Glee: The retreat into Neverland

During the airing of “It’s Time” last night the general consensus in my apartment, other than “man, I could not jump rope and lip-synch,” was “Wow, Zach Woodlee was in a weird mood when he choreographed that.” But now that I’ve watched it again, the use of the jump ropes and the cup game make a lot more sense to me, both in terms of where Blaine is now, and the narrative structure the fans have had to install around him to account for his incredible de-aging process.

Just to review, for anyone that missed it, Blaine was originally supposed to be an older mentor to Kurt; then we all assumed they were the same age; and then when he showed up at McKinley he was a year behind Kurt in school. While the problem of characters’ ages (and drivers licenses and college applications) is hardly a new one for Glee or an isolated problem in hot pop-culture properties, the Blaine thing is a particularly extreme example and a subject of a great deal of fandom annoyance (although if you were Ryan Murphy and the reaction to “Teenage Dream” dropped into your lap, what would you do?).

Of course, that annoyance has led to speculation from “Blaine was held back a year due to school missed around the Sadie Hawkins attack and subsequent transfer to Dalton” to “Blaine exhibits some age-inappropriate behavior around sex that may be indicative of other issues.” Even ignoring those two themes, it’s hard not to say that Blaine was anything other than working hard at (clumsily) being a little adult at Dalton — from his not that great advice to Kurt, to his “let’s sing about sex toys” moment at the Gap, to his talk with Burt Hummel about Kurt and sex.

Since those events, and Blaine’s transfer to Dalton, we have in many ways seen him act more the age he is now assigned, even if that’s been shown through his seeming to sink into himself and try too hard in ways that are, often, explicitly transparent. Insecurities around Finn, his brother, and Kurt’s departure, as well as the no longer hidden height difference between Criss and Colfer, have also helped sell us on the idea that Blaine is neither older, nor wiser than Kurt. Serious and adult issues that are often a part of the limminal nature of being a teenager — including suicide and sexuality — also have helped to bring Blaine’s characterization more in line with his narrative age.

But even as the viewing audience has gotten on board with that (or at least been invited to get on board with that), the question has remained whether Blaine has any idea that he’s still a kid. Somehow, in “It’s Time” we realize that he does, in fact, finally know just how young he is and just how much he’s not ready for the big scary world yet.

The choreography of “It’s Time” is suffused to nods at youth — the “cup game,” which I was unfamiliar with and people who watch the show in my house insist is something they played at camp, and the jumping rope are both things associated with childhood. So are the pigtails the girls performing the jump rope tricks are wearing. In “It’s Time” Blaine is suddenly a child amongst children, and the song is less about Kurt needing to spread his wings and fly, and more about a world closing to him, that Blaine is ready, or perhaps even unwilling to leave yet.

The number feels emotional, not because Blaine lets go, but because the worlds he and Kurt inhabit are uncoupling, which will only cause more consternation later. After all, while Kurt will visit Ohio, it’s like his father says — he could come back, but he won’t — not really, not to be a denizen of that time and place. And yes, Kurt and Blaine can Skype, but how do you send an email to Brigadoon? How do you pass letters in and out of a faerie ring that divides two worlds that run on different times?

With the significant filming spoilers fans are aware of regarding episode 4 (and Ryan Murphy’s declaration that he will swim gloriously in a pool of fandom tears), and Murphy also having tweeted last night that Blaine will sing with the Warblers again in episode 7, it’s easy to suspect that once the uncoupling of Kurt and Blaine’s worlds begins it will also accelerate, with Blaine pulling back into the mists and Kurt living in the bright, metallic, and too fast world of New York.

The question after that inevitability then becomes, what will pull them back together? And will it be something that echoes out of the Kurt’s world or Blaine’s? And if it does originate in Blaine’s sphere, is that a place Kurt can still access? Or no longer lost, and no longer a boy, will be barred from Neverland?

15 thoughts on “Glee: The retreat into Neverland”

  1. Thanks for the analysis- it tied together a lot of things floating around in my head!

    I know that part of the song didn’t air, but “It’s Time” felt like a perfect bookend to Kurt and Blaine’s verse in “Big Girls Don’t Cry” from last season with the youthful atmosphere of Kurt’s “Like the little school mate in the school yard / We’ll play jacks and uno cards,” and then Blaine’s “We’ll be playmates and lovers and share our secret worlds.”

    Now, though, Blaine is the only one inhabiting that “Neverland” with Kurt looking on,quite literally outside the circle Blaine’s created on the school’s makeshift playground. I agree – it’ll be interesting to see how they’ll transgress those boundaries.

  2. One thing I noticed right away in this scene is that Blaine’s wearing tennis shoes (of the freshly-white back-to-school variety, too), and I don’t think that we’ve seen him wear tennis shoes outside of the gym and locker room before. This choice fits in very well with the jump-rope and playground games, don’t you think?

    1. Yup, I pinged on the shoes too (even if the easiest explanation is “that scene would have been even more challenging in regular shoes” — but I also find jumping rope to be preternaturally difficult, so don’t mind me).

  3. I like this.
    It ties into what I was grasping at when I felt like Blaine was telling a ghost Kurt to “move on” and then the circle, to me, felt like a séance. But the playfulness of it all brings makes the Neverland theory far more convincing.

    I like that there is already stuff. It’s reassuring in a way.

  4. I really like this; it makes a lot of sense of that sequence (and of those sun-drenched, still reaction shots of Kurt smiling remotely, or not smiling at all, and watching, which felt so detached and melancholy). It also connects in my head to that spoiler photo of Blaine in the superhero outfit…

    1. Also the way Blaine hid the band. People keep talking about how it was to surprise Kurt more effectively, but it also emphasized something else Kurt no longer has access too — the musical refuge of WMHS.

      1. Which is why he won’t sing until he gets to New York and He sacrificed the Navigator to get to NC; he also sacrificed his voice/music.

  5. This really does help tie things together. All through the episode, Kurt’s maturity was just so palpable. In every scene, you could just feel how much he didn’t belong there, even when he was with Blaine. But I love the way you map out the metaphors here, and the way these two are separating already . . .

    Tangent: I noticed that Kurt almost always was handling objects–meaningless ones–like coffee cups, sheet music, video cameras. But he’s handling them in a way as if he’s purposeful, trying to do something “important,” like organize the music, or hold a job that will take him through the year while he reapplies to NYADA, or help Will with the auditions.

  6. oh, re-reading this, I just realized I actually have an answer for the question at the end. It will be something from Kurt’s world, because that will eventually have to become Blaine’s world too. And it will happen either right before or in the immediate aftermath of when the relationship officially breaks up (and it has been heading towards that for a little while, now), that the worlds that they inhabit will actually start heading back into alignment.

    (Because of magic of place stuff that I wrote a little bit about here:

    (They won’t be put back together in that episode, of course, but the thing that pulls Blaine back into Kurt’s orbit will be *started,* whatever it is.)

  7. It’s interesting to see Blaine embracing his youth because I think Kurt left that behind a very long time ago. He’s been taking protecting his father since we’ve known him. At the same time, we now that he did have a chance to be a child, from the flashbacks we saw in “Grilled Cheesus”. I’m not sure that Blaine did have that chance, and it’s part of his maturation process in my opinion to give himself that opportunity now.

    I have to share this song, because somehow the imagery of this post just keeps bringing it into my mind. This is “Song of the Dead Fairy” from Darling, a very dark musical by Ryan Scott Oliver that sets Peter Pan in Boston in the 20’s (Peter is a rent boy) and it’s a funeral song for a really young boy — sort of a goodbye to innocence that ends in celebration. This is a really rough version from a reading (I saw the premiere at Emerson this past spring) but it was the best I could find.

    That was the one song from the show that just stuck in my head and I think Chris Colfer would sound amazing singing it, although unless the show actually goes to Broadway, I doubt Ryan Murphy will ever hear it.

      1. Would love to hear those two sing together. I didn’t like most of Darling’s music, but this is the one song that just stuck with me, and I’m sure something awful would have to happen on Glee for it to seem plot-relevant, but I would love to hear Chris and Alex sing it.

  8. (Sorry if this goes through a ton of times; WordPress/internet being weird.) So I’m definitely late on this — just saw the ep — and based on screencaps and fandom response and having already skimmed this essay, I thought I was going to see the same thing as everyone else. But I kind of didn’t.

    I think Blaine is obviously playing with the *trope* of “growing up vs. staying behind” with all the childhood imagery, but to me the knowingness of all of it felt like winking at the subject rather than admitting something.

    The scene starts with Blaine essentially playing the mentor role again, the way he’s very calmly, kindly pushing Kurt to be his full self — and then the side glance, the secret machinations start up, and that smirk. It’s the smirk that really does it. And the jump-roping which just reads to me like teenage heartthrobs bouncing to the beat on stage.

    But mostly the smirk, and the way the song doesn’t feel melancholy or sad or even resigned the way it really should, even if only a little. It’s way more, say, “It’s Not Unusual” than “Somewhere Only We Know” (right down to Blaine leading a very stylized circle on the center of the very squared/angular steps.)

    When he sang “I’m just the same as I was” it feels a little like ‘and you’re not, now we’re in different worlds, etc.’ but then right afterwards he sings “I’m never changing who I am” it actually feels, to me, like continuity. (With a line like that, Blaine’s either already not a kid or he’s Peter Pan — and Peter Pan couldn’t just toss off a claim that he’d be in NYC the next year.)

    But maybe I just don’t want to let go of Teenage Dream Blaine.

    Anyway! /back to lurking

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