When Matthew Morrison was cast as glee club director Will Schuester on Glee in 2009, he probably never expected the show to take off the way it did. The musical-comedy-drama garnered multiple Golden Globes and spawned a fandom of diehard Gleeks who still talk about the show five years after its run.
But if the show’s overnight success was a surprise to Morrison, we’d bet the recent backlash over the actor is an even bigger shock. Thanks to TikTok, jokes about Schuester’s problematic nature have exploded into a full-blown hate campaign. Dive into the details of Matthew Morrison’s career and how his once-celebrated role has become a target of Gen Zers.
Who Is Matthew Morrison?
Matthew Morrison, 42, is a Tony and Emmy Award-nominated actor, dancer, and singer known for his role as Will Schuester on the former Fox series Glee.
Prior to his first leading role on the small screen, he made a name for himself in various Broadway and Off-Broadway productions. His most notable role on stage was from 2002 to 2004, when he starred as Link Larkin in the original cast of Hairspray.
More recently, he reunited with Glee co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk to star in 2019’s American Horror Story: 1984.
Morrison’s leading man charisma has attracted the attention of a few familiar names. In 2010, Kristen Bell revealed to Us that she had briefly dated the actor.
“I actually went to college with Matty Marrison,” Bell said. The two attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and both left before graduating to work on stage. “We actually dated very briefly, so I’ll have to say maybe Matt Morrison is my favorite part of Glee for various reasons.”
He also dated his Glee co-star Lea Michele. In her 2014 book Brunette Ambition, she wrote, “I had worked on Broadway with Jenna Ushkowitz and Matthew Morrison before. Matt had been a friend of mine for years, and in fact we’d actually dated back in the day for a Broadway beat.” However, the two rarely talked about it in interviews when Glee was at its peak.
In 2014, Morrison married his girlfriend of three years, Renee Puente. The couple has one son, Revel James Makai Morrison, born in 2017. We wonder if he will inherit his father’s undeniable talent for singing and dancing:
Why Does Everyone Hate Matthew Morrison On Social Media?
The anti-Morrison movement can be traced to a TikTok post on September 4, 2020 by 24-year-old Carleigh Spence, aka @teenscientist. In it, she tells followers that everyone deserves access to healthcare—except Morrison. To date, the video has attracted over 385,000 likes.
Spence tells Bustle that she felt an “instinctual repulsion towards the actor,” so she came up with the concept of “an unspoken vendetta from me to him that he would never know about” for her TikTok videos.
Her sentiments are shared by fellow TikTokers, who piggybacked on the concept. Users dissected every questionable move by Morrison’s character on Glee. In hindsight, former teen fans of the show suddenly saw Mr. Schuester as mildly creepy. After all, which high school teacher would get away with singing “The Thong Song” to their students in this day and age?
As writer Joan Nathan points out in a Jezebel essay, “[Schuester] felt familiar, or frightening. I saw Mr. Schuester in the actions of my own drama teacher, and the freshman year English teacher that bent a bit too far over girl’s desks when giving them notes on their homework assignments.”
“It’s not really Matthew Morrison we hate,” she clarified. “It’s Will Schuester.”
Morrison and Schuester-inspired cringe content is now its own genre. Take this vid that charges Shuester with serious crimes:
…or familiarize yourself with the new Rick-roll:
Others are simply reduced to tears as they look back at old episodes with fresh eyes.
The Matthew Morrison Hate Has Gotten Worse Recently
At this point, poor Morrison can’t catch a break. In December, he starred in the title role of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical! on NBC. It seemed like an ideal pick—Morrison is one of the few singing/dancing/acting triple threats who could pull it off. But critics panned the production. Sonia Rao of The Washington Post described it as “unsettling” and called Morrison’s acting “bleak.”
And viewers agreed. “That was horrific. My children had nightmares last night. That didn’t even look like the grinch!” wrote one Twitter user.
“Sending Matthew Morrison the bill for all the therapy I’ll need after watching his bizarrely sexual interpretation of the grinch,” added another.
It’s too bad to see a viral joke morph into real disdain for the actor, but we don’t see the backlash subsiding anytime soon—especially if his next performance is anything like his role as The Grinch.