This week on Glee: Pain makes better art, and relationship drama. Oh my stars, the relationship drama. When a high school show pretty much revolving around dysfunctional relationships has enough relationship drama in an episode to make me raise an eyebrow, that’s what we like to call High Drama.
We had further disintegration of our two love triangles, with Brittany-Santana-Artie and Finn-Rachel-Quinn. Glee also decided to give the gay love some screen time this episode, which was nice. I’ve been carping about Kurt not actually having a real relationship and the show being willing to go much further with the relatively ‘safe’ Santana-Brittany relationship[1. Because lady-on-lady action is hot and titillating for viewers, instead of gross and scary, and thus is not at all boundary breaking or revolutionary in terms of what we see on primetime television, Mr. Murphy.], and it looks like Ryan Murphy finally decided to put at least some money where his mouth is by showing Kurt in an actual on-screen kiss, with the possibility for more as his relationship develops. So, you know, you go, Glee.
The dynamics between Brittany and Santana seem to be skirting dangerously close to some bad territory. It’s pretty clearly established that Ryan Murphy thinks bisexuality doesn’t exist and I think he’s trying to reinforce that, with Brittany cast in the role of the bad person who leads on nice lesbians by pretending to be bi and confusing them. Poor Santana just wants love! And Evil Brittany leading her on by pretending to be bisexual, but really just doing it with the boys. She’s not really bi, she’s just a tease. It’s not possible that she loves Artie and Santana both very much, and is experiencing conflict of her own as she struggles with the desire to balance those relationships. Nope. She’s just a bi-faker!
Curious to compare the framing of that relationship with Finn-Quinn-Rachel, isn’t it? There’s a similar dynamic here, with Finn as the object of attention and conflict between two partners, but the way the relationship is presented, and the way the characters interact with it, is very different. The setup here never calls Finn’s sexuality into question, never questions the legitimacy of his attraction to Rachel and Quinn. Instead we’re supposed to see him as a kind of sad tool, Rachel as pathetic, and Quinn as sneaky.
I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this episode. I found it pretty boring mainly because relationship drama doesn’t interest me. I was reminded, again, that I absolutely love Amber Riley’s singing and wish she could sing more, and I thought there was some interesting fat acceptance content embedded in her song, which was very much a challenge to people telling her how to eat and take care of her body. Hell to the no indeed!
The original song gimmick was, well, at least they weren’t mangling respected and much beloved songs. As a vehicle, it was an interesting way to add metacommentary to the characters, like Puck’s obviously not getting it with why Lauren wasn’t stoked by ‘Fat Bottomed Girls,’ and Rachel’s complete lack of emotional depth as a result of the fact that she really hasn’t lived very much, and because she’s so damn self-involved that she has trouble thinking outside her own experiences. I would have liked to hear entries from Artie and Tina as well, but the clock’s a tickin’ on an hour of television and there’s no room for everyone.
One thing I say over and over about Glee is that it has a tendency to single out minorities for Very Special Attention, rather than allowing them to interact naturally with the cast. It’s hard on an ensemble show to make a place for everyone on every single episode, and I definitely don’t expect that. But the show’s focus tends to create a situation where most of the people of colour, and the disabled characters, get shunted to the background except when the show wants to trot them out for a lesson and learning experience.
Consequently, people are reminded, again, that things like disability need to be singled out for attention. They require special notice and attention. They cannot simply be in the Glee world, they must serve a function. They are there for the benefit of other characters. And people definitely take that with them to the outside world, every time they call a wheelchair user ‘brave’ for waiting at a street corner for the light to change, every time they point at a service animal, every time they use the disabled people around them as props and tools for self discovery.