Glee: What if Dalton has always been in darkness?

The function of Dalton as faerie land in Glee has been one of the most popular topics on this blog, but in light of a series of new spoilers related today, I am starting to suspect that our ongoing analysis of it here (and it truly has been a collective effort) has actually been nearly completely wrong.

That’s not to say that Dalton hasn’t been, and doesn’t continue to be, faerie land. It’s just that we all ran with the premise that when Kurt first visited it, it was a pure and good place, that only fell into corruption after Blaine’s departure. But what if Blaine was the aberration, and Dalton was always a dark place, only taking on a different form during his own presence there because in sheltering him, Dalton also hid its own wound?

Today Ryan Murphy tweeted an in-costume photo of the actor playing this season’s head Warbler, a character named Hunter. After we all stopped making Dr. Evil jokes because of the cat, I realized that we really, really need to talk about that cat. Because when Kurt arrived at the Dalton Blaine attended, he was given a song bird to care for and told it was a tradition that dated back nearly 100 years.

While we don’t know if that tradition continued under Sebastian, it’s certainly notable that now the bird has been replaced with a cat (that possible ate Pav’s successor) under the leadership of a character named Hunter whose narrative function is apparently to recruit Blaine back to the Warblers.

That’s unsettling enough, but it also gives us more critical data points about Dalton. It was a dark place under Sebastian; it seems as if it’s still a dark place under Hunter; and considering Kurt’s objection to Blaine’s many solos and the stifling conformity of Dalton that riled so many Kurt fans, perhaps it was even a dark place under Blaine as well, lightened only by his optimism, naivete, or general happiness at all the flattery he received there. Perhaps that flattery was the bribe against noticing.

And if Dalton was never this better, brighter, loftier place of safety and tolerance at no price at all, and if it’s magic wasn’t innately good, that fact implies a great deal about Glee‘s worldview on class.

In a world where Sebastian is the norm for Dalton — regardless of the no bullying policy within its walls, it’s easily argued that Dalton students, told they are exceptional, well-educated, and decent in a sea of filth (such as the abusive environment of one local public school), evolve to eventually treat others — outsiders — as if they aren’t even human; look at what Sebastian does to Artie, to Santana, to Rachel, to Kurt, and to Blaine. Blaine becomes a discarded toy to break; Artie, Santana, Rachel, and Kurt become objects sometimes literally beneath his notice.

WMHS students, in contrast, while constantly demonstrated to be mean, selfish, bigoted, and generally appalling in their actions, at least consistently grasp the humanity of others, even the others they vilify. They attack based on feelings rather than status. They run on instinct instead of strategy. And they forgive and forgive and forgive, sometimes even foolishly. Their targets are always human; that’s what makes them targets.

If this structure, on Glee, there is no such thing as a benevolent nobility. It turns out it’s possible that we’ve been taken in by Dalton, in a way we can recognize, but Blaine still can’t, and that fits with the show’s purported theme of celebrating the underdog; if you’re looking down, you’re going to be cruel. In a world structured like that, anyone loyal to Dalton can’t, actually, be one of the good guys, regardless of whether the place has a no tolerance policy, regardless of whether the place saved Kurt’s life (and quite possible, Blaine’s before him).

Ultimately though Kurt saves Blaine again (and that’s why he’s falling about now) by teaching him how to fall from the faerie kingdom (of Dalton and into the depths both of love and of WMHS’s heart-based vs. status-based environment. How very gnostic. On the long list of otherworldly affiliations Kurt has, I think it’s time we add Sophia to the list.

Of course, in a few weeks we may find out the cat isn’t even in the show and just wandered on set. Until then, I’m going to wonder if Dalton was always corrupted, make a bunch of Doctor Evil jokes, and ship the hell out of him with Lord Tubbington.

Meanwhile, on a programming note (which is half the reason I let myself make a spoiler-focused speculation post), Thursday night is my 40th birthday, which means I will not be glued to my television and blogging about “The Break Up” (thanks for that particular birthday gift, Ryan Murphy, really). So when you don’t see any immediate content from me on the episode please don’t assume I’m crying into my Cheerios. I promise to catch up with it, and this blog, sometime on Friday.

9 thoughts on “Glee: What if Dalton has always been in darkness?”

  1. This post immediately made me think of fairy gold. Because fairy gold is an illusion. It doesn’t last. It’s been enchanted, and when you look at it in the daylight you find out you never actually had bright shiny coins, you had handfuls flower blossoms or leaves and twigs. Ouch.Sorry Blaine.

    Off the idea that Dalton has always been dark, and Blaine being so welcomed and finding it so joyous originally….what do you think of that old story about fairy’s needing to play Tiend to Hell every seven years? They always preferred giving up mortals “young men lured away if they are gifted with powers of song and music” way more than they liked giving up one of their own.

    Happy early birthday!

    1. That’s pretty much my thought — Faerie should be a dark place. Beautiful and magical, but with an inhuman morality to it. I think that Dalton as a fairyland is still a perfectly reasonable interpretation; it’s just that it doesn’t mean that it’s also nice there.

  2. I always thought that if Dalton was in fact a faerie world of goodness then Season 3 asked really interesting questions about how fragile such worlds might be. It was easy for Season 2 Kurt to find pieces of Dalton life appealing and pieces that were a turnoff, most notably conformity issues in seemingly superficial areas– council chooses songs, group discussions moderated via gavel and must not stray from “order,” everyone wears uniforms, etc. But maybe part of the function of those rules provided protection from darker forces. What happens when a band of pure minstrels introduce a darker force into the fold? What happened that led to Sebastian being elected (?) “captain” after all that obsession with Warbler history and tradition? If Kurt brought in new ideas, and Blaine got them out into the risky world of the Gap-as-performance-venue– have these types of pushes helped them grow or made things worse. I look at the Warblers’ steps outside of their comfort zones in Season 2 as experiments in reality outside their cloistered halls. In Season 3 Sebastian brings darker instincts into their clan, and there are painful consequences, both for them and others not of their world (and of course for poor Blaine who is still identifies or is identified as a Warbler on some level– “Blaine Warbler”– and yet not. His feels like such a classic story of one who grows up in a certain culture, steps away, and then has to renegotiate his/her identity with their new experiences. Now that we know the Warblers will be back in some form, I think the questions to be explored will now be what the longer term ramifications are– what is the collateral damage of bringing what Sebastian represents into a place of “goodness.” And yes, if such worlds will bend so easily to the will of darker forces, were they really good to begin with?

  3. Ooh! And if the Blaine arc that seems to have been established thus far is indeed a rich exploration of his rites of passage navigating between childhood and adulthood– how will he tread through his loss of innocence in facing the truths about Dalton? Does he have to accept that nothing was what he thought it was? Was there any truth or goodness in it? Or was it just an optical illusion, or worse, a manipulation of his willingness to see only magic?

  4. This is making me think of Blaine as Tam Lin (the stolen child) and Kurt as Janet, especially given the pregnancy meta around Kurt in Season 3. Is what he gave birth to…Blaine, the new post-Dalton Blaine?

    Given next episode, the ‘hold on no matter what’ motif from *Tam Lin* becomes particularly compelling…

  5. A note about the cat: it’s a reasonably well-bred looking chinchilla Persian. Unless it was being used on another set, it’s like 100% unlikely it was allowed to wander anywhere at all. Even then, I don’t tend to let people handle my cats unnecessarily — I’ve only done photoshoots, but it freaks them out enough without passing them around for the craic.

    Incidentally, that’s the same breed kept by Blofeld (the face looks different because breeding in Persians has leaned towards the extreme in recent years). Doctor Evil had a Sphynx.

    Also — did Pav have a successor? When Kurt was given Pav he was told he was part of an unbroken line… but had he already contributed to some new birds, or did he die before he could carry on the legacy? And if he did (as, honestly, I always assumed he did), did Kurt bear witness to the end of a Dalton legacy?

  6. I’m loving this. Faerie tales aren’t that cuddly to begin with. Many stories warn of their dangerous caprice, of the power they have to steal mortals away and cast illusions. Friendly when they feel like it, but are essentially inhuman. Thankfully Kurt was no mere mortal but a magician, and he more or less resisted Dalton’s influence during his time there.

    Even how Klaine got together had a slightly unnerving slant to it, romantic as it was. At the very beginning Blaine was friendly but elusive, serving as the apprentice-hero’s helpful guide in the foreign world he stumbled into. As the story progressed and Klaine got together, we saw the flipside to the myths: it is possible to capture faeries too (look at the Selkie myths for an example). I don’t know what sort of magical serendipity happened in Kurt’s case, but somehow after a canary keeled over dead he suddenly found himself as the full and sole owner of Blaine’s heart. (I think there’s something to be said here about the connection between mortality and humanity. See also: Sebastian’s heel-face-turn during OMW). It plays into this idea that Blaine was freed from Dalton, but in a very real sense he was also stolen. That’s probably why the “Warblers try to get Blaine back” plot keeps rehashing itself.

    Forced capture is often the sad lot of magical creatures in myth, but as you mentioned Blaine is an aberration, and so is Kurt. Those goofy kids are in love. Sebastian underestimated Blaine’s devotion, assuming that like any faerie Blaine would be a faithless lover, that his sojourn with Kurt out of Dalton was a temporary distraction. Big mistake, but the question now comes: what happens when Kurt, Blaine’s keeper (or at least his heart’s keeper), is no longer there? It makes me wonder if Blaine is still under any kind of magical protection, or if he now finds himself vulnerable without Kurt. He already seems restless and on edge at McKinley. That the head Warbler is now a guy literally named “Hunter”? That’s just plain nerve-racking.

    If what you said about the heart-based versus status-based environment is true, then even if Klaine doesn’t break up Blaine really, really needs his heart back for this. Kurt kept it for him, now he needs to take it for his own in all its messiness, and still make the choice to be human. To reject the eternal certainty of Dalton and trust himself instead. I’ll be interested to see how Blaine will react this time to Dalton’s seasonal call.

  7. What even support your theory even more is that spoilers point to Blaine singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side” at Dalton with the Warblers.

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