Glitter bombing is not a Glee-ism. It’s actually a recent but recurring political act, with real world history, usually carried out by activists against anti-gay politicians. In fact, the only instance of glitter bombing not related to LGBTQ issues on the Wikipedia page is in its “in fiction” category — and that is Schuester’s use of the tactic in “The Purple Piano Project.”
I wanted to point this out, because most of the discussion I’ve seen of Schuester doing this revolves around either his immaturity or the wackiness of Glee, but without the non-fiction political context, I don’t think that’s a meaningful conversation.
The thing is, I can’t quite figure out what Glee was trying to do with this. Was this another case of Schuester thinking he’s doing the right thing and not? Let’s face it, Sue may say all sorts of appalling things to Kurt, but she also gave him solos, stuck up for him on the atheism thing, and doesn’t seem to hold his queerness against him any more than she holds anything against anyone.
Schuester, on the other hand, spends a huge amount of time being exasperated by Kurt’s queerness (something which previews for next week’s episode suggest will be back), trying to be supportive, and basically just doing things (when he does anything at all) that aren’t about Kurt but are about himself.
So one easy argument is that Schuester is being incredibly appropriative in an incredibly inappropriate way.
The other possibility is one about how Glee defines queerness. By using Glitter Bombing to defend the arts, Schuester suggests that the arts are inherently queer, that his glee club is inherently queer. And not just because it’s more filled with LGBTQ people than he knows.
Certainly, there are a lot of people on Glee besides Kurt, Blaine, Santana, Brittany and Karofsky, with arguably queered sexuality. Tina and Rachel are both othered at various points for liking sexual activity. Artie, through both words and deed, points out that his wheelchair doesn’t getting in the way of his sexual abilities. The women Puck desires are not an expected or necessarily accepted part of his sexuality in the WMHS environment. The intersection of Emma’s OCD and her demi-sexuality has been a near constant topic. And I certainly know more about Schuester’s sex life than I ever wanted to (remember his ex-wife?).
Glee is very insistent that everyone is not just the underdog, but really weird and possibly revolting to someone out there. Sometimes the show is awkward about it; sometimes it’s hilarious. Often it’s both. And, when we look at the ways in which it uses songs (stretch those lyrics, stretch them!), it’s easy to assume they’re just stretching the meaning of Glitter Bombing here to this larger underdog story. On some level, everything on Glee is a metaphor about LGBTQ-ness, and all the LGBTQ content on Glee is also just a subset of a larger story about a broader sense of queerness.
But, at the end of the day I don’t think that’s what is actually happening around this particular act. I do think this is one of our first hints that Schuester is going to remain ineffective, boggled and cruel through obliviousness when it comes to Kurt (and the other LGBTQ kids he’s aware of), because he, like pretty much all the characters on the show, is too wrapped up in his own drama to engage other people in a useful way. Schuester taking Glitter Bombing, screwing it up on behalf of the arts, and then finding a way to mess up the equilibrium of any number of the LGBTQ characters? It seems like a given at this point, and last night’s episode warned us that that’s coming loud and clear.