While I feel like discussions about Glee often focus on what was missing, it’s unusual for that focus to actually be about something that was originally meant to be there. In the case of episode 3.09, which had a delightfully weird send-up of classic B&W Christmas specials, the big discussion on Tumblr, Twitter and LiveJournal has largely been about what’s in the box?
Except the scene where Blaine gives Kurt what looks like a ring box got cut (along with some other, unrelated scenes) from the final show. Rumor on Tumblr that seems to be coming from someone with a friend who works on the show is that the box contained a ring made out of gum wrappers, to serve as counterpoint to the Rachel and Finn narrative involving expensive gift-giving and proof of love. It may or may not have also been meant to be a promise ring. (Since the initial writing of this piece, the gum-wrapper ring has been confirmed by TV Line, but context speculation remains. The scene will, however, be included on the season 3 DVDs).
Narratively, the cut makes sense. The broad middle of the episode and the decisions that set it up are extremely focused on Kurt and Blaine imagining an adult future together and their friends presuming one. Therefore, we didn’t actually need further narrative development around their commitment, and really, the Finn and Rachel storyline was completely resolvable without it (and filled with its own bucket of problems that I’ll perhaps address in another post).
Other than the rumored possibility that it was a promise ring used in its original sense, not as a placeholder amongst children with grownup dreams, but as a placeholder from someone who doesn’t yet have the means to purchase an engagement ring (there’s more than one story in my own family about gum wrappers and paper bands from cigars, including my parents), what’s been super interesting to me has been one of the key phrases going around Tumblr about the whole affair: My OTP doesn’t need a box or a ring. (OTP, for those not in the know, means “one true pairing” and is what fans refer to their favorite couples, on-screen or fantasy only, as).
I don’t think it was said with the queer culture discussion it evokes in mind, but it’s a powerful and confusing statement at a time when queer identity and the public reception of queer identities is deeply in flux.
Because right now, so much of queer identity is a discussion about equal marriage rights, and equal marriage rights are complicated, not just because of the obvious stuff like queer families needing equal protection under the law and keeping other people’s religious beliefs out of our lives. But because marriage equality is having, and will continue to have, a huge impact on queer culture.
Because suddenly, we have to talk about, in far more practical ways than in the past (the past on display in the black and white portion of tonight’s episode) about marriage, and if it’s for us, and what its impact on queer culture is. Do we need and want rings and rituals that to many of us feel are borrowed from a straight culture we don’t get? And if we do need or want those things are we allowed to talk about how incredibly conflicted we do or do not feel about them?
I’m such a fierce proponent of marriage equality, and am very happy for friends who have or will be marrying same-sex partners. I’m also a huge romantic, and, unfortunately, am also someone who was raised to believe that marriage is the only possible marker of success and adulthood I could ever have (oh, being a girl in the world I was a girl in).
But I also love — loved — the perhaps vanishing queer culture that raised me as a queer person, and it was a land of not needing boxes or rings. It was a land of massive pride in keeping it together day after day after day, because it was a choice every day, because there was no glue that was easy to show off or receive approval for. There was no paperwork.
In the land of Glee, we know, at least somewhat, where Kurt and Blaine stand on marriage. Kurt’s already told us about his fantasy life in New York, “married by 30, legally” (3.01), and Blaine may have given him a promise ring made of gum wrappers for Christmas. (For the record, I remember making those in summer camp on rainy days as all of us girls — all presumed straight — sat around wearing them and imaging futures full of shiny bragging).
That the Kurt and Blaine gifting scene got cut tonight was pure narrative common-sense; the most important part of storytelling is always editing, and what we needed to know about them got told elsewhere in the episode.
But I have to say I love that the fannish discourse, which has gone from outraged to trying to get comfortable with the cut, brings up this issue and the idea that commitment doesn’t need a ring, or, perhaps more importantly any public display or approval. This is especially critical considering the frequent concerns many fans express about the level of physical contact between Kurt and Blaine on screen, often with little awareness of safety concerns gay teens in their environment would face.
While I can’t wait to get a look at the cut scene because I am endlessly charmed by Kurt and Blaine, I am also thankful for the cut, because it really reminds me of why I love fan culture. Because fan culture always promotes, explicitly or implicitly, the idea that stories continue and live full lives, whether we’re looking at them or not.