The driving force behind this week’s Glee was, evidently, the message that being gay in high school is a-ok, as long as you don’t. You know. Act gay. Between everyone harshing on Kurt for wanting to sing a duet with New Kid and Rachel telling Kurt that even though he’s lonely, he’s not ‘alone,’ the takeaway for me is that if you’re an out gay teen in high school, well, you probably shouldn’t act so gay.
Unless you’re a lesbian. It’s totes ok, as Emilyswash points out, to have a girl on girl duet. But boys cannot sing duets with other boys, because that would be gay. Which is, you know, given the dialogue that is happening right now about gay teens, this episode left me with an especially bitter taste in my mouth. Note that not only did we see Mercedes and Santana in a duet, but we also saw Brittany and Santana making out. They talked about scissoring, for the love of Pete. But the only other sexual scene in the episode, with Artie and Brittany? Did anyone else notice how that faded to black pretty much immediately, because nothing is ickier than seeing implied cripsex except, possibly, seeing implied gay sex?
You know, I’ve criticised Kurt’s characterisation before because I felt like he was heavily stereotyped, and I still feel that way. I would still like to see another gay character as a foil for Kurt, although I did like that in this episode, we had the new guy being presented ambiguously and being read as gay, and then clearly identifying as straight; not all fashion conscious men, Glee kind of reminded viewers, are gay[1. Of course, that’s partly apparently because he was originally introduced as a boyfriend for Kurt, and the show changed its mind, so maybe I shouldn’t be so charitable about his characterisation.]. But I also didn’t want the show to go the other way, and penalise Kurt for being the way he is.
Because, the fact of the matter is, there are out gay teens like Kurt out there, and you know what? They can act as gay as they damn well please. They should be able to go to school wrapped up in the rainbow flag if they want to, singing musicals all the way. They shouldn’t need to be afraid of singing duets with other male students of any sexual orientation, they shouldn’t need to suppress their personalities because of stereotypes about their sexuality. Kurt is being presented as this creepy predatory gay teen who is constantly being told by everyone that it’s fine to be gay, he just can’t…act like it.
Meanwhile, New Guy, equally predatory in terms of how he interacts with Quinn, gets a slap on the wrist. So, Kurt’s sexual aggression is rewarded with the f-word and being told he ‘deserved it’ once the facts come out (not that I am supportive of Kurt being as aggressive as he is/was, I just…take note of how the characters respond to it). New Guy gets to have a guitar duet and dinner out with Quinn for his troubles, where he tells us that having coloured hair is just like being gay, because, you know. It’s a shameful secret.
Artie, meanwhile, has gone from being used as a prop by the football team by being used as a tool for revenge in relationship battles. Which, uh, I guess, step up. I’m sure Glee will gets tons of gladhanding for being willing to Go There, you know, and show that some of us crips do have sex. Except the show didn’t show us, it implied it. And yeah, this is network television, so it’s not like I was expecting HBO-level exposition here, but, people, seriously, we saw, like, nothing. And we also saw that Artie had basically no agency; he didn’t transfer from his chair to the bed, for example, he was carried there. He didn’t enthusiastically consent, he kind of just went along with things even though he actually seemed kind of uncomfortable. I can’t help but note it’s the wheelchair user the show decided to utilise in the ‘being used for sex’ storyline.
I also noticed a prolonged shower theme running throughout the episode. Not sure what was up with that, I’m not gonna lie, from the comments in the opener with the random cut to Artie on ‘maybe people should just take baths’ to the interjection of ‘shower’ into Tina and Mike’s duet (oh, look, ‘other Asian’ can sing, too! Gosh, who knew, Glee, you’re so progressive). I seriously think I learned more about Ryan Murphy’s shower fetish in this episode than I ever wanted to, you know what I’m saying?
Finally, I can’t help but be amused that a show repeatedly called on the carpet for offensive content parodied itself with a song the characters meant to make ‘edgy’ and ‘offensive’ that was just…indistinguishable from anything else, honestly. It’s sort of impossible for me to pick that particular song out as any more awful than anything else this show does; tacky and bad, sure, but how is that anything new?