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You’re a Mean One, Matthew Morrison

The ‘Glee’ star and modern-day cringe icon is our new Grinch — but Gleeks say he’s been ruining Christmas for years. When did the world turn on Mr. Schue?

It’s not that Matthew Morrison would make a bad Grinch. He’s certainly good at eliciting slimy energy while maintaining a thick head of hair. The problem is, even in a pandemic where there’s nothing to do but watch TV, few want to spend two hours suffering through the former Glee actor looking like Elphaba’s creepy brother.

Was that too harsh? TikTok certainly wouldn’t think so. Last week, NBC announced the Glee actor will star as the green curmudgeon in a live musical on December 9th. Former Gleeks received the news poorly, placing trigger warnings over photos of Morrison and asking lawyers how to sue NBC for casting him. Others turned Morrison into a Gen Z Rickroll.

On Twitter, he became a meme: our singing sleep-paralysis demon come to life.

The mockery of Morrison has been a long time coming. Like much of the world surrounding Glee, Morrison and his portrayal of Will Schuester face an ongoing reckoning. Many Zoomers who grew up watching Morrison sing and dance are no longer comfortable with the actor. What happened?

Originally presented as the relatable teacher, Glee’s Schuester became a parody of a privileged, manipulative, borderline-predatory white guy, the archetype of a man accustomed to adoration for failing upward. He teaches Spanish, runs the glee club not unlike a casting couch and wears suit vests as outerwear. In a modern lens, he’s a cautious reminder of the too-friendly adults who take advantage of naive teenagers; just watch him blackmail a kid into joining the glee club and caress his students during performances. “The lack of boundaries this character was allowed to have because he was this straight white guy, it was like, okay, that’s questionable,” Brie Garrett, a 24-year-old recovering Gleek, tells me. 

Perhaps that’s a testament to Morrison’s acting ability. Either way, fans’ discomfort with Will is hard to separate from Matthew’s post-Glee career. It doesn’t help that fans keep digging up douche-y parallels between Morrison and Mr. Schue. On TikTok, users mock a video of Morrison dancing during a live concert, grabbing his crotch and thrusting while wearing the white-boy uniform of khaki pants, white T-shirt and a blue button-down. 

“When talking to friends who haven’t watched Glee, all of them know Matthew Morrison as just the ‘creepy teacher,’” says Kasey, an 18-year-old Glee shitposter from New Jersey. (She asked to be identified by her first name so college recruiters don’t find her anti-Morrison quotes.)

Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda with his lip-biting selfies, Morrison’s reputation post-Glee is that of an aughts-era softboy seeking praise for little more than having emotions. A recent video surfaced of Miranda and Morrison freestyle-rapping outside the Hamilton stage door, and it exudes such feigned earnestness you begin to believe that both Morrison and Miranda might actually be unaware of how insufferably mediocre they sound. “The feeling Ryan Gosling gives off in La La Land — ‘No one understands jazz but me, this straight white guy’ — Morrison gives me that energy,” Garrett says. 

Morrison’s dissenters have grown so fierce there’s now a petition to send him to Guantanamo Bay. It has over 18,000 signatures. The U.S. military, it says, has a long list of “offenses” used to indict him on charges of oppressively cringe behavior: 

  • In 2018, Morrison posted a photo of himself alongside late Glee actors Cory Monteith and Mark Salling. A respectful photo, sure. The caption, however, is not: two angle emojis and a sad face. (Weirdly attention-seeking and insensitive.) 
  • In 2010, he sat for an absolutely obnoxious Details cover story, admitting he took a few Glee cast members under his wing. “I don’t want to say they idolize me, but…,” he says. (Ew!)
  • In the same Details story, he claimed he has a career only because he’s hot. “I wish I could say I got to this point in my career based on my talent, but I don’t think that’s true,” he said. (My eyes are burning.)
  • He allegedly was a terrible fiancé to Selling Sunset’s Chrishell Stause. On the show, Stause derided a previous boyfriend believed to be Morrison: “I didn’t know who I was at 25, and I didn’t know what I wanted, because actually, if I ended up with the person I was with when I was 25, I would want to kill myself. And yeah, you can Google that. You were a dick! Sorry,” she says. (Ouch!)

It all paints a portrait of a guy obsessed with being perceived as a stalwart provider and a sweeping romantic. Sure, it’s harsh — how many other guys out there confuse self-absorption for sincerity? — but the anti-Morrison movement reveals how far we’ve come since 2009. A decade ago, when Morrison rose to fame, our idea of an emotionally mature man largely came down to aesthetics. The guy who gelled this hair with got2b, wore pinstripe fedoras and serenaded you with Jason Mraz covers seemed safe no matter how emotionally manipulative he really was.

Today, the bar for a guy worth stanning is higher. The leading men of this era are finally being held accountable for their shitty white dude personas. It’s only recently that Justin Timberlake has been questioned for his poor treatment of collaborator Janet Jackson, ex-girlfriend Britney Spears and even wife Jessica Biel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt admits his 500 Days of Summer character was “selfish,” and even poster-boy Mraz is finally phasing out the fedora in favor of snapbacks. Meanwhile, Morrison is still posting ukulele covers of Bob Marley’s “One Love” on Instagram to send “a little love to the world.” A suggestion: Why not open your purse instead?