Glee: Micro-continuity and you

6 Mar

One of the most common complaints I hear about Glee from people who watch it is about its supposed lack of continuity. And, while I’ll certainly grant that there are some major issues in that regard — characters’ ages and grades in school; the physical distance between Westerville and Lima; the mid-season plan changes around Sam and Blaine; and the show’s overwhelmingly inconsistent tone (comedy, drama, or satire? heightened reality or dream sequence? 90210 or DeGrassi?) — I think Glee also has some of the most remarkable continuity I’ve seen on television.

That continuity, however, is largely in details that only arguably contribute to the overall plot. When Santana insults Blaine’s bow ties in “I Kissed a Girl,” said bow ties then disappear from the scene for a bit. It’s trivial, but it’s also clever if you’re on board with Blaine’s desperate need for approval as a plot item that’s being set up but hasn’t been executed on yet.

Other moments of micro-continuity include Will saying that Terri “used to be filled with so much joy in high school,” which is innocuous enough, until you remember the show also tells us that Terri spent most of high school high on pseudoephedrine. (Thanks to mzminola on Tumblr for that find).

Brittany tells us in “The First Time” that her first time was in a tent. “Alien invasion,” she says, raising questions of consent. This type of vulnerability is underscored in a later episode when she tells Santana “I don’t know how,” in response to an instruction to lock a door.

Sam, despite the fact that he was originally brought on the show to be Kurt’s boyfriend (something that changed when the whole “Teenage Dream” thing rewrote season 2), also hasn’t been immune from the micro-continuity. He auditions for the glee club with “Billionaire” and, when he returns to it after having moved away because his dad got a job after they lost their house in Lima, sings “Red Solo Cup,” which includes a line about foreclosures by Freddie Mac. (Thanks to rena-librarian on Tumblr for that find).

Micro-continuity appears in the form of costume items, especially for Kurt. Watch for the moments that he wears brooches of things that fly — a pair of ducks or a single airplane — in seasons 2 and 3. They match to school transfers and other major events between him and Blaine. If he’s wearing the antique scissor brooch, expect him to cry and negotiate for his rightful place. And always, always track the hankies.

Sure, we all talked the red hanky, left side issue into the ground. But it was made far funnier by the appearance of the white hanky, right side after Blaine’s injury at the hands of Sebastian. Good to know Kurt was being gentle with him in his time of need (the info around that is in the comments of the linked post around the middle; outside of that discussion be forewarned that, that thread is intense and centers around Karofsky and consent issues).

Anyway.

Other bits of micro-continuity are less explicable, but as deeply rich. There is, for example, Kurt’s fear of vampires (thanks to actingjunkie on Tumblr for helping me find that).

Is this a reference to his allegiance to Team Jacob? Does it somehow hark back to Figgins’s issue with Tina? What is going on in that Regionals competition moment other than a particularly surreal way of underscoring Lima’s in ability to be fully sensitive to the matter of Dave’s suicide attempt?

I don’t know, but I’m enjoying Tumblr trying to figure it out (there’s been lots of hilarious threads about Kurt accidentally walking on his dad and Carole role-playing Bella and Edward during sex).

In light of these instances and many others like them, the idea that Glee lacks continuity seems more than somewhat absurd to me. It may lack useful continuity or the continuity you want, and its mid-course adjustments have certainly been clunky at best more than once, but it’s still definitely there.

Because Glee is also the product of a team that is obsessive about certain types of details and views writing and continuity as something done not just by the word people, but also by the costume people, the set people (Blaine’s bookshelves feature vintage cameras and a book about J. Edgar Hoover — coincidence that the episode featuring a previously unmentioned older brother is going to be called “Big Brother?” Probably not. Expect a surveillance theme or plot.), and, of course the actors.
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Micro-continuity has been used to foreshadow things like Dave’s suicide attempt, and is, I suspect, currently directing us to Kurt getting himself into some form of trouble in the very near future. After all, we had the episode in which Kurt mentions when he and the girls’ periods are due; followed by the episode in which he declares himself “tin roof rusted” by way of the “Love Shack” performance. Since Kurt’s not actually pregnant, what type of trouble is he in?

What are your favorite moments of Glee‘s micro-continuity? And do you think it’s this love of detail that keeps even people frustrated by the show invested? There’s something to be said for a program broad enough that we can project ourselves onto its characters easily even as it sometimes paints its world with a brush made from a single mouse hair.

(P.S., sorry about the title, but if I were at all a visual artist, I would have done this entire entry as an Emma Pillsbury pamphlet.

ETA: And she-named-nik has designed a pamphlet cover! I’m super tickled. Thanks!)

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47 Responses to “Glee: Micro-continuity and you”

  1. DeconstructingGlee March 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    It was Saturday that the Billionaire thing occurred to me!

    Besides the age thing (with Kurt it really bothers me,actually) I’ve never really noticed any “continuity” errors (I also tend to think of continuity as things like a character wearing one pair of shoes one second and then it cuts to a different take and she’s wearing different shoes. Or in New York, when Kurt and Blaine are having their Lima Bean exchange, the two takes are completely different with regards Blaine’s posture, hand positions, etc and it’s really distracting.).

    • RM March 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      Oh man, Blaine’s hand in the “New York” scene distracts me every time. That’s so funny, I thought it was just me. There’s been a few major wardrobe errors with Kurt in that type of continuity, and there was some ridiculous editing fail of that ilk in “The Spanish Teacher.”

      Honestly, I’d notice it less if Glee didn’t make me want to watch for the smallest of details because of this other sort of stuff.

    • Julia March 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      Kurt’s age isn’t a continuity fail though–he’s shown to have turned 18 at the end of his junior year, right? Which would let him be driving as a sophomore, etc.

      • DeconstructingGlee March 7, 2012 at 11:43 am #

        Oh is he? Oh wait… yeah, he is — he’ll be 19 in May. Nevermind!

      • Caroline March 7, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

        To turn 18 in the spring of his junior year, wouldn’t he have to be a year behind? No one I know turned 18 before the end of Junior year.

        • Julia March 9, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

          My graduating class covered a three-year age span. Most schools do. There are always kids who started a year early or a year late.

    • Caroline March 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      The one that gets me is Kurt and Finn’s hug in “Somewhere Only We Know”. When they go in for the hug, both of Finn’s arms are around Kurt’s shoulders. When they pull away, one arm is around his shoulder and one is around his back. I’ve never bee able to watch that performance without thinking about it.

      But I think when people complain about continuity errors they are talking about the way that characters and character motivations don’t stay consistent. For example, I’ve always thought that Jesse in season 1 and Jesse in season 2 where really not the same person. Or, at least, that Jesse 2 was a flanderization of Jesse from season 1. Or the fact that in episode 1, Rachel’s fathers had a surrogate and mixed their sperm together so that no one would know who was Rachel’s real father. And then suddenly they started behaving as if Shelby had given Rachel up for adoption rather than having a planned surrogate pregnancy.

      • Kate March 7, 2012 at 3:42 am #

        Even in season one, Jesse’s motivations and characterization were kind of a mess. Dating Rachel had two purposes: 1) he was working for Shelby to connect Shelby and Rachel, and 2) he was working for Vocal Adrenaline to hurt and humiliate Rachel so badly that she would drop out of Regionals. Jesse, who lives for the spotlight, was willing to piss off his coach and potentially lose his soloist spot by using his proximity to Rachel, who Shelby cared for enough to create an elaborate plan to connect with her, to hurt her, even to the point of trying to manipulate Rachel into sleeping with him so the pain would be that much worse. Luckily, Shelby didn’t care, even when her entire show choir came together to publicly humiliate her daughter.

        It’s really clear that “Shelby is Rachel’s biological mom” was tacked on to the “Vocal Adrenaline is an evil show choir that manipulates other show choirs” plot, and that the two didn’t mesh well since the two goals (emotionally connect with Rachel/emotionally scar Rachel) are fundamentally incompatible. Ryan Murphy said in an early interview that he didn’t plan for Shelby to be Rachel’s mom, so it seems like that plot was added once the media and fans started commenting on the physical resemblance, without a lot of consideration for how well it meshed with the existing plot and characterization (Shelby is the coach of an evil show choir).

      • DeconstructingGlee March 7, 2012 at 11:50 am #

        SOWK — there’sa bit where Brittany steps down on the bleachers,and then does it again a few seconds later. I can’t watch the scene without seeing it now!

  2. Brittany & consent issues March 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    “‘Alien invasion,’ she says, raising questions of consent.” I was wondering if that might have been a callback to Brittany’s “roofies” comment to Dr. Carl in “Britney/Brittany.”

  3. nicolidominn March 6, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Please commission someone to make that pamphlet for you.

  4. Quinn, Kurt & teen pregnancy March 6, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    “Since Kurt’s not actually pregnant, what type of trouble is he in?” Quinn was pregnant though. Interesting how the last significant scene Kurt & Quinn interact before Quinn’s car crash was probably the biggest, if only, disagreement we’ve ever seen between them (those two don’t have many conversations of note to begin with). Both are also the only real dissenters among the kids regarding the Finn/Rachel nuptials. If Kurt had a child, unless he put a random girl in a family way (with “Glee” you never can tell, but I’d say that’s very likely not going to happen. Though Sue did seem to consider harvesting his sperm, even if she ultimately rejected the idea as not to propagate Kurt’s “strangeness”) and can’t bear a child himself (a la Quinn), it could only be symbolic. Maybe the belief of responsibility and obligation to Karofsky’s welfare? Of which Kurt may become overwhelmed and eventually sends or suggests Karofsky sent where he can get the help he needs (as Quinn gave up Beth), which could be a tie to Kurt as guide out of the underworld.

    Looking at the broader picture, I don’t so much see things as Kurt helping Karofsky, but what fictional Kurt represents to suicidal, depressed, etc. queer people in the real world. I’d wondered if that could be foreshadowing Kurt may initially forgo or delay his intent on a career in performing arts and commit himself to helping other local/Ohio/Midwestern queer kids in need? Though perhaps not necessarily just queer teens, but all bullied teens (tying back to Kurt’s campaign strategy for class president). Either helping guide them out of Lima-hell or helping them cope with being there?

  5. Auri March 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Thank you for this! It is the sneaky little details which so often make Glee worth it, especially for me, anyway. Finn’s father’s backstory was actually hidden in the pilot of the show – Finn gives the date of the first Iraq war in his voiceover, but it’s wrong by a year or two (I can’t remember by how much). No one really paid much attention to that, passing it off as a writing error or Finn being Finn, but the pay-off was worth it.

  6. Sarah March 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    I love this so much.

    I’m not sure I’m understanding this correctly, but I think I notice and extra layer of micro-continuity with Kurt’s hankies. The red hanky left and the white hanky right, if I’m not mistaken, both involve Kurt’s hand and Blaine’s, um, more sensitive regions. Although I guess I’d be surprised if they were really trying to imply that that’s their thing….

  7. so thinky March 6, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    I wish I could contribute more ex’s of “micro” continuity. This is fun! And you do see that the writers really care about these things (like the bookshelves in bedrooms or other physical elements). I think sometimes there is a perceived lack of *character* continuity, though, like Quinn’s sudden sanity this season, or Mentor!Blaine kind of disappearing once he arrived at MKHS. But that might not be a case of poor continuity per se; Glee just tends to leave more interpretive gaps for us to fill than a typical text. And those gaps can be filled logically, I think (but I need to go back and think about Quinn this season. That gap is a bit more like a chasm, but YMMV).

  8. laura March 6, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    I like a lot of the micro-continuity that syncs the episodes between the seasons, like Jacob ben Israel in the first eps of seasons two and three, and how a new member for ND is discovered in each of the season premieres (and the parallels b/w Will discovering Finn and then Finn discovering Sam are fun; too bad there was no practical reason to stick Blaine in a shower in a semi-public place). And hasn’t the school musical featured in the fifth episode of the season every time? It’s at least true for Rocky Horror and WSS; Cabaret was not as developed as a plot vehicle as the others and I’d have to check “The Rhodes Not Taken”. Stuff like that is kind of cool, anyway.

    I also appreciate how Puck’s story, all along, has not really been about being a bad-ass or a teenage dream to the MILFs of Lima, but instead has been about his view of what it means to be a good father (more explicit in S1 and S3)/nuturer (S3)

    In season three, it’s been shown to be very obvious that Artie has the skill-set to take the lead with something and get results (for example, WSS, the holiday special), but even going back to season one, he’s been depicted that way, but it’s just more subtle. For example, it’s Artie who shows Will that his priorities as an advocate for students are mis-placed in “Wheels” because ramps for the school are more important than renting a school bus for Sectionals. Actually, he’s been subverting Will for fifty-odd episodes, hasn’t he? It’s just not usually at the forefront of the plot.

    • laura March 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      Oh, and I forgot to mention a small nod to continuity that hasn’t happened yet but is on my radar screen: Blaine and “vaguely Eurasian”. I’ve seen the pic with the three Anderson men, so I’m not overly hopeful at this point …

      • so thinky March 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

        Oh, yes–I’m waiting to see what happens there. Remember the guy some people thought was Blaine’s father is really just someone who works for the show–he’s not an actor.

        • laura March 7, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

          Ah, I didn’t hear that bit of speculation, but it’s interesting! If I could remember the gentleman’s name, I’d be stalking imdb …

          • Batkonehat March 8, 2012 at 4:06 am #

            The person who tweeted a pic with Criss and Bomer was Tim Davis, vocal contractor for Glee. IMDB now has aTimothy Davis listed as cast for Blaine’s dad. I believe thisis incorrect speculation. The joke has been that the vocal guy and Criss look alike. The joke has been around for awhile.

            • RM March 8, 2012 at 4:10 am #

              And the dude has a personal sense of style that’s remarkably Blaine and has enjoyed running with the whole thing. I find it one of those wacky backstage things that’s weirdly endearing.

              But yes, you’re right, not playing Blaine’s dad. it’s IMDB having no clue unless something radical has happened. IMDB is notoriously behind the fact curve, but this seems to be not something widely recognized.

  9. Kate March 7, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    //That continuity, however, is largely in details that only arguably contribute to the overall plot. When Santana insults Blaine’s bow ties in “I Kissed a Girl,” said bow ties then disappear from the scene for a bit. It’s trivial, but it’s also clever if you’re on board with Blaine’s desperate need for approval as a plot item that’s being set up but hasn’t been executed on yet.//

    Do you have any examples of this where a seemingly trivial detail served to set up a plot item, and then was actually executed on? For example, you say there’s microcontinuity that foreshadowed Karofsky’s suicide attempt, but you don’t actually explicate that. It seems like that should actually be the *central* piece of evidence in your theory, since it’s presumably an example of seemingly trivial and disconnected details that added up to foreshadow a specific event.

    With things like, say, the consent issues that are raised in the intersection between “Brittany is dumb” jokes and “Brittany is slutty” jokes, it certainly does all add up to a disturbing picture. But it’s also not actually clear that the writer’s actually know or intend that picture–that is, it’s not clear that for them Brittany’s inability to lock a door is symbolically different than her inability to read a calendar or turn on a computer (or recognize broccoli, or, or, etc.), or that things like the alien invasion line raise the spectre of rape, just as the joke about her spending summer vacation wandering the sewers, if we take it seriously, raises the spectre of parental neglect (and all the jokes about Lord Tubbington’s diet and smoking habit add up to a horrifying tale of animal mistreatment).

    So, while things like that (or the two points about Terri that you connect here) *may* add up to a form of continuity rather than throwaway lines/jokes that may converge, it’s not actually clear that they do. Something like foreshadowing of Karofsky’s suicide, or even some microcontinuity that points to a theme or characteristic which then has larger relevance, would be really helpful in supporting the idea that microcontinuity is a form of continuity rather than a series of fun but trivial details that may be connected, but then again, may not–or that, if they are connected, actually mean something beyond “Santana said she hated Blaine’s bowties, and then in the same episode Blaine didn’t wear bowties”. Connected, certainly, but not necessarily meaningful.

    //After all, we had the episode in which Kurt mentions when he and the girls’ periods are due; followed by the episode in which he declares himself “tin roof rusted” by way of the “Love Shack” performance. Since Kurt’s not actually pregnant, what type of trouble is he in?//

    If this is an example of Glee’s microcontinuity, I don’t think a very well-constructed one. Your hypothesis is that this is signifying some future trouble. To make the symbolic leap from “pregnancy” to [whatever the trouble is] (which already requires a leap from “tin roof, rusted” to “pregnant”, when it’s not clear that the writer who selected that song was attempting to reference that meaning, which isn’t inherent in the phrase itself but rather attached itself afterwards), it would have to be some sort of trouble where pregnancy is *required* as a metaphor for the trouble–otherwise, why use that and not something else? Pregnancy is symbolically loaded in a number of ways, most of which don’t point directly to “trouble” (especially with Sue’s literal pregnancy this season), and trouble can be foreshadowed in a number of ways, so the choice of pregnancy = trouble would have to be for some specific reason where pregnancy is actually a necessary metaphor for the trouble. Otherwise we’re falling into “just because” land, where anything can mean anything, rather than “well-planned details” land, where small details have thematic resonance.

    It would also have to be some trouble that has it’s roots in “Heart” (Kurt is figuratively pregnant, but doesn’t know it yet), because why else have Kurt say that he’s “tin roof, rusted” there rather than in the episode where the trouble actually takes root?

    It would also, presumably, be something that Kurt would discover at “the end of the month”, when his figurative period is scheduled to arrive and yet doesn’t come. It wasn’t referencing Karofsky’s suicide attempt, because that would be “two weeks from now” instead of “at the end of the month”, when Kurt’s figurative period is scheduled to arrive.What actually happened at the end of the month was…a hiatus. Glee was actually very specific as to the timing of Kurt’s figurative menstrual cycle, so a trouble that Kurt didn’t discover at the end of the month would seem to be disconnected from this period –> pregnancy metaphor thread.

    I suppose it’s possible that when Glee comes back from the hiatus, some trouble for Kurt will have made itself known at the end of this month (“Seven weeks ago, a terrible trouble revealed itself to me. If only I had known back during Valentine’s Day, when it all began!” – I really don’t require this level of explicit callback, but not knowing what the trouble is, this is the best I can do) that will then be dealt with in the episode itself. Seven weeks seems like a long time to sit on a problem, but I suppose it happens. Making bets on what Glee will do is a sucker’s game, so I’m not going to say it won’t happen. It just seems unlikely that it will.

    I mean, certainly, Kurt will have some sort of trouble. That’s the nature of Glee. But it seems unlikely that it will be something that requires a pregnancy metaphor, that has its roots in “Heart”, and that Kurt discovered the week after “On My Way” takes place and then didn’t deal with for seven weeks. I will give you mad props if that turns out to be the case, though, and definitely give much more credit to the Glee writers for continuity and creativity than I currently do. It just seems far more likely to me that the period joke was a throwaway joke about Kurt being one of the girls, and that “tin roof, rusted” was a line in a song that they wanted to do for Valentine’s Day.

    • MzMinola March 7, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

      “So, while things like that (or the two points about Terri that you connect here) *may* add up to a form of continuity rather than throwaway lines/jokes that may converge, it’s not actually clear that they do.”

      I just want to say that as a writer, we’re not forbidden from mining our own texts. Just because something *starts* as a throw-away line, a joke to lighten a scene or some such, doesn’t mean it stays that way.

      A writer can *use* a line to weave a thread, even if they weren’t planning on that thread when they first wrote the line.

      “Do you have any examples of this where a seemingly trivial detail served to set up a plot item, and then was actually executed on?”

      How trivial are we talking? By episode 4 of season 1, we know Quinn is the president of the Celibacy Club. In that episode, Terri ambushes her in her own car, and makes the comment about “of course you haven’t told your parents, Daddy bought you this car to drive to the Chastity Ball.”

      At that point, we had not met Quinn’s parents. Terri doesn’t know them. Terri doesn’t know Quinn. All she knows is that the head of Celibacy Club is pregnant, and scared to tell anyone besides her boyfriend.

      So this line is just…what? Terri making assumptions?

      But later in the season, we *do* meet Quinn’s parents…and the first scene with them, Quinn’s mom is helping her try on her dress for the Chastity Ball (might not have been called that, but that’s what it was) where she would promise her daddy to stay a virgin until marriage. Of course she never gets there, because that episode Finn breaks the news to them via song and Daddy kicks her out.

      Oh, and that episode? Terri found out because Finn told Will, and Will told Terri, because he’s terrible at keeping his students confidences.

      Then in Season 3 Finn once more tells Will something personal, that he’s talked to a military recruiter…and Will goes to Finn’s parents.

      Will characterization continuity right there.

      P.S. tin-roof rusted = *surprise* pregnant. Sue’s is planned. Makes all the difference.

    • PenroseParticle March 8, 2012 at 12:07 am #

      I don’t think it’s a question of giving the writers more credit. I think it’s a question of examining the text without coloring it with authorial intent.

      It’s not like this is anything new- Death of the Author, the essay, came out in 1967. It’s been debated and scrutinized just like every other literary analysis vehicle, but as far as I know it’s still a recognized and respected text one. Which basically means: It doesn’t matter how smart the writers are. It doesn’t even matter if they MEANT all that stuff with Brittany. What matters is that the text says all of this, and that this is an interpretation of the text that conflates meaning with madness- something all literary analysis does, whether it takes authorial intent into question or not.

      Then again, I’m not RM, so I could be way off.

      But even if it were somehow relevent, you’re dismissing this interpretation of the text based on an opinion you hold- You say yourself you don’t give the writers that much credit or think they’re that smart. And that’s fine- no one person enjoys or relates to or understands fiction in one way. But that in no way discredits the theory, which appears to be based on either one of two premises- the authors ARE that smart, or how smart the authors are doesn’t even matter. You can’t debate properly until the premise is agreed upon.

      Regarding your criticisms, the only ones you have posited are that it’s coincidence- and to that I have to ask at what point does it stop being coincidence? When someone points out a microcontinuity that’s expressly mentioned via the plot? Terri and the pseudoephedrine absolutely did that- it was mentioned in episode 1, Terri was full of joy in High School, and then she just… wasn’t. And in episode six, the answer to this drives the plot- Terri even says it, she would pop two pseudoephedrines every morning and be a fire cracker for the rest of the day. It neatly explains her joie de vivre from high school, her lack of it now, is commented on by the characters, and drives the plot of episode 6. I’m not sure what stronger proof you really need.

      As to the theory itself, I definitely think that there are little touches done by costuming and set dressing at least- and considering how closely the early season 1 storylines paralleled each other, I have no problem thinking that this theory holds water.

      PS.
      ” It wasn’t referencing Karofsky’s suicide attempt, because that would be “two weeks from now” instead of “at the end of the month”, when Kurt’s figurative period is scheduled to arrive.”

      The Spanish Teacher was the week before Valentines, which was the 14th. which neatly sets Karofsky’s suicide attempt two weeks after that- Mr. Schue says that “Regionals is next week”, and the Sugar Shack party, which is on the 14th, is that Saturday- making Regionals the Saturday after, the 21st. Since February has only 29 days, Kurt goes to the hospital to visit Karofsky during the last week of February- aka, the end of the month. So when Kurt’s period should have happened, he goes to the hospital.

      idk, it seems to fit to me.

      • so thinky March 8, 2012 at 11:49 am #

        MzMinola: “Just because something *starts* as a throw-away line, a joke to lighten a scene or some such, doesn’t mean it stays that way.”

        PenroseParticle: “I think it’s a question of examining the text without coloring it with authorial intent.”

        All of this. Once the text is created (and it’s created by a variety of writers), whatever is there, we are left to interpret—to fill the gaps. The fact that small details, when juxtaposed with one another, seem to “fit” is what makes Glee enjoyable to engage with.

        Thinking about micro-continuity and Tumblr CSI sites makes me think about Steven Johnson’s book, *Everything Bad Is Good for You.* One of these days I’ll try to put my thoughts together on it and Glee more fully, but Johnson is basically demonstrating the ways that modern television—and gaming—are more complex, thanks in part to multi-threading (which Glee does with an increasingly large cast of characters for us to manage mentally).

        But I think the *visual* kinds of micro-continuity are what makes the show rather remarkable. It’s a kind of multi-threading that occurs visually rather than just through plot, and as Johnson says (more so about games but applies here):

        “. . . the eye learns to tolerate chaos, to experience disorder as an aesthetic experience, the way the ear learned to appreciate distortion in music a generation before . . . But . . . the way your mind has to work—is radically different. It’s not about tolerating or aestheticizing chaos; it’s about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions to help create that order.”

        I kind of feel this way watching any episode of Glee. You?

        • PenroseParticle March 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

          Oh my goodness, I LOVE you. Everything Bad Is Good for You is one of my favorite books EVER (Well, I just love Steven Johnson).

          • so thinky March 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

            Yes–”Emergence” is awesome too, as is “Mind Wide Open.” Saw him speak at a conference once, too, and he’s incredibly engaging. Sorry, RM, if we’re getting off topic here. But I DO think Johnson is relevant to Glee ;-)

            • RM March 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

              All to the good, continue to have at!

      • Kate March 9, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

        I think if we’re discussing it at the level of continuity, we’re inherently discussing authorial intent and the writing of the work. In literary analysis, yes, authorial intent doesn’t matter, but neither does continuity–elements of discontinuity need to be worked into one’s reading regardless. For example, I don’t think it can really be argued that Blaine’s two stories about the bullying he endured at his last school (in Never Been Kissed and Prom Queen) can be called continuity. They’re explicitly discontinuous–they don’t fit into one another, and there is no connective thread in the text or a recognition in the text that the two stories are discontinuous. It creates gaps, as another commenter called it, and contradiction in characterization and backstory rather than clarification. In interpreting the work, I still have to take both backstories into account when interpreting Blaine’s character, and create a theory that accounts for the contradiction; in discussing the writing, though, I have to say that it’s a failure of continuity.

        I think perhaps the real issue is that I don’t think things that are based so heavily on interpretation, like Brittany’s sexual vulnerability or Blaine’s insecurity or the hanky code thing, can be reasonably called “continuity”, micro- or not, and I don’t think it can be argued that aspects so heavily reliant on interpretation are “definitely there”, as RM argues in her essay (which seems to be a statement that makes an argument for authorial intent, and for a definitive presence in the text rather than an interpretive presence), if they’re only “there” or not depending on whether or not you agree with the interpretation–if the connection comes from the interpretation, rather than from the text itself. When you look solely at, say, the presence of Kurt’s hanky in “The First Time”, the idea that it’s a reference to the hanky code in a episode about gay sex is a reasonable interpretation; the fact that Kurt wears hankies in two other episodes that do not reference his sex life is not actually continuity, since it’s not *continuing* the hanky = sex connection. (And in fact casts the original interpretation into question since the hanky is divorced from it’s connection to sex by it’s presence in non-sexual situations, like Mercedes’ audition).

        I do agree with you that I was too dismissive of the example regarding Terri, and that it’s a good example of a small detail being expanded upon or explained in an explicit way in a later episode. I think it actually illuminates why I’m having so much trouble with RM’s theory–Terri and the pseudoephedrine seem like a good example of continuity, no micro- needed, as does the example regarding Sam and the themes about money, another theme which is explicit in the text. They’re details that support a later plot element. I can jive with that and call it continuity. But using “microcontinuity” as a speculative or interpretive tool, which is a lot of what RM seems to be doing in this essay, does not make a lot of sense to me. Or, to put it another way, I don’t think something can be reasonably called continuity until it’s actually executed on, until the fact that it’s continuity and not disparate details is made at least somewhat explicit in the text. Something like Kurt’s discomfort with vampires (or rather, the entire Hummel-Hudson family’s discomfort with vampires) is, at this point in time, a single data point. It doesn’t continue anything, and so it’s just a single small detail.

        Thanks for your explication of the timing issue; you’re right, the pregnancy = Karofsky’s suicide attempt thing does actually hang together handily. That’s some quite clever structuring. (And the fact that Brittany, who can’t read a calendar, wishes Santana happy Valentine’s Day early is actually an example of subtle continuity that is explicitly connected in the text–Brittany can’t read a calendar, and subsequently she gets a date wrong.)

        By the way–I didn’t actually say that the writers aren’t smart. Hilariously, in a discussion about authorial intent and interpretation and the extent to which those are or aren’t connected, your interpetation of my intent (to convey that the writers are stupid) went outside of the text (where I explicitly did not say that the writers are stupid) and resulted in a faulty reading–you brought more of your interpretation to the reading than you did the text. My lack of credit to the writers has less to do with what I think they’re capable of, and more to do with what I do and don’t think they’re interested in, both thematically and on a structural level. However, certainly this season there has been more of an interest in linear storytelling (thus the addition of the new writers) and in the sort of subtle structural games like the Kurt/pregnancy thing above, and the Love is the Drug/Blaine’s eyepatch thing.

        • PenroseParticle March 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm #

          I’m not sure we could inherently call that linked to authorial intent- you can, in fact, divorce authorial intent from the whole text, so I’m not really following that we have to consider it in cases of continuity. Authorial intent is based precisely on what the author intended to convey- and in cases like this, we’re discussing whether two disparate data points are connected. I suppose you can rely on the author to explain whether they are or not- but we have authors who have explicitly lied to us in the past (which I actually find pretty ingenious), so I wouldn’t exactly hang my hat on getting a straight answer there.

          So what, exactly, IS the intent on these tiny moments? Have we had Word of God on any of this stuff? And if so, considering we have Lying Creators, can we even trust it?

          I think, if anything, when we consider that we have several authors, many of whom don’t have direct control over the elements we’re talking about (I sincerely doubt that Ryan Murphy specifically dressed Kurt with airplanes during the transfer episodes- this is not to say that he didn’t, I just find it unlikely, and for my interpretation, whoever did it or whether it MEANS something doesn’t matter all that much anyways, at least to me), and that we can’t always trust what they’ve said in the past about the work, either by accident or design, we have a situation where authorial intent matters LESS than in the case of, say, a book written by a single author.

          Indeed, you seem to have taken an opposing stance over on Deconstructing Glee- in regards to sexism on Santana’s outting? Your exact words were “Regardless of their intent, though, those messages still exist.” I see no reason why things here are any different- until a data point that DOESN’T support a theory comes up, there’s nothing proving one way or another that this theory is wrong, regardless of authorial intent.

          I’m also confused on your stance of Blaine’s two stories on bullying contradicting each other? From what I gather from the text, Blaine tells Kurt, someone that he’s just met, that he was “taunted” at his old school, that he complained about it to faculty who didn’t care, and that he left. In Prom Queen, we hear that he was beat up, specifically at one point in time (soon after coming out, apparently). I wouldn’t imagine that to be something he divulges to someone he just recently met, and it’s not even contradictory- both could easily have occurred. I don’t personally see textual details as contradictory unless they’re mutually exclusive, and in this case they’re definitely not.

          I, again, am not RM, but these elements ARE “Definitely there”- the thing it seems RM is arguing is that these elements that are definitely there MEAN something. I guess you have an issue with calling that continuity, and that’s fine I suppose, but that doesn’t change the fact that arguing these things are consistent isn’t very difficult.

          Thank you for correcting my assumption on how smart you think the writers are- I definitely conflated “you think the writers are smarter than I do” with “[you] definitely give much more credit to the Glee writers for continuity and creativity than I currently do. ” While it’s certainly the most likely case for those sorts of sentiments, it clearly wasn’t this time- so my apologies.

          • so thinky March 10, 2012 at 11:36 am #

            “So what, exactly, IS the intent on these tiny moments? Have we had Word of God on any of this stuff? And if so, considering we have Lying Creators, can we even trust it?”

            Perhaps these tiny moments don’t *mean* anything–that is, they may not contribute in significant ways to what a particular episode seems to be doing, narratively. That said, the provide a kind of payoff to the viewer (and I’m referencing Johnson again here), that is pleasurable because *we* know how a specific moment–say, for instance, the Brittany teeth brushing another poster mentions further down–alludes to a prior moment. In that example, the moments don’t develop character and don’t serve a function, plot wise. But there’s a payoff for us nonetheless.

            Another kind of moment that seems different is a set detail like some of the books on Blaine’s bookshelf, which RM has commented on here (can’t find the post right this sec). Those are details that would be completely overlooked in viewing, and only “mined” later by fans–but they do lend themselves to character development, even if in minor ways that wouldn’t effect the GA’s understanding of said character.

        • MzMinola March 10, 2012 at 12:39 am #

          //When you look solely at, say, the presence of Kurt’s hanky in “The First Time”, the idea that it’s a reference to the hanky code in a episode about gay sex is a reasonable interpretation; the fact that Kurt wears hankies in two other episodes that do not reference his sex life is not actually continuity, since it’s not *continuing* the hanky = sex connection. (And in fact casts the original interpretation into question since the hanky is divorced from it’s connection to sex by it’s presence in non-sexual situations, like Mercedes’ audition).//

          I agree that one could argue either way about whether Kurt was actively using the hanky code, but I disagree that the context of the episode is a factor in that.

          Wearing something sex-related out of context does not necessarily divorce it from sex.

          Kurt plays with fashion, so at the very least, it is a Kurt’s-sense-of-style continuity, much like his pins.

          P.S. that episode was also about straight sex. It was about teen couple’s first times. We got an entire scene of the Glee girls’ discussing theirs (or someone else’s, as Santana’s was simply a critique of Finn)

  10. jessica March 7, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    Don’t know if this is anythng but I’ve noticed that most of Blaine’s clothes this season are either red white & blue or feature red white & blue in them. When he first transferred he was wearing McKinley colors – red, white and black. But he seems to have fallen back on Dalton colors. I think one of the few episodes where he doesn’t wear much red white & blue is ‘The First Time,’ where he’s wearing black, white and shades of grey in almost every scene. But in the scene in the hallway with Kurt and later in the lima bean with Sebastian & Kurt, the sweater he’s wearing has little stripes of rw&blue in the collar, plus he’s wearing a red shirt (and a navy blue bow-tie?).

    I don’t have any meaning to attach to any of this, but it’s something I noticed after the last episode.

    • jessica March 9, 2012 at 4:09 am #

      Having skimmed through screencaps of the past season, I have to take it back a little. Blaine actually alternates throughout the season between McKinley colors and Dalton colors, with rare forays into greens and yellows. Again, I don’t know if this means anything, or if there’s any patterns there, but the color scheme of his clothes this season has been pretty narrow, for the most part. But maybe those are just colors the costume designer likes seeing him in, who knows?
      The episode ‘Mash Off,’ the 6th episode, actually stands out as the only one where he hasn’t worn any red. (Unless you count a belt you can barely see in one scene.) And I think ‘Heart’ is the only one where he didn’t wear any blue. (Did I say I ‘skimmed’ through some screencaps? Um…my excuse is it’s a long hiatus.)
      I was thinking that maybe he wore the Dalton colors in scenes where he was somehow in conflict with Kurt or New Directions, which actually fits some scenes (in the Michael episode when Puck calls him ‘Eggs Benedict,’ in the coffee shop scene with Sebastian and Kurt in ‘The First Time’), but would seem to conflict with a couple others (the cut ring scene from the X-Mas ep, the ‘We Are Young’ scene at the end the sectionals episode…)

  11. Jan March 8, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I loved tha in Born this Way Emma was mocked for putting Ginger on her t-shirt, and no one believed her when she said she fought with that every day of her life. She later switches it to OCD. Later when we meet her parents it turns out they are Ginger Extremists, and totally crazy about that. If I was Emma and grew up with parents like that I would totally have put Ginger on my t-shirt as well.

    The prop/wardrobe department is also great. I love that we see Kurt wearing the shirt Blaine wore during The First Time. (I think he wears it under a poncho in the episode with the election outcome). I love, love, love that Blaine wears Kurt pajama’s in Michael. I have no idea how the wardrobe department remembers all that stuff, but it’s details like that that make the story so much richer to me.

    On a sidenote about the pajamas: there’s a pretty funny fanfic story about ho that wardrobe decision came to be: http://camillo1978.tumblr.com/post/16952671918/glee-script-development-gay-pirate

    • Jan March 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Sorry for all the typos, non-native speaker suffering from insomnia, and I totally didn’t catch them after rereading for the first time.

    • RM March 9, 2012 at 3:30 am #

      Tragically, the pajamas are not the same pair. The buttons are different on Kurt’s and his also has a monogrammed pocket.

      If you are talking about the striped shirt being the same between TFF and the Kurt appearance — the set of the stripes are different, sadly.

      However, we have caught Kurt and Blaine actually switching shirts and sweaters once in the middle of an episode. So yes, but no, to the clothes sharing.

      • Jan March 9, 2012 at 3:58 am #

        Awwww. Thanks though. I’m not a Tumblr user myself, so I only get the Tumblr CSI stuff occasionally, and apparently here I missed the really thorough people :)

        Still, the Ginger stuff counts, so I’m happy.

  12. poemsingreenink March 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    I really like that there’s about half a dozen moments of Quinn reading the in background of scenes which makes sense for her “Getting all A’s” when she’s back on the Cheerios and how she gets into college. She just never stopped studying.

  13. Julia March 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I can’t believe I forgot this, but, have you seen the pilot with commentary? It’s on S1 DVDs, it might be on youtube.

    At any rate, I think you’ll find a lot of validation there. Ryan Murphy obsesses on tiny details–they all do, but he talks a lot about it there.

    And it’s interesting, regardless.

  14. Melanie March 9, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    The vampire thing includes the ones mentioned here, but in that episode with Tina-as-vampire, Lauren Zizes is an obsessive Twilight fan, and she’s shown with a neck bite and fake teeth attacking and biting Jacob Bin-Isreal saying “This is sure to get Robert Pattinson’s attention” (or similar). That’s one of my favorite scenes with her.

    I find “show them what they’re worth”s tumblr really interesting for pointing out these continuities. She focuses on Finchel, but in a recent post points out all the ways from 2.22 that Kurt is shown coming between and interfering in Finn and Rachel’s relationship, both narratively but also just visually, “In other episodes Kurt isn’t as much of a part of their story, but each one of those episodes has a carefully framed shot of Kurt either looking disapprovingly at Rachel and Finn when they are together or coming between them in some way.” Instead of trying to condense her excellent exposition, it’s here (putting the url because the entry doesn’t have any tags for searching and she has excellent screen-caps of everything):
    http://showthemwhat.tumblr.com/post/17649579436/its-a-small-background-detail-something-this
    I think these details connect (somewhat?) with what rm has already written re: Kurt as Crone and Kurt as ferryman.

    As to the writer’s conscious continuity, I know only that as an author and a poet, I don’t always keep track of things really specifically, but somehow they often seem to come around. Or I’ll have some kind of symbolism/allusion in a poem that someone else has to point out. It’s like, the idea is somewhere in there and shows up in my work, but I don’t always have to _make_ it happen. And sometimes my characters want to do something (or don’t) that doesn’t make sense to me in the moment I’m writing, but then totally does later. The subconscious is a tricky beast, especially in art-making. (not saying that is the case here, but it could be a factor).

    I don’t know that I have much more to add to the discussion, but I’ve found this topic really interesting, because I’m always arguing about how there is some method to the madness here and that _that’s_ what makes Glee worth my time.

  15. Evelina March 10, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    My favorite bit of micro-continuity by far is Kurt’s reaction to Brittany not brushing her teeth. Towards the end of season 1, Kurt makes out with Brittany, and then at the beginning of season 2, when Carl the dentist is visiting, Brittany says that she doesn’t brush her teeth but instead just rinses her mouth out with soda after she eats. Immediately after she says that, we see Kurt making this hilariously disgusted face.

    • PenroseParticle March 10, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      The show even does one better- when he’s making out with Brittany, he says she tastes like Root Beer- which ties neatly into rinsing her mouth with soda.

  16. RK March 12, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    I can’t take credit for “discovering” this piece of continuity, but it appears that Blaine collects unusual and/or vintage timepieces…when we first see him on the stairs at Dalton, he’s checking the time on a pocketwatch, which he slips into his blazer pocket right before he extends his hand to Kurt to shake. When we finally get a glimpse of his bedroom, we see an hourglass on one of the nightstands, and a very mod-style clock on his dresser.

    But my FAVORITE thing ever is the silver penguin on Kurt’s bookshelf seen during the “sexy face lesson” with Blaine in his room <3

  17. Jen March 14, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    The thing that gets me about people’s complaints about continuity is that while characterization sometimes seems inconsistent to a broad audience, it seems pretty well what I expect from high school aged kids. But because we know what’s behind the curtain as far as the actor’s playing younger, the show being written by much older adults, that suspension of disbelief is something people almost refuse to do.

    Granted, the last time I watched a ‘believable’ show with high school characters, it was Veronica Mars.

    And as a seeming non-sequitur, I found an explanation of Glee’s genre that makes the most sense to me: Epic Theatre (http://delires.livejournal.com/46464.html).

  18. Mark W. March 22, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Slightly off-topic… this CFS just showed up on another blog, and it seems tailor-made for you.

  19. Cat August 15, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    “When Santana insults Blaine’s bow ties in “I Kissed a Girl,” said bow ties then disappear from the scene for a bit. It’s trivial, but it’s also clever if you’re on board with Blaine’s desperate need for approval as a plot item that’s being set up but hasn’t been executed on yet.”

    I just reread this post and connected this bit to the (now-released) box scene where Blaine gives Kurt a ring with a bowtie despite not wearing one himself that day. To me, this now says something about Blaine knowing that Kurt loves him even (or because?) when he wears things that the other glee kids find unacceptable. In other words, Kurt loves him for who he is, not who he tries to be…

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