop culture. I'm @_mamadeb on Twitter.
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16 Responses to Glee: A Stranger in Toon-town

  1. terry says:

    THis is a lovely article. Thank you. It really encapsulates what was so awesome about Adam & his character on this show. Bravo! And bravo to Adam. I will miss his quirky but real character on the show.

  2. buffy522 says:

    very well put. I will miss his “centeredness” and his face and his voice.

  3. Cathy says:

    I love his character on Glee, the beauty of his part is Adams realness, Elliott Gilbert “Starchild” did bring some sanity to Glee . So hope Adam will return next season.

  4. Ovationimpact says:

    Interesting insight. Hoping that Adam will have time to bring his chacter back to life in the next seAson!

  5. Bridget says:

    “A breath of sane air” – hahaha! You nailed it.

  6. Pat says:

    I totally agree with everything you said. I stepped away from Glee after season 2 because Kurt’s whining made crazy, but came back for Adam and love that he is a grown up among all the screaming melodrama. I don’t remember ever, under any circumstances in my life, my daughter’s life or granddaughters’ lives anything resembling this chaos, consequently, I shall bid a fond farewell, with a heart full of gratitude to Ryan Murphy, unless Elliott returns for a visit.

  7. King says:

    I really enjoyed Starchild on Glee. He just filled the screen with his presence and star power. Will definitely miss him on Glee. But…have my Queen Adam tickets.

  8. ellen gomberg (vudubird) says:

    I’ve been watching Glee since season 1. I love your description of Adam’s role. I can’t remember too many scenes in episodes where common sense prevailed ! And ‘Who Knew’ Adam could act that well ? I really enjoyed your post ! TY

  9. Karen says:

    I agree with everything everyone said. Adam is an amazing singer and now we see that he is a d@mn good actor too!!!!! He brought calm to the crazy and made sense of the nonsense. I hope Ryan Murphy realizes what a gem he had in one Adam Lambert (aka STARCHILD), and finds a way to bring him back for the final season of Glee. Even if he could show up for the last couple of episodes, or even the finale, it would be better that never seeing that gorgeous face again on our TV. We love you STARCHILD, come back soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • mamadeb says:

      Of course, Adam was following the script and the director, but he did it in a believable way which probably influenced how goods character was written.

  10. This is excellent. I really like the points you made about the sheet music, how he doesn’t have an unlimited access to money, etc. I was just thinking the other day that the only adults on the show were Elliott and the Hummels. I am totally going to miss Adam on the show, and the slice of real life that Elliott brought. It was refreshing, and gave the NYC side a breath of fresh air. I hope the post-Elliott episodes retain at least a little of his influence, and that he comes back in Season 6 before the series is over!

  11. I love how wise Elliott was. He could see that Kurt was feeling insecure and openly talked with him about it. He was a great friend to Kurt and Rachel. He stood up to Santana when she felt betrayed by him when Rachel moved in, and wouldn’t get involved in their drama. Elliott, or Adam? even tried to reason with his puppet: http://lilybop.smugmug.com/Other-3/Puppet-Master-BTS-Dec-12/35345401_tdwtmW#!i=2965867067&k=wkTM32F
    I’ll miss Puppet Elliott as much as Elliott! I’m somewhat glad there was no goodbye to Elliott during New New York, although it felt bad at the time. I wonder if we’ll ever see this scene: http://lilybop.smugmug.com/Other-3/Glee-New-New-York/i-brrTzks/0/O/chris%20and%20adam%20glam%20from%20adam%20ig.jpg
    I hope for a cameo or a brief return in the future.

  12. annehedonia says:

    So enjoyed reading your thoughts! I have an idea about Glee! which may be completely without merit, but hey… I wonder if it isn’t couched in a certain random craziness, comprised of free-floating “plots” and populated with cartoonish characters to deliver its serious and what some would see as controversial social messages in a Trojan Horse of non-threat. Personally I think it may be a way to make subject matter like alternative sexualities in high school more palatable to the general public. Then, introduce a character like Elliott who is arguably the most stable and balanced character ever to appear on the show (along with, as you have said, Mr. & Mrs. Hummel). It makes me question whether it’s as random as it seems.

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