While I continue to attempt to draft a post about what’s wrong
withfor Blaine Anderson, this mini-hiatus really belongs to Santana.
To get the basics out of the way: Santana is cruel, and it’s no surprise someone snapped and outed her (Finn) admittedly poorly kept secret (her love for Brittany). But if Santana doesn’t deserve our sympathy (and I think whether she does depends on who you are and how you watch TV), she certainly deserves our notice.
Santana is, in part, the conclusion to the Dave Karofsky story we never got to see. She, like Dave, is a bully. That bullying, while not addressed to her object of desire, is often related to sexuality and gender and is designed to keep her safe, or at least throw up a good distraction. She beards for Dave at the end of Season 2, not just because they are both closeted gay kids, but because they are both closeted gay kids with the same defense mechanism.
While Dave’s been working his issues out largely in private – a conversation with Kurt here or there, a transfer to a new school, hiding out under a cap at the local gay bar – it’s been so private that it hasn’t even happened on our TV screens.
But Santana’s working her issues out in public. And even if that weren’t already clear by the way she baits Finn and moons over Brittany, she certainly doesn’t have a choice now; she’s about to be outed to the entire congressional district.
It’s a critical narrative choice about a character who looks nothing like many people’s stereotypes about gay women, because Santana is the exception to no rule when it comes to the intersection of her gender and her sexuality. Women often simply don’t get to resolve these matters in private the way Dave does.
Sure, Dave got lucky in the generosity that Kurt afforded him, but who women sleep with, how often, and whether they like it too much or not enough is pretty much always a matter for public discourse and opinion. Especially in places like William McKinley High School.
Had Dave’s journey from bully to self-accepting gay man been documented more on our television screens and transpired in the halls of William McKinley, gender-based insults, placing him as a woman, would have been central to the narrative. But that’s not the story Glee is telling about Dave.
It is, however, one that Glee is telling about Kurt.
So let’s predict what happens next, or at least discuss what we’re clearly supposed to expect to happen next: With Santana’s sexuality dragged into the congressional race by a third candidate, she has to attend to her now very public personal life. So does Sue Sylvester, who spoilers tell us will be on a quest to prove her heterosexuality, possibly at the expense of butch-appearing straight gal Sharon Bieste.
But if we’re talking about how homosexuality is used in American politics, especially in places like Lima (my partner, a third or fourth generation Buckeye, may throttle me if I cast aspersions on the entire state of Ohio), there’s no way that Kurt’s not going to get similarly dragged into the race, and it will be Burt’s job to, in an echo of Kurt’s speech for class president, try to rise above the mudslinging.
That it is women — or male characters “tainted” with femininity — that have to defend their identities in public, while people like Dave can grab a fresh start somewhere else is one of those moments of real-world nastiness that can make Glee seem like such an unkind show. For a fantasy, it sure is mean.
But predictions aside, we’re still early in season 3, and I’m still unsure where they are going with a lot of things including Blaine’s constantly shifting self; Kurt’s sudden return to more feminine attire around the events of 3.05; and Rachel and Finn’s struggles with gender role expectations around their relationship to each other and Lima.
But I am convinced that if we’re looking for clues to those sorts of questions, the answer unavoidably rests with Santana. Despite (or perhaps because) Glee‘s main narrative drivers outside of Rachel are male, the show is often overtly about people’s reactions to unusually-located femininity.
So if we want to know what happens next, who better to look at than Santana? She’s an archetype of femininity (a cheerleader) who’s broken the rules (not by being mean, but by being gay) and is about to undergo one particularly unpleasant ritual girls and women face — a big public discussion of the appropriateness of her desire.
It’s something we’ve gotten with Rachel (with Kurt and his gender non-conformance playing mirror) around ambition. Now we’re going to get it with Santana (with Kurt and his gender non-conformance playing mirror again, but he’s a magician, of course, and exists in that other world made up of shadows and the looking glass) around the public naming (and shaming) of desire.
In light of all of that, I bet Dave Karofsky’s glad he managed to get the hell out of dodge right about now. But part of me wishes he would come back in this particular arc and speak up with his masculine affect and relative safety for Santana, Kurt and the relentlessly flawed strength these two — the girl he pretended to want and the boy he actually did — have been forced to have by the way the world so often feels about girls.