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).
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.
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!)