Glee: Love is not a victory march

Love is not a victory march.

Neither is ambition. Or fame.

And, for that matter, neither is blogging about random TV shows.

While Glee adhered to my rules in its finale (the Ferryman took a toll from Rachel and from Finn, and wouldn’t let Kurt leave), I was gobsmacked when Kurt didn’t get into NYADA. Although with Kurt’s lovely moments with both his father and Blaine as the season’s end drew closer, what else could have happened really? I should have seen it, and I had too many hearts in my eyes to notice.

I’ve spent a lot of time tonight being amazed at how much a post I tossed up on Tumblr about the nature of highly selective programs is getting reblogged, but the reason there seems pretty clear too.

It’s clear in the sad, frustrated, resigned feeling I had at the end of tonight’s episode: Rachel wins the day for the simplest of structural reasons; someone like Rachel is, innately, an avatar for more people than someone like Kurt.

Rachel is, and has always been, the center of the show, despite the kindnesses delivered to people who see themselves in Kurt Hummel. She has to get the victory story, because, as hard as it is to comprehend when you’re not someone who sees themselves in Rachel, more underdogs are hurt if it’s Kurt and not her.

I get it. I really do. Not even as the queer kid, but as the weird kid. My problem wasn’t that I was an ugly duckling or overbearing (although I have been and can be both), my problem is that I was just other — sad, powerful, never the right age, and generally poor at acting on my halfway decent political instincts.

Stories are never really about people like that. I know that; Tumblr knows that; Glee knows that; and Kurt Hummel definitely knows that.

But once I got past that and thought about some of the things I keep saying about Glee — the toll of the ferryman, and Kurt’s death work in particular (did you see him, with that giant beetle pinned to his graduation robe? I’ll have to do a whole post about his brooches during hiatus) — I hit a point of peace with it.

Kurt hasn’t paid his price yet, and hasn’t done any of his work as chief mourner on his own behalf. I imagine he’s frustrated that his assets make it harder for him to achieve; and boggled that he suddenly seems so much older than Blaine (and he really, really did in this episode).

I think about all the metaphors and symbolism we’ve played with and tried to decode this season — faerie foods and mystical pregnancies — and I wonder if every time Kurt kisses Blaine it’s like another pomegranate seed that keeps him in this Underworld that is Lima.

However, at the end of the season, without knowing where we’re going next, that’s rather besides the point. It’s not the metaphor or the symbolism that matters, so much as the reason we seek it (other than it’s fun).

For a lot of us, I think that reason, oddly, goes back to one of the first things I ever said about Glee: which is that it’s really hard for me to watch shows supposedly about outcasts when I know that if we shared a world, I still wouldn’t be cool enough for them.

This is why it hurts when Kurt Hummel fails, because unlike most of the “outcast” teens on TV — including Rachel and Finn (and oh, is is hard to watch everyone have so much damn gratitude for them) — it’s easy to get the sense that Kurt might be nice to us, or, you know, at least willing to sit at our table during lunch, even if he’s totally judging our choices in footwear.

But Kurt is older and wiser than Rachel. He doesn’t need NYADA to shape him, so much as he needs something to spin him around and point him in the right direction. That’s coming, and it won’t be easy, or nice or kind for any of us, but it will be necessary.

In the meantime, maybe we should take some time to feel pretty awesome about his victories. Kurt Hummel changed his life, his dad’s life, Blaine’s life, Dave Karofsky’s life, Rachel’s life; and he changed, just a little bit, that hellhole of a school. I can’t be the only who cried at the shot of the tadpole gays; are those two boys best friends just waiting to discover they’re in love? Do they dream of one day being as cool as Kurt and Blaine?

Let’s face it, whether he’s salved wounds new or old, real or imagined, Kurt Hummel’s changed our lives too, even if just for an hour every Tuesday night.

So yes, there was a lot of to be frustrated with in that season finale structurally and thematically, but some things remain true: Kurt’s always been better than Lima, and arguably Glee, but why it hurts is because we never thought Kurt was better than us, and we were sure were all going to get out of this place together.

But don’t worry. Take a deep breath. It’ll happen. This is all normal. I promise.

Because you know what else isn’t a victory march?

Loving stories.

It’s the lack of control, you see. That’s what makes it sweet when it all finally turns out exactly the way we want. Until them, like Kurt, we have to hold on tight, smile at the margins, and write our own stories.

And you know what? They’re going to be amazing.

11 thoughts on “Glee: Love is not a victory march”

  1. “Stories are never really about people like that.”

    These days, it’s thankfully possible to find a few exception’s. On Alphas, Gary the geeky teenage autistic savant started out as little better than a cheap Rainman joke, but as the season evolved, he became one of the two most central characters, which both shocked and pleased me. I’m fairly certain that the show changed largely due to audience reaction, because the shift was quite dramatic and the character who was introduced as the mainstream audience identification adult-white-male-mainstream-guy became a far more minor character than I expected or feared. Similarly, Walter Bishop on Fringe is an aging, drug-using, borderline sane geek, and he’s also a hero and the story is clearly as much about him as it is about Olivia and Peter.

    Sure, in most shows, characters like Tosh end up in the background, while the foreground is taken up by the non weird-kid likes of Gwen (and oddly in that case, Jack), but I’m very happy that good exceptions can be found.

  2. I wonder… I wonder… Your last post talked about the missing magic, and here you say “every time Kurt kisses Blaine it’s like another pomegranate seed that keeps him in this Underworld that is Lima.”

    And maybe that’s exactly it. The reason there was no magic in the prior episodes wasn’t so much a faltering as a statement that there’s a choice to be made – live in the real world, or live in Faerie (with all its glory and despair). You don’t get to have both. And Kurt’s still stuck in the middle, trying to decide which way to go.

  3. I read your post when I first got up, and when you talked about all of the things Kurt had changed, all I could think of was a line from “When I Die” by Nikki Giovanni, “And if ever I touched a life I hope that life knows that I know that touching was and still is and will always be the true revolution”. For a boy not to keen on literal touch, his ability to figuratively touch was fairly amazing

  4. Your comment about Kurt’s changing lives reminded me of a line from the poem “When I Die” by Nikki Giovanni, “And if ever I touched a life I hope that life knows that touching was and still is and will always be the true revolution.”

    For a boy who finds literal touch challenging, the reach of his figurative touch is just beautiful.

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  6. A couple of things clicked into place for me from this episode.

    1. The reason I detest Rachel as much as I do is that she’s being sold to us as an underdog. The weird Jewish girl (with two dads) who must be the center of attention. Which is fine, except….she’s not. Within the hothouse that is the glee club at WMHS, she’s the Queen Bee. Not Quinn or Santana, who can duke it out for that title within WMHS halls on a larger scale. But within Glee, it is indeed all about Rachel. Even Will seems to be under her spell by always giving her the best and juiciest solos.

    So when something (temporarily) bad happens to Rachel, we are supposed to all root for her because she’s The Underdog. The problem being that in fact, she’s not. Of all the characters, she’s the one who has exhibited the least growth and loss. There is something telling where she notes that her life three days before graduation *is exactly what she dreamed it would be as a freshman.*

    I was the weird (half-) Jewish girl in high school. The only time I was the center of attention was when I was being ridiculed. I think I would have perceived Rachel to be just as much a threat to me (if not more, for her seemingly NOT to be) as Quinn or Santana.

    2. Much to my horror, I now understand the whole Torchwood Gwen-bashing phenomenon somewhat better. I am still adamantly opposed to full-on character bashing, but my reaction to Rachel is not unlike the anti-Gwen brigade claiming that Gwen is set up as the Golden Girl to whom nothing bad can ever (permanently) happen. I see Rachel in much the same light.

  7. I absolutely adore your analytical writings on the Glee episodes, and as you mentioned three major points about Kurt’s character above [not getting into NYADA, the beetle brooch, and the tadpole gays – in which Kurt made a comment about inspiring fashion choices in others] I wondered, what’s your opinion about Kurt switching to a fashion role instead of an acting role?
    [Or, perhaps, choosing a fashion major over an acting major would be better wording here.]

    And, on the note of the toll of the ferryman, I half worry that with all the parallels this season between Rachel/Finn and Kurt/Blaine, whether or not the finale is foreshadowing some sort of mutual break between Kurt/Blaine so that Kurt can achieve his dreams. I felt rather vindicated when Rachel went off to New York without Finn, because it seemed like a balanced choice [so to say].
    And, after all, didn’t the Glee Club once sing that you can’t always get what you want? Though the following lyrics were along the lines of being able to get what you need, so I wonder which Kurt will end up needing more: Blaine, or New York.
    [Or maybe he’ll figure out a way around that, and get both in the end. One can always hope.]

  8. “boggled that he suddenly seems so much older than Blaine (and he really, really did in this episode)” Darren certainly has the dewey eyed school boy look, lately, but some people were saying that Blaine actually seemed to want to face the impending separation with a more mature, realistic outlook, while Kurt, instead of facing facts or hashing out details, was being starry-eyed about their future nursing home days. I’m not sure if Blaine felt totally reassured. I really hope they continue to share their journey/lovestory next year (even though we don’t really know the format yet & the actors seem keen on “drama”.)

    “I wonder if every time Kurt kisses Blaine it’s like another pomegranate seed that keeps him in this Underworld that is Lima.” ~Beautiful image! (You must be referring to presumed off screen kisses there. Sorry. 😉 Just curious, what do you think would be the circumstances fro K&B to share another kiss on the actual show? Will it mean a break up, because they want to give them one more moment? There have been several times this season when a kiss seemed called for and was missed.

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