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.