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Glee: The Rules for Boys

2 Nov

While I not-so-secretly suspect that large portions of last night’s viewing audience were only there to see the trailers for 3.05 (called “The First Time,” for anyone who might not know the basis for my suspicions) and to see if Fox would let a bunch of supposed teenagers sing about being drunk and having a menage a trois in the 8pm time slot, one of Glee‘s best recurring themes was also on display, and that was the rules for boys.

It’s most overt when Finn explains to Rory that “dudes don’t ask dudes to be their friends.” But that remark isn’t just about explaining America’s social habits to the over-eager, adorably scamming foreign-exchange student. Nope, it’s about defining the masculinity that all our male characters have to navigate. Without it as background noise — even if it’s arguably background noise we all know — the passing plotlines around Kurt, Blaine, Dave Karofsky, and the soon-to-be-introduced Sebastian don’t mean anything, not to gay audiences, but to the straight ones who don’t necessarily have a reflex to think about the world as they create it for us.

Finn’s speech to Rory, in fact, goes a long way to explain the friction between him and Blaine in the choir room, because that is not just about Finn’s insecurity and his desire to remain the glee club’s vocal leader and captain-type dude. It’s about Finn’s homophobia, which, no, is not gone, despite the fact that he loves Kurt and does truly see him as his brother.

Because Finn and Kurt’s drama didn’t entirely neutralize because Finn got over his generalized homophobia, it neutralized because Kurt became his brother and the incest taboo made Finn forget about his still existent homophobia as it applied to Kurt. He no longer felt fear of Kurt’s sexuality, because Kurt as sibling became more important to him — and more gross in a sexual context — than Kurt’s being gay.

Blaine, to a given extent, was probably shielded from Finn’s homophobia by that. We see them being friendly around the prom episode, and we have to assume that dealt with each other a lot over the summer. However, Blaine’s transfer removes the incest taboo shield when it comes to Finn’s ability to deal with homosexuality amongst his male peers. Blaine goes from just being his brother’s boyfriend to the dude Finn goes to school with, basically moving him out of the protection accorded to him by his pseudo-family status. And so, aside from the leadership/solo issue and Finn’s insecurity, what does Blaine do that upsets Finn so much? He spends all his time effectively asking everyone, INCLUDING OTHER DUDES, to be his friend.

That breaks the masculine (read: heterosexual) code Finn describes to Rory, and also amplifies the level of competitive threat Finn feels from Blaine, because part of the non-verbalized homophobia in play here, and in the passing plotline around West Side Story, is that gay dudes aren’t leaders, despite the way Blaine was first introduced to us at Dalton (but remember, Dalton was faerie land — not real, and only being reintroduced to provide us with more faeries gay boys).

So here’s a place where Blaine’s ability to pass makes him more threatening to someone like Finn, rather than less, not just as competition, but in the context of Glee’s constant reminder of the fear of “the predatory gay.”

I expect this link between dude friendship rules, predation, and homosexuality are going to get an even bigger focus when Sebastian joins the narrative next episode. How will Blaine, who is so needy, respond to a gay man who works the passing and masculinity thing differently than he does, breaking the guy friendship rules that Blaine is often oblivious to himself?

How will Kurt (who is very aware of those rules, schooled in them as he was by Finn regarding not just himself, but Sam) respond to witnessing that? And, most importantly, how will their straight male friends interpret it?

Will it be about breaking the dude code? Will there be concern for friends who might be facing relationship drama? Or will they back away from what they will perceive as threatening predatory gay culture stereotypes they are not sufficiently insulated from by Kurt’s kinship with Finn because there are just too many other players involved?

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27 Responses to “Glee: The Rules for Boys”

  1. April November 2, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    I honestly think you are a genius. Like, every time you write something, I’m all OMG THAT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE.
    Or … maybe even less genius (even though you are incredibly brilliant) and more observant/well-versed/well-written about social stuff and culture and all that mess. (I am much better at assessing somebody’s physical well-being than the way they interact with other people/culture which is why I’m a kick-ass NICU nurse but would make a terrible social commentator/psychologist/whatever.)
    Ramble-y comment is ramble-y.

  2. deconstructingglee November 2, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I thought the Finn comment about “In America, etc” because in the context of citizen v immigrant and rules, he was setting himself as the arbiter of what is and isn’t American (bc Finn is the all-American boy struggling with a shift in his culture where he is no longer all-powerful, but still very). He has no idea whether things are the same in Ireland (they are, really, dude rules have crossed the Atlantic one way or the other.) but he is laying down his own rules (which haven’t been such great ones so far).

    Also thought Santana calling Rory gay was interesting, because we know he’s not uninterested in women, but maybe he’s interested in guys too. Santana has told us before she has a wicked gaydar. And the way she did it was just derogatory, but I wonder sometimes in Glee when those things are said if they are meant to be more real than they are said.

  3. Penthea November 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    In a way, isn’t the “in America” part Finn acknowledging that the rules or masculinity are cultural, as opposed to the law of nature? That’s actually fairly advanced for a straight high school boy in Ohio.

    I think what interests me about Finn (and what he shares with Puck that lets me believe in them as best friends) is that even while he’s enforcing the rules, he sees them with a clarity that you usually only expect from outsiders. Finn knows that these are the rules of this place, and that he’s choosing to obey them.

    Anyway, what I really wanted to say was, this is brilliant, thank you for writing it. I always enjoy reading your Glee analysis.

  4. Lilly November 2, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    I thought you assessment was very insightful and interesting, I agree completely with what you said. However I do think there is yet another level to Finns’ issues with Blaine stemming from Kurts’ gender identity.
    Kurt is often perceived by others to be one of the girls rather then one of the guys and he has identified himself as such before. Finn seems to at times see Kurt more as his “little sister” rather than his brother. While in the prom episode Finn was friendly to Blaine, at the time Kurt and Blaines relationship was new. So to Finn Blaine was the guy that was making his “little sister” happy and giving her the support she needed. Now the relationship is further along and Blaine is rapidly turning into the guy trying to “get Finns’ little sister in to bed”.
    As a dude Finn feels he should be doing something about this guy trying to “steal his little sisters innocence”, but because of all the gender and orientation issues you have previously mentioned Finn doesn’t know what course of action to take.

    • RM November 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

      Ah, thank you for this, this is where I do not benefit from being an only child. I’ll be interested to see how that plays out in 3.05 and the aftermath.

    • Patty December 31, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

      I don’t think Finn saw him as a “little sister” I think he was insecure about how people saw him, and I don’t even think he was homophobic, just insecure, he never referred to him as feminine, he regarded him as a step-brother

  5. Silverkit November 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    “And so, aside from the leadership/solo issue and Finn’s insecurity, what does Blaine do that upsets Finn so much? He spends all hi.s time effectively asking everyone, INCLUDING OTHER DUDES, to be his friend. ”

    Huh, you know. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but now that I’ve read this all I can think is ‘of course!’

    These are the kinds of posts that make me want to interview my brother regarding ‘dude rules’ which cause him to sigh and look at me oddly.

  6. influencings November 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    See, Rory kept pinging my Glee gaydar — especially at the end, with those high high notes and the camera kind of lingering on Kurt for his competitive reaction to all of it. Being pale and slight with odd hair and having a killer falsetto doesn’t make you gay, but in Glee world it’s tied immediately to the way Kurt is this visible queer presence. And the way he imprints on Finn. And how he’s ~MAGICAL.~

    (Also, let’s say you’re gay and already being physically attacked several times a day for being foreign; sleeping with the naive blonde cheerleader down the hall (probably literally the first high school girl he saw in America!) would seem like a great way to stay out of trouble… I don’t think it’s how the show will take it, but it’s what I saw.)

    And then in that light of that, the “I should have stood up for you” scene seems more in line with Finn’s apology to Kurt at their parents’ wedding last season. Which goes back to what you said, “gay dudes aren’t leaders.” Finn seems more okay with gay male peers when he can cast his tolerance as being this masculine protector of the vulnerable/”feminine.” Like how close his scene with Rory is to his scene apologizing to Brittany and the other girls, and how the “heroic male doing the right thing” vibe is the same in both. It’s still wildly homophobic, just a different permutation.

    I almost feel like Finn kind of likes being the golden figure sparking all of these waify boys’ desires. From a distance, of course, because it all of a sudden becomes threatening if they see him as obtainable (which Kurt did and now doesn’t thanks to the incest taboo) or if their sexuality is more than passive. The way women are supposed to be sexually passive and nonthreatening to men. Blaine is not only a competitor – as a leader of Glee, as a desirable male, as the leading man for Rachel – but simply doesn’t adore Finn in the same way that most of the others do. He is that most enraging of creatures to teenagers, someone who is attracted to others of your gender but (mysteriously! inexplicably!) not to you.

    /long comment is loooong

    • RM November 2, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

      Short response to long awesome comment:

      I am _so_ curious to see how the power dynamics around sex are going to play out in 3.05 and to what degree people outside the relationships in question will be aware of that, and, if so, what that will do to Finn’s poor, over-taxed brain.

      Also, other than the hair, and Kurt being annoyed by Rory’s falsetto (which, as an aside you are likely aware of, not the same thing as Kurt’s remarkable range, and is it’s own awesome thing, but wow, totally going to be a source for in-show drama and fandom confusion, I suspect), I completely missed the other parallels there. And you’re right, there are a lot of them. Huh.

      • influencings November 2, 2011 at 10:10 pm #

        Finn reminds me of nothing so much as, like, this big dumb Irish setter my aunt used to have. So friendly and not very good at critical thinking. HE HAS MAYBE POOPED ON YOUR RUG BUT HE IS TRYING SO HARD TO BE GOOD.

        Yeah, I wouldn’t have pinned it as the same thing at all really (though I don’t know too much about music or singing) except for how pissy it made Kurt. And I don’t think Rory would even WANT to fill the same niche as Kurt even if it were closer to the same thing — even with a voice like Kurt’s I couldn’t see him, for example, competing for the solo in Defying Gravity. But there’s the in-show reaction…

        On another note, I just watched the episode like two hours ago and I have listened to Last Friday Night over a dozen times since. I want to inject it directly into my veins.

    • Cal November 4, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

      I almost feel like Finn kind of likes being the golden figure sparking all of these waify boys’ desires

      Frst Kurt, till it got too clear that Kurt’s feelings were about what Kurt wanted, not about how wonderful and awesome Finn Hudson was; then Sam; now Rory. You got it in one.

      Finn does so like being adored and looked up to.

  7. Anastasia November 3, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    If you’re right about Dalton = Faerie (and I think that you are)…Faeries leaving Faerie and coming to the mundane world usually don’t fare well in the end… which is worrisome and heartbreaking to think about.

    • RM November 3, 2011 at 8:46 am #

      This totally gave me chills.

      Dalton is such a weird narrative problem for Glee. If, as I suspect, the Warblers track coming out of 3.05 sells like mad (because it wasn’t just Darren Criss that made people love the Warblers) in a season that has had week song sales so far (although 3.04 looks like an improvement with LFN), it’s further incentive for there to be more of the Warblers, who need to be there anyway for the reasons you cite in your comment.

      But the Warblers are guys we like and there’s only so much we can justify having tunes from them because of the villain (Sebastian), so what do you?

      You send Blaine back to Dalton. Because faeries don’t fare well outside of their lands, and hey, record sales. Except you can’t because Glee is unwieldy beast without multiple locations, and with things outside of Ohio likely for a presumed S4, throwing Dalton into the mix is just ridiculous.

      Also, Glee is about hope. Maybe not for Quinn and Finn (and I feel bad, I’d like Finn to have better, but that’s not going to happen, and really the best I can wish for for him is peace and happiness with the straw he’s drawn). So Blaine can’t fail at McKinley or otherwise retreat back to Dalton when Kurt graduates, because then it’s saying this gentle ridiculous boy can’t hack it in the real world that has so brutalized and defined and honed Kurt.

      But narratively, Blaine has to have an ordeal and it has to not be backstory (Sadie Hawkins, his dad), and I think the show is reluctant to bring the heavy where Blaine is concerned, even though it needs to be there and keeps getting hinted at (I had a really out there theory on tumblr a while back that I’m still convinced canon strongly supports, although I know the show won’t go there).

      But I also remain convinced that Glee is not a comedy, not even a black comedy. It is a dark, dark, dramatic show (look at the Quinn situation) written by absurdists who have painted themselves into multiple structural corners that are wildly compelling, but would be easier to explore in a text-based format.

      I think it’s why the fanfic community is so large for this show. I also think it’s why, oddly, I suspect that when Glee does cease broadcasting, it may live on in an alternative season format, much like the Buffy comics.

      • Anastasia November 4, 2011 at 12:47 am #

        I have chills as well – because generally speaking, there are two endings.

        The first, and happiest, is the faerie returns home – the sealskin is recovered, the bindings holding the faerie to the mundane world are broken – and the faerie is free.

        The second… well… the faerie dies.

        I just… I just don’t know.

        I feel, as you do, that Glee is a drama – the comedy is there to help us breathe, you know? Because all of this is so damn painful for so many of us, we need the comic relief (truly relief) in between the painful memories and tears.

        • Anastasia November 4, 2011 at 1:00 am #

          I should add that by “happiest” I do not in any way mean “happy.” Because someone always ends up heartbroken and filled with sorrow.

      • Cal November 4, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

        But I also remain convinced that Glee is not a comedy, not even a black comedy. It is a dark, dark, dramatic show (look at the Quinn situation) written by absurdists

        I read it as a brutal, vicious satire that is, at its base, all about being trapped and struggling to survive in the interstices. I’ve been rather alone in this reading, It’s nice to know I’m not the only one seeing the show as something other than frothy fun with songs!

    • Silverkit November 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      If you’re going with Scottish mythology you also get the different Faerie courts; the Seelie and Unseelie. Seelie courts are more benevolent (Take this with a grain of salt since they’re never not dangerous), with the Unseelie court seeking to harm/cause trouble.

      When Kurt first stumbles into Dalton we had Wes/David/Thad (the council) and Blaine (lead Warbler) as our royalty. They’re helpful. THey mean well. They’re…different, but not entirely bad. I’m not sure if Glee will bring back Wes/David/Thad, but I thought they were supposed to be seniors so it could be that when Blaine goes back it’s a darker place in faeire land because there’s been a regime change/power shift. If nothing else we already know Sebastian is cast as a villain (mischievous), and he’s got his hands on Blaine’s empty throne. (I feel like there should be a pun here, but I can’t think of anything)

      Which…is interesting because if Sebastian is a trickster..and there’s been talk of Kurt being a trickster (his fox tails) (http://deconstructingglee.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/mind-blown-kurts-tail-accessory/) then it’s going to be a wild ride.

    • Eido November 3, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

      Technically, instead of referring to McKinley as the mundane world, it seems more a meeting place (or battleground) of the magical and the mundane. Kurt is a “unicorn” and so is Brittany (or a “bicorn”), Rory is (or isn’t) a “leprechaun” and “magical”. Santana is “Satan” (in the Old Testament incarnation was considered a Trickster, which Santana better embodies than an embodiment of evil) and Sebastian is described as a “male Santana.” if we call Finn one of the limited ‘kings’ of the mundane, he comes in direct conflict not only with Blaine (inhabitant or foundling of faerieland) in the most episode, but “bicorn” Brittany as well.

    • deconstructingglee November 4, 2011 at 6:22 am #

      Ah, but Blaine isn’t a native to Dalton/Faerieland is he?

      Also, maybe the time difference between Faerieland and McKinley accounts for Blaine still being a junior 😉

      • RM November 4, 2011 at 7:47 am #

        Ahahahaha, this comment wins the Internet.

      • Silverkit November 4, 2011 at 9:11 am #

        Oh! Good point!

      • Anastasia November 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

        By that token, though, no one can be considered a native. I think we have to remember that we’re working in metaphor and dream, and thus all of the boys who were at Dalton when we first go there have to be considered “natives,” I think, seeing as we were viewing it from the point of a visitor (Kurt) arriving for the first time. And his view is pretty much spot-on for a first-time look at Faerie: everything is bright and beautiful and strange and yet familiar all at the same time. One doesn’t see the shadows and darkness of Faerie until one spends enough time there.

        • deconstructingglee November 4, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

          Ok, I don’t know a lot about Faerieland lore (despite a stupidly long fascination with faeries, actually. I’d tell the story but it actually makes me sound totally unhinged so I’ll wait til I’m drunk sometime instead ;))

          But my point about Blaine is that the first thing we find out about Blaine is that he transferred to Dalton. He didn’t come to Dalton the normal way, starting school in the earliest grade with everyone else, but he went to Dalton for sanctuary, from somewhere else, which could have been somewhere like McKinley. Maybe Blaine’s parents aren’t as loaded as we think.

          Maybe he’s a visitor who got rescued.

    • Tess (@CanuckleTess) November 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      Aasdl;fkjwoiuawefl;kjas;dlkfja;lsdjkfasdf.

      Writing this comment in my full “Blaine as me” narrative headspace and kind of FREAKING OUT to be honest. I just watched the “Uptown Girl” full performance and this whole Dalton = Faerie thing has been taken up by the Glee people and they are sprinting with it. (I mean, that teacher! I literally laughed out loud and continued to laugh out loud pretty much the entire time she was on screen grape vining with those ridiculous Faerie boys.)

      And I am ACHING for Blaine. Actually, my heart is kind of breaking right now because of this and what I saw in it.

      To take the above narrative of Faeries leaving Faerie and not faring so well in the end further…

      Faerie left Faerie because he fell in love with a human boy who visited Faerieland and swept him off his feet. And he left his Faerie life behind for him no matter what he may try to claim. He KNOWS that Kurt would be upset if he said that he left Dalton for him, so he convinces himself that he’s doing it for himself.

      After seeing today’s performance? There is NO WAY IN HELL he left for himself (not that we really through he did in the first place but we could kind of pretend along with Blaine before). The wistful expressions on his face when he first arrived and then the utter joy when he got pulled into the number… my heart is actually breaking.

      Because he left. And he can’t go back. He can’t.

      And it’s become so clear that he’s willing to go to any lengths to get people to like him. Including (as discussed elsewhere) even the fact of his coming out being all wrapped up in this massive approval-NEEDING (not seeking, needing) mechanism. Which leads to discussions of “What happened to you to get you to this, Blaine?” And that goes to all sorts of worrying places.

      I could literally go on and on and on and on and on about this (and frequently do). I can’t even start in on Sebastian because, while totally related, I’d be here all night if I did.

      But as far as this comment goes? To sum up my long-ass comment with a very simple summary (Hahaha! Why didn’t I do that in the first place?):

      Yup, totally agree that this is a narrative in which faeries don’t deal well when they leave and I am now actively worried about what is coming for our dear faerie boy. And I see so much of myself in him and I just hope he doesn’t have to bear some of the costs I have and am still grappling with so very long past my teenage years.

  8. Diane November 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm #

    Can I just tell you all how thrilled I am to find this site and DeconstructingGlee where I can eavesdrop on fabulous conversations, feel like I am back in grad school, and broaden my world–while not having to feel guilty about my guilty-pleasure t.v.? You are all amazing.

  9. Alice November 26, 2011 at 3:01 am #

    Very interesting post! I think a lot of Finn’s homophobia is not only about homosexuality in itself, but about gender. He seems concerned about being masculine enough and I think he’s bothered when other people don’t have the same concerns.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Well, this is profoundly embarrassing (required reading) « Deconstructing Glee - November 22, 2011

    […] The Rules for Boys (3.04 Pot O’ Gold) Because Finn and Kurt’s drama didn’t entirely neutralize because Finn got over his generalized homophobia, it neutralized because Kurt became his brother and the incest taboo made Finn forget about his still existent homophobia as it applied to Kurt. He no longer felt fear of Kurt’s sexuality, because Kurt as sibling became more important to him — and more gross in a sexual context — than Kurt’s being gay. […]

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