This week on Glee: Bisexuality! Is it real? Let’s discuss! Also, how about brain injuries! Those are hilarious, am I right?
No seriously. Glee tells us it is progressive television and that, in particular, it is sending great messages about teen sexuality. Glee can show us an out, proud, gay teen, but apparently, bisexuality doesn’t exist. Kurt informs us it is ‘the excuse gay boys use in school.’
The thing about biphobia is that it is extremely widespread and a lot of people believe bigoted stuff like what Kurt was spouting in this episode. This was not presented as commentary. It was not presented in a way designed to spark discussion and conversation among viewers. It was not presented to confront stereotypes about bisexual people. Kurt shut Blaine down when he tried to talk about the fact that he was questioning his sexuality. Great message to send to viewers, Glee!
Kurt also restated the common adage that there are some women who keep dating gay men calling themselves ‘bi’ and can’t figure out why their relationships always fail. I encounter this a lot, the idea that gay men torment women attracted to men by claiming to be bisexual, and then treating their partners like shit, and then breaking up, and that women end up in cyclical relationships of this nature (because, I guess, people like Ryan Murphy think women are so clueless that they will endlessly pursue relationships with no chemistry). Or that gay men use women to hide their gayness, or as tools to question their sexuality, and don’t care about the emotional consequences of that, which is a pretty shitty thing to say about both gay men and women.
Glee basically just told viewers that bisexuality does not exist. How many high school students thinking about their sexuality watched tonight’s show and went ‘oh. Ok, I guess I’m not bisexual.’ I sure hope Ryan Murphy feels good about himself for this one, for telling people that bisexuality is ‘experimenting’ and ‘just a phase’ and something people do when they aren’t sure of themselves.
It’s true that teens often take sexual identities on and off and explore different aspects of sexuality. But that’s not because any of those stages of their lives are not real. It’s a reflection of personal exploration. As satah points out in their discussion of this episode:
it’s fine, on an individual, character-based basis, that blaine ended up being gay. that happens! people experiment, and end up at this conclusion! but when you combine the ultimate plot with all of the stuff that kurt said, it’s horrible. the point of this subplot seemed to be that bisexuality doesn’t exist.
Like they say, the issue is not with the depiction of something that actually happens in the real world. The issue is with what surrounds the depiction. Glee has this tendency to present hate speech and stereotypes without any commentary, usually in a positive light, and then it acts like it is doing something superprogressive by doing so. Ryan Murphy seems to have missed the memo that it is possible to depict oppression in a way that adds to the body of criticism surrounding that oppression, as opposed to just casually reinforcing it.
The drinking storyline was…painful. It reiterated the idea that people are incapable of using alcohol in moderation, that alcohol sends people spinning out of control, and that once you start drinking, you cannot stop. The show occasionally included token ‘be safe’ lines like ‘drinking is safe so long as you have a designated driver,’ reinforcing, again, that drinking in moderation is just not possible, that you can’t, say, have a single drink and leave it at that.
We were spared a gruesome car accident scene, so at least I can thank Glee for not bringing out the full moralising, but the overall message about alcohol was pretty irritating. Either you’re a stuck up goody two shoes priss like Rachel was at the start of the party, or you’re an out of control vomiting ‘stripper,’ as Finn refers to Brittany when she gets her dance on at the party. There is, evidently, no middle ground.
On a final note, did anyone else take note of the fact that Artie has apparently added levitating to his skillset, since he somehow magically managed to go down a flight of stairs into the basement for the party, and also miraculously floated back up the stairs to leave the basement? I like how Glee, sensitive, honest, deep depiction of disability that it is, took that moment to highlight accessibility issues and talk about how difficult it is to socialise when everywhere you go, there are giant flights of stairs. Oh. Wait.