Glee: Setting up the board

Well, Glee is back, which theoretically means this blog is back even though it remains, I swear, not just a Glee blog (I’m waiting for the okay to announce several non-Glee related publications, so really, this is true!). As much as I do write a post after each Glee episode, one of the things I really want to stay away from here is doing a weekly recap vs. a weekly reaction. Recaps are dime a dozen on the Internet, and several of my friends get paid to write then, so there’s no reason to dive into that particular competition.

But, sometimes, there isn’t always a thematic essay that emerges out of each episode. Because while 4.01 is part of patterns established in the previous seasons of Glee, it is also a (re)introduction, meaning it’s also the start of a new data set, and a single point does not a trend make. Which leaves me at a little bit of a loss tonight.

I did, however, enjoy this first episode immensely, and thought it captured the reality of New York and competitive performing arts environments in a way that was truthful while also being completely fanciful and not at all how it actually works. Television is rarely deft about New York, because it’s mostly not for people who live in New York, and it was nice to see Glee selling a fantasy that felt relevant to me as a resident, even when the bulk of it was shot in L.A.

What was particularly of note, however, and feels like the best place to start blogging about the new season is just how much this episode can be used to explicate the “we’re all watching a different show” view of television.

I could, after all, easily write a long piece about Blaine and gender here tonight: about how he gets proclaimed the new Rachel, only feels threatened by Wade/Unique for the role, is repeatedly clearly uncomfortable with Wade/Unique’s gender expression, and clearly values his ability to pass as, if not straight, masculine and “normal” at McKinley, especially now that glee club is sort of accepted. Note, for example, how Blaine falls under the radar of all the cruelty and mocking in this episode — his queerness never comes up, and, to a given extent, that’s a product of how Blaine plays his queerness; it’s conspicuous in how it deviates from the expectations of heteronormativity, but is also expressed through a playful reenactment of a hyper-conservative very good boy look. Blaine’s gay, but beyond that, any queerness falls squarely into the category of plausible deniability. He’s gay, but he’s just like you. Kurt on the other hand….

Of course, there’s a whole argument about Blaine’s interactions with Wade/Unique that completely skips over gender and queerness: Wade/Unique is Blaine’s only real competition to be the new Rachel as the only other current New Directions member that has led a show choir before. That said, while that reading removes the matter of Blaine’s queerness and gender performance as a narrative device, it does once again raise the issue of Rachel “man hands” Berry, her gender presentation, ambition, and her location in the queer world as someone with two dads, a soul-mate in her gay best friend, and her desire to grow up to be, among other things, a queer icon.

But back to Blaine and Wade/Unique. Which story is the true story? Is Blaine uncomfortable with Wade/Unique because of his own queerness and gender identity? Or is Blaine uncomfortable with Wade/Unique because there’s real competition there? Well, that depends on what show you’re watching.

For me, and this blog, we’ll how the rest of the season unfolds — although gender identity and queerness is always on the table in my readings, with the uncertainty not on its presence, but on where those themes are being located by the show. Obviously, I’m tantalized by the possibilities regarding Blaine in light of previous essays I’ve written here, but I also don’t feel like I can jump on it, not quite yet.

Similarly, there were a few other morsels tonight that also felt fun in a following a trail of breadcrumbs way, including a Tumblr-favorite, Artie’s crush on Blaine, and a funny flip on the infamous “not for sale” moment from last season, when Blaine’s first line in “Call Me Maybe” includes “I’d trade my soul for a wish, Pennies and dimes for a kiss.” Someone’s changed his tune!

But right now, these moments are all merely pieces on the board of the pattern recognition game; I can’t wait until we all get to start playing it again in earnest.

5 thoughts on “Glee: Setting up the board”

  1. please never stop writing about glee here because your blog is the first thing that i check after watching glee because it gives me a different perspective, i loved this episode. will

  2. yeah your blog and tumblr are literally the only things i read while the season’s on (because you mark spoilers politely and i fear them, and you also engage in challenging dialogue with the text but in a really level-headed way rather than screaming outrage or screaming joy.) even the slightest mention of stuff that may seem really obvious to you often opens up brand new doors of perspective for me and I have to go and rewatch scenes or entire episodes. so thanks for that, and I’m looking forward to all you write in reaction to the coming season!

  3. I actually found Blaine’s interactions with Wade/Unique to be on par with his interactions with basically every other gay character in the show, and on par with at least his initial characterization back in Season Two when he was a Warbler. Blaine has never seemed like one who is big on individuality. Not that he is openly un-accepting of individuality, but more that he doesn’t expect it. When Kurt joined the Warblers, Blaine’s biggest nugget of advice was to tone it down and be one of the team. Blaine himself could stand out as the lead, but in every Warbler number save only for When I Get You Alone, he ends in the exact same position as everyone else, just one more member of the team. He’s maybe loosened up a little for New Directions, but the idea of teamwork still seems to trump individuality in Blaine’s world.

    There have been several times throughout his time on the show, that Blaine has reacted similarly when he interacts with other LGBTQ students. While not an actual team like the Warblers or New Directions, they’re a metaphorical team, Team Gay. As a team, they should to some degree all be the same. In his very first episode when he comes to Kurt’s rescue after being kissed by Karofsky, he reaches out saying “I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through.” When Santana is outed, again he reaches out with an “I’ve been there, I know what you’re going through.” When he goes through his own crisis of sexuality after kissing Rachel, he expects Kurt to be understanding and supportive, again to know what he’s going through. However, each of these people are individuals. Kurt, Santana, Karofsky are all starkly different people who grew up different, had different life experiences, were raised with different values and Blaine couldn’t possibly “understand what they’re going through.” Wade/Unique is the same. As another member of Team Gay, Blaine (possibly very unconsciously) expects Wade/Unique to have certain feelings and certain experiences and when they don’t align with the feelings and experiences that Blaine himself has gone through, I think it throws him. I was actually quite pleased that Blaine sided with Sam and Artie in that lunchroom conversation. Not that I felt they were right in the advice they offered Unique, but I find it a very important and honest portrayal of how not all members of the LGBTQ magically know everything about aspects of the LGBTQ that they don’t fall into. Blaine is gay. He doesn’t know what it is to be trans. Perhaps he doesn’t understand that Unique is more than just a character Wade plays. Wade/Unique isn’t gay the same way Blaine is, and it’s something Blaine hasn’t quite grasped yet. Well, that’s what I see at least.

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