Don’t stop believing – purity, danger and Glee

Germ-Free Adolescents by Daniel Trilling in the New Statesman, looks at our ideas of purity and ritual in relation to the way the TV series Glee depicts teenagers. He makes use of the anthropologist Mary Douglas’s views on dirt. Adolescents can be seen as ‘matter out of place’, a mixing of kinds (child/adult monster). Moving swiftly to another sanitized and ordered musical number is much safer, it seems, than acknowledging  the ambiguity.

‘If uncleanliness is matter out of place, we must approach it through order. Uncleanliness or dirt is that which must not be included if a pattern is to be maintained. The same principle applies throughout. Furthermore, it involves no special distinction between primitives and moderns: we are all subject to the same rules.’ (Purity and Danger 1966: 53)

‘In the primitive culture the rule of patterning works with greater force and more total comprehensiveness. With the moderns it applies to disjointed, separate areas of existence.’ (Ibid.)

Interview with Mary Douglas.

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