One of the truly great things about working at home is being able to sing along really loudly with the stereo. Yes, this post is secretly about Glee. Actually, not so secretly, because aside from being in the obsession stage, I’m in the anger stage.
This is why I don’t watch shows about high school. This is why I resisted Buffy for so long. This is why I can’t watch stuff like 90210. Because this stuff makes me angry. It’s really true, you know, no one ever gets over high school. Which is why these shows work. But….
It’s hard for me to watch shows about people that would be mean to me. I almost couldn’t watch Buffy‘s first season because Cordelia made me so uncomfortable I kept wanting to get up and pace, or, better, leave the room. And I know Buffy and her friends are supposed to be misfits and all, but still, they’re good looking and have each other. There’s a reason, after all, that I tell people that maybe Andrew is my favorite character in Buffy, and it’s because he’s not even cool enough to be their friend. He’s a loser. And he does some terrible stuff. And he’s so awkward and pathetic that our nerdtastic heroes even tell him so all the time. But it works out okay for him in the end. So he feels a lot, well, safer to me than the rest of the crew. He and I could have been part of the same pathetic friends network for sure. Buffy and me? Probably not so much.
Now that I’m writing this out, I promise you, I know how ridiculous it sounds. But it’s really true for me. It may also be why I don’t really read YA. Because it either reminds me of horrible books I had to read for summer reading examinations in private school, which usually involved coming of age stories about girls confronting the 19th-century American wilderness, or of all the ways I failed at being a delightfully quirky, gorgeous, magical teen.
So, despite (or because of), staying up to 7am (I’m so serious and so full of shame) to watch all of the second season of Glee the other night, I kind of want to punch a wall. In part because all the New Directions kids are more or less horrible to each other, and when they are not being horrible to each other they back each other up like nobody’s business. Also there’s making out. And music! Mostly, I didn’t have any of that in school. Blaine’s GAP disaster is about as magical as high school ever got for me, and that was on a good day. And I never looked that good in my uniform. I suppose that’s true for most of us.
But of course, what’s really getting me, having seen the bigger Kurt arc now is, how does this show exist? Or, I suppose more accurately, gay kids today are so damn lucky, which, okay, isn’t true. It’s still really, really hard to be a gay teenager, and for a lot of people it’s fundamentally terrifying and dangerous. And I was lucky; in that I was safe and sneaky and didn’t have any reason to think I was a bad person for being queer. On the other hand, I do remember spending a lot of time looking at the one out girl at my school and how people called her ugly and wondering if this meant I would be ugly too and quietly seething about how gay boys were socially luminous and gay girls, well, weren’t.
That sort of nonsense hasn’t really changed of course, and I always have to think of it when I think about my gender stuff, which I always fear is a mere longing for privilege. But the fact is I grew up as the kid who never got to buy the personalized pencils at the stationary shop (because I had a weird name) and never saw people on TV who looked like me (because I had a weird face). I never got to watch stories about teenagers whose lives bore any resemblance to mine because I had such a weird education — I used to study the The Brady Bunch in hopes of understanding life in America, where boys fixed radios and longed for cars and there was football and homecoming. And I sure as hell never saw a first kiss on TV that bore any connection to the idea that someone like me could be chosen for something other than some boy deigning to cure me of my ugliness and awkwardness.
And in a lot of ways, Glee is, of course, more of the same. Pretty fake-nerds with the sort of American lives people in New York City don’t get to have and where the boys are always cooler than the girls. But the way Kurt is sort of strange looking and takes everything so seriously and how all these queered characters are front and center in different ways and this show is a hit? Really? Really really really? It’s sort of awesome.
Except for the part where I still feel jealous and cheated, even if a huge part of my fannish journey over the years has been about going from identifying with characters who are self-injurious and wear their wounds on the outside (e.g., Severus Snape) to identifying with characters whose circumstances are pretty screwed up, but are going to do their damnedest to do everything (e.g., Jack Harkness). I felt so guilty, the first time I identified with a fictional character that was better looking than me. It’s quite a bit funny weird.
And I’m definitely having that identification guilt thing about Blaine on Glee, because seriously? If a photo exists of me in school uniform, you’re never, ever seeing it; we’d all be disappointed. And I’m probably a bit of an ass for thinking he’s awesome largely because he goes to private school and is good at stuff and parts of fandom sort of hate him for that (because, er, parts of fandom sort of can’t stand me either for some of the same reasons). But hey, if shows about high school aren’t for addressing the too long lingering wounds of that period in our lives as reenacted in our adult existences, then I don’t really know what they are for.
When I think about this ridiculous simmering anger I feel about not having characters like Santana and Kurt and Blaine on my screen when I was sixteen, I wind up reminding myself that I never could have stood to watch this show at that point in my life. Sure, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone. But I still wouldn’t have had cars or football or friends or kisses or known how to identify with all that luminousness.
I can’t tell you how much I hope that’s just my own brokenness. Because all my well-compartmentalized neuroses aside, it makes me sad to think that there are some stories that are just too lovely to help, because you just don’t think you can measure up.
But for me, that’s what fandom’s about in the end. Measuring up. Giving yourself permission to measure up, to say that your real life and real flesh and real everything is as good as fiction. Maybe that’s not important to everyone; maybe that’s weird. But I’m an only child, and stories were my world. They were who I had to keep up with, and I’m still learning how. In spite of how hard I find it sometimes, it sure is a lot of fun.