The New Normal: Who are these adorable characters and why won’t they stop crying?

When it comes to television viewing, one of the only things harder than watching a beloved character cry is watching a bunch of characters you don’t know yet cry. It’s awkward. You don’t know how you’re supposed to feel, even as you’re being bonked over the head with the message to have a heart-warming moment.

Luckily, Ryan Murphy’s new sitcom, The New Normal, is apparently all about the awkward, or else being asked to watch three different characters cry at least once (there are a lot of misty eyes and bitten lips at various other moments as well) in our twenty-five minute first meeting would be even more uncomfortable than it already is.

Honestly, the pilot is charming, and far more cogent than I expected based on the early previews (hint: some of the weakest material is in those ads, so I strongly suggest giving the show a chance, where it shines is largely stuff you haven’t seen in the teasers). It’s also so sentimental, even in the face of Bryan’s hopefully soon-to-be-explained shallowness and our heroine’s grandmother’s epic bigotry, that it’s almost immediately a pleasure of an entirely guilty and preferably private sort.

Like most of Murphy’s work, The New Normal (a phrase I still associate the most strongly with bond firm PIMCO, so I certainly hope they’re amused), telegraphs almost immediately that it is a faerie tale when Goldie (yes, really) has a very bad no good day while dressed in a cap-sleeved and aproned work uniform that just screams a budget version of any number of storybook princesses.

She’s sleeping, of course, and not following her dreams until she gets a wake-up call in the form of her cheating partner, her vicious grandmother, and her cleverer-than-all-of-them-daughter. One stolen car and several thousand miles from Ohio later, Goldie meets her fairy god princes who are going to help her become a lawyer since she’s going to help them have a baby! Sure, it’s not a neat allegory, but the show is about how nothing’s neat when it comes to family; it’ll do for now.

Meanwhile, even in the first episode we can already start checking off items from The Tropes of Ryan Murphy and that’s before we even get to the Sudden-Onset Bisexuality episode that’s so clearly looming in the future I’m forced to confess that I like television because it’s predictable.

The New Normal isn’t a great show, yet, but it could be, especially once the people we’re forced to watch cry no longer feel like strangers to us. In the meantime, it’s weirdly sweet, gratifyingly mundane, has a really cute dog, and led to a hilarious round of “Wait, which one is Klaine and which one is Blair?” from Patty (who doesn’t watch Glee but is often forced to follow along vicariously with results like that, that, in their own way, speak to the degree to which the Bryan and David resemblance to Kurt and Blaine is almost entirely superficial, Ryan Murphy’s ever increasingly hilarious Twitter presence aside).

While the show itself premiers on September 11th, you can catch it early on the NBC website or Hulu or, as usual, just catch the .gif highlights via Tumblr.

True Blood: This use of “Teenage Dream” feels oddly familiar

While we wait for the fall TV season to begin, and I wonder how many shows I’m actually going to manage to keep up with, one of the things I’m also watching right now is True Blood. It’s not intentional, it’s just that Patty is a fan, so it’s on, on Sunday evenings, and I keep up on it for the sake of household conversation — much the way she really can’t stand Glee but knows everything about Kurt and Blaine and insists she actually cares when I tell her about it (what can I say, she’s a generous soul).

Last night, however, as Tumblr was melting down from spoilers from the Glee filming in NYC, True Blood gave us a moment I can’t really help but share with you all, despite offering a lack of analysis, because it’s a darkly delightful use of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” that’s actively funnier if you read this blog.

The scene features Russell Edgington (take a minute with that name, would you?), recently returned from the nearly permanently dead to undead vitality and epic bad behavior, dancing to the strains of “Teenage Dream” with the Reverend Steve Newland, former anti-vampire hate preacher, who’s now a vampire himself. And just in case that wasn’t clear enough, for bonus gay allegory, they’re now an item — Newland having left his perfect blonde wife, and Edgington’s former partner being brutally dispatched in the midst of an ugly vampire feud a couple of seasons ago.

The “Teenage Dream” lyrics, of course, are perfect — two vampires dancing amongst blood and gore as Katy Perry sings about staying young forever is a great way to remind us that pop-culture and bubble gum songs aren’t always so innocent. But the construction of the scene also made me cackle loudly, not just because I watch Glee, which also used the song in its own rather unforgettable way, but because of the degree to which the themes and visuals remain oddly the same from one show to the other.

Maybe it’s the wood-paneled room. Maybe it’s that I’m pretty sure the sea of corpses Edgington and Newland are dancing amongst is entirely made of men (frat house, all boys school — what’s the difference?). Maybe it’s that everything is so new and magical to Newland. Or maybe it’s, if you’ve been watching True Blood faithfully (even in the not exactly intentional way I have been), the degree to which a major plot point currently revolves around the faerie kingdom, and how Edgington wants to enslave it for his own in order to enable himself and Newland, and their kind, to come out of the shadows and walk in the day.

The degree to which it felt like a corruption of the Glee scene (and while True Blood often plays hard with other pop-culture, I wouldn’t trust myself to hazard a guess on the intentionality of this) — from the dead men to the alcohol to something that is anything but the glorious romance of children — was not insignificant.

Regardless of why this scene exists, it gave me a good and disturbing laugh last night, and I imagine it’ll merit an odd chuckle from many regular readers of this blog as well. Enjoy!

Glee: Connecting the dots on the Warblers’ fall

While I feel like I’ve spent most of the summer making lists of shows I wish I could keep up with and write about (The Newsroom, Political Animals, and a cut of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies not edited for US TV. Since that spectacle was about the importance of storytelling in forming identity — whether for children or for nations — I really had wanted to write about it), Ryan Murphy’s gone and got himself on Twitter and has released a spate of deleted Glee scenes.

These have included the infamous box scene (in which Blaine gives Kurt a promise ring), the bridesmaids scene that leads up to Rachel and Finn not getting married due to Quinn’s car accident, and an amazing first season moment between Rachel and Jesse set to “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love” from A Chorus Line. That Rachel and Jesse scene, in particular, merits a significant amount of time an attention all to itself, because it focuses on Rachel’s relationship to sexuality as both tool and reward, which are ideas very much in play when she loses her virginity to Finn in the third season, also present around the evolution of Emma and Will’s relationship, and nearly completely absent from the Kurt and Blaine narrative.

But, since there’s also a long lost Dalton scene that’s just been released, Rachel and Jesse are going to have to wait.

“I Want You Back” was originally slated for the “Michael” episode, and it’s another moment where the fallen Warblers under Sebastian Smythe come off as sexually menacing. If the performance had appeared where it was supposed to, between “Uptown Girl” which just hints at some darkness having contaminated the Warblers, and “Smooth Criminal,” in which it becomes clear just how much of the “Michael” episode is at least metaphorically about rape and response to rape, we wouldn’t have had to connect the dots on the Internet, because Sebastian’s escalation from coveting something, to pressing for something, to taking/ruining what he can’t have, would have happened far more clearly on our screens.

The flip side of that narrative would have also been clearer from Blaine’s initial sense of being flattered and uncomfortably interested in Sebastian to Blaine being annoyed and feeling like he can’t say no to him. Kurt’s complete unwillingness to leave Blaine’s side in “I Want You Back” is telling, because it doesn’t read like jealousy or possessiveness, it reads like fear for another person who’s already vulnerable.

Of course, Blaine is not the only target or illustration of Sebastian and the fallen Warblers. That Artie’s chair has to be carried in and out of the room where the confrontation takes place is extremely telling. In Blaine’s era, Dalton was a place for everyone, and while we didn’t see anyone who used a wheelchair at Dalton during that time period, I feel sure were supposed to assume that Dalton was enthusiastically ADA compliant given how Blaine spoke of the school.

But there’s no room for someone like Artie there now, and it speaks volumes both that New Directions cooperates to get him into and out of that scene, and that it’s through Blaine’s ongoing need to deal with the Warblers that Dalton is only able to become vaguely and inadequately accessible to Artie once again.

Santana and Rachel also get targeted in this scene. With Rachel, that menace is brief, and sexual, and it almost seems like Sebastian loses interest in trying to intimidate her when it seems like she’s not even entirely clear on what she should be afraid of from him. Santana, however, is another story — there are too many ways for Sebastian to target her: sex, race, and class are all weapons he uses against her, in this scene and others, with abandon.

Class, in particular, becomes an explicit, if unexplained, issue in a way it usually doesn’t on Glee at the end of this scene, because Blaine — whose family wealth and social class is a matter of intense debate on Tumblr and in fanfiction circles — tells Sebastian he was proud to be a Warbler because, in part, they were “classy,” and this display wasn’t.

This rather ineffective and uncomfortably delivered attempt at a put down implies two really fascinating things about Blaine.

The first is that while he is relatively good at ingratiating himself into a given environment, Blaine is terrible at code switching. He certainly fit into Dalton when he was there, but when he tries in this scene to insult the Warblers on their terms after he’s left, he can’t quite pull it off. When you’re a person who lives in and between multiple worlds (which is an ongoing issue for Blaine on several fronts because of his school history and the passing issues he encounters related to race, gender, and sexuality) and you’re bad at code switching, one of the things it can mean is that while you usually seem to almost fit in if no one looks too closely, you actually never do — not with the people you’re like, and not with the people others think you’re like.

The second thing the “classy” remark brings up is Blaine’s relationship with sex. Because while Blaine might be criticizing the cruel and threatening way he and his friends were just treated, he may also just be criticizing the ridiculous and over accentuated hip action of the choreography. After all, let’s not forget Blaine’s “not for sale.” Blaine’s narrative bounces between sex-positivity, slut-shaming, and what eventually seems to become real fear in the face of Sebastian’s aggressively sexual advances, and that doesn’t get any less unsettling just because this scene happens to fill in some blanks. This moment is very much in line with things about Blaine’s past on which I’ve speculated before, and the way Kurt keeps close to him really underscores that for me.

Finally, there’s one other sort of delightful yet horrifying nod to class issues in this scene, that I have no way of integrating into the rest of this article, but is too amazingly weird not to mention: Kurt Hummel is wearing white shoes. To Dalton. I don’t know how commonly known this slang is any more or if it is used much outside of my region, but a “white shoe” firm historically refers to old, moneyed, and highly successful banking, law, or consulting firms that serve blue chip corporations and are known for their discretion, conservatism, and, to be frank, WASPishness. Many of those Dalton boys surely have fathers at white shoe firms and will one day be bound for them themselves.

For Kurt “one day you’ll all be working for me” Hummel, who is the son of a proudly successful blue collar man, to wear actual white shoes to Dalton, is that character’s personal and peculiar viciousness (and the Glee costume department) at its very finest. Because that type of trivia is exactly the sort of thing Kurt collects and uses all the time, even when no one else in the room is likely to notice; Kurt Hummel is a writhing ball of cultural references, and it’s one of the reasons this show is so much fun for me to write about.

At any rate, in many ways, we did not need “I Want You Back” placed into “Michael” as it ultimately aired — after all, we were able to do the math that this cut now, in some cases confirms, or at least supports. But its release is incredibly valuable not just in forming arguments about what’s really going on in Glee and the faerieland at its borders, but for asserting that there is an actual point to indulging in all this analysis. “I Want You Back” fills in holes in a way that makes it much easier to say to those who disagree that the show clearly does plan arcs and engages in argumentation, even if it, quite literally, has a tendency to replace too many of its numbers with variables.

Hopefully Ryan Murphy will keep treating us to these delicious goodies from the vaults.

The Land of Stories: When the fourth wall is a doorway

In many ways, I am the worst possible person to review Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories. Not only am I not a middle grade reader, I often loathed books appropriate for my age group even as a child because I felt they were too overt in the lessons they were trying to impart and the narrative tricks they were engaging in to do so.

“Oh look, another book about some girl who communes with wolves that will teach me about the importance of self-reliance, algebra, and offering loving respect to my parents,” I would start monologuing each May when faced with my annual the summer reading list requirements. That stuff made me bitter.

I can’t tell you that Colfer’s book necessarily avoids content that stirs that reaction in me, but I also can’t tell you it should. After all, not only was I cantankerous about these sorts of books as a child, I am certainly not a middle grade reader now, nor am I the parent of one.

But, aside from the necessary content and structural oddities of book designed for this age group, there’s a ridiculous amount of interest in The Land of Stories. Some of it, such as the sure to be endlessly quoted “unicorns don’t have rabies” discussion, is mostly just hilarious, even if I can’t help but link the discussion of one-horned magical creatures and disease to the use of “unicorn” as a way of discussing Kurt Hummel’s queerness on Glee and finding a witty, and unfortunately necessary, indignance in the remark.

Much of it, however, is overtly poignant not only in the context of the book, but unavoidably unsettling in the context of its authorship. One of the first, and most crystalline examples of this comes in the protagonists’ meeting with Queen Cinderella:

“What was it like?” Alex asked Cinderella. “What was it like to go from being a servant to being a queen? What was it like to be saved from a horrible situation? Your life is literally… well… a Cinderella story.”

A sadness came to Cinderella’s face.

“I never thought my life would change so drastically, so I always made the most of what I had,” Cinderella said.

“… living a public life is a difficult thing to do, and even now I still find it a bit overwhelming. No matter what you do, you can never please everyone. And that was the hardest lesson to learn. In fact, I am still learning it.”

The actual passage is several times the length of what is quoted above, and is not necessarily even the book’s most startling moment. In fact, each interaction with the queens of the storybook world can arguably be read on two levels, one of which is fixed outside of the narrative of the novel. In case you’re curious, the kings Charming (they’re brothers) fare less well as attractive and largely interchangeable cardboard cutouts.

The Evil Queen’s remarks on ambition are perhaps the other, most precise moment of double vision the book provides:

“Every driven person comes from a mountain of pain they wish to keep hidden,” the Evil Queen said.

Certainly there is something sly and uncomfortable about the queens of a series of storybook kingdoms serving as the clearest representation of the authorial voice, when that author is the one in question. If this is intentional on Colfer’s part, it’s a delightful and pointed play on expectation and underscores the allegorical queerness in a book that isn’t really queer at all (except perhaps when Conner tells us he really, really can’t let the guys at school find out about his newly discovered ancestry). And, if it is unintentional on Colfer’s part, the reader response to it makes for a no less compelling conversation.

It’s statements like Evil Queen’s on ambition, however, that also make the book interesting regardless of authorship. Among other things, I wonder what it would be like to read that sentence as an eight-year-old. What does that sentiment — which rings very true to me — impart to a person of that age? It doesn’t seem like all those boring lessons about wolves and algebra and loving my mother at all.

Where The Land of Stories excels as literature is in the voices and dilemmas of its adults. Colfer’s ability to juggle multiple narrative voices is interesting, and I probably shouldn’t be surprised that as an actor he clearly has the most fun with the parts of the narration that come to us in the first person.

Much like Struck by Lightning, Colfer’s freshman film effort that I believe will be in general release soon, the adult stories which we see in passing through the eyes of children with bigger concerns linger because Colfer suffuses the adult relationships with loss and longing, knowing that in his fairytale book the ending everyone craves — happily ever after — is innately boring.

Ultimately, while I am reasonably sure that The Land of Stories is a clever, competent, and viciously funny middle grade book that will be deeply pleasing particularly to children who feel peculiar because of how their intelligence manifests, The Land of Stories impressed me for the way in which it emphasizes and exemplifies the infinite nature of story telling: A young man who is living what some would call a fairytale writes a novel about two children who fall into a fairytale and then navigate that world through the journals and stories of others, while the reader, upon noticing these layers of narrative, unavoidably also extends the story in ways that were, if not surely unintended then are, at least, intentionally unacknowledged.

If nothing else The Land of Stories is a unique entry in the annals of transformative work as the narrative performs multiple functions and extends multiple stories for several, often disparate audiences, simultaneously.

The Hunger Games: Deathmatch – American Idol vs. Upfronts

Yesterday, I asked Patty if the reason YA is interesting to people is a desire for more mythic texts and more texts that are about myth-making. My argument, such as it was (I don’t read or what enough YA material to call it an argument comfortably), was this: because YA is arguably “simpler,” the stories it tells are unavoidably more mythic and iconic.

Patty is pretty sure I was wrong (and since she is super smart and really into YA, is probably herself correct), and said that YA is popular because it’s a genre that’s allowed to be experimental and therefore offers high returns for lower time investment, and my mythic argument is a result of self-selection and the lens I read everything I like through.

Because it’s not just Brave that is a story about how stories get made. The Land of Stories (which I have a copy of again and so a review is imminent) is also very much about the construction of myth. As is The Hunger Games, which was what we were waiting to see at the time of the convo.

I’d seen it before, actually, but hadn’t found the energy to write about it in what has been a busy and chaotic 2012. Patty hadn’t managed to catch it in Delhi though, and I was excited to take a look at it without comparing it to the book or feeling like I would have to write about it because it’s so focused on the construction of fame.

It’s really a ridiculously good movie for what it is. The craft is exceptional, the adaptation is interesting, and it expands on parts of the world meaningfully in recompense for where it had to excise material for time and clarity. It also owes some of its most effective moments to the DNA of some of my absolutely favorite films, and it’s that slyness — and the fact that the film doesn’t exist in a vacuum of a hot thing of the moment money grab — that makes it such a pleasure to watch.

The largest influence is arguably The Truman Show. While reality TV existed when it was released, it still showed up in movie theaters two years before Survivor was first on US screens. What it indicted and asked us to collude in was something that we were neither deluged with nor asked to be responsive to in 1998. It was, more conspicuously than most films that get dammed with this faint praise, very much ahead of its time.

But it’s all over The Hunger Games in the attention the film adaptation pays to Seneca Crane and the arena’s game team, which operates with a sterility and dispassion reminiscent of what films insist are true about things like operating theaters and NASA control rooms.

Particularly, the way The Hunger Games shows us the segment where Katniss is directed away from the edge of the arena, feels like the scramble in the control room in The Truman Show when Truman’s determination to get to the edge of the world becomes clear. I imagine this similarity will only become more visible in Catching Fire considering that the Tributes do actually succeed in breaking the arena open and escaping it.

But another big piece of film DNA in The Hunger Games comes from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The scenes of rioting in Rue’s district (the only part of the film to make me cry both times), the images of Katniss’s father in the mine shaft elevator, and even the positioning of Katniss as both innocent and temptress, are all things that reference Metropolis both visually and conceptually.

Both these sets of references are ridiculously satisfying. They root the world of The Hunger Games into a story we’ve been told before, but instead of making it seem repetitive, it helps makes it mythic (beyond the already excellent job Collins did with epithets in the original book that helped make the narrative sound so much like oral history at given points: the girl who was on fire and the boy with the bread — these are not characters who need names, for they are not people, but ideas). It also helps to underscore that in any future we imagine — at any time — we are always tempted, it seems, by the same mistakes of idolatry, imprisonment, and violence.

One thing that I’ve heard The Hunger Games likened to again and again is American Idol or other reality competition shows where fame is an explicit prize as opposed to an implicit one. But that’s not what I saw in Haymitch’s quest for sponsors, and Ceasar Flickerman’s odd mix of absurdity and gravitas (seriously, who is Ceasar Flickerman when he’s alone? That’s my fanfiction question of the day). I kept seeing upfronts.

Upfronts are a funny thing, because they’re about advertising dollars — sponsors — and they are something the broader audience never used to be aware of (and in all fairness, I had to explain them to a friend just a few weeks ago). Yet, there are adverts about them on the buses in New York now, and fan cultures have been paying attention to the events, parties, and performances related to them for at least a few years now.

Because while the Hunger Games are meant to instill fear and loyalty and submission in the districts, they are really just for the Capital, the sponsors, the stylists, and the creators, and while they are arguably about celebrating the tributes, they’re really about examining the goods and making the most lucrative bets that can be made.

While TV isn’t going to kill anyone, no matter what The Hunger Games, The Truman Show, and, while we’re at it, Max Headroom (remember blipverts?) say, the disconnect between what upfronts are and what they pretend to be even though everyone knows better is hard to miss, at least if you know enough people in the business. “It’s all very checking horses’ teeth,” a friend who’s been a part of the upfronts game has said to me more than once, and it’s one of those things I can’t ever seem to forget.

Ultimately, while The Hunger Games is busy being a cautionary tale (you don’t want fame — you don’t want to be Haymitch or Katniss or Glimmer or, for that matter, Seneca Crane), it’s also one that tells us that a lot of the stuff we often like to say is the end of the world as we know it — e.g., American Idol — isn’t actually that bad. The really creepy stuff in the industry actually huddles in other corners.

At least for now. Because the other thing The Hunger Games has in common with the films it gets so much of its DNA from is that it’s all about convergence. When the mechanism is also the entertainment, that’s when things get really messy. At least that’s what I can’t stop thinking every time another over-packaged behind-the-scenes video gets released from a movie or TV show I love, or there’s another ad about upfronts that makes absolutely no sense to 95% of the people who see it on NYC public transit.

Like The Truman Show and Metropolis, The Hunger Games is likely to age strangely and seem, at a given point, quaint. And that’s probably exactly when we should really worry.

Brave: Threatdown – Bears!

Last night Patty took me to see Brave, and this review actually has nothing to do with the significant bear content, but as a regular watcher of The Colbert Show I couldn’t resist the title.

At any rate, as I think I have mentioned in these pages before, I don’t really see animated features as my thing, but she’s judicious about the ones she takes me to, and I’m nostalgic enough that Pixar’s insistence on placing a short before the main feature really charms me.

While Brave‘s animation is surely a technical achievement (the hair!), what’s particularly interesting is how the structure of the script makes its format — that of an animated feature — a necessary part of the storytelling mechanism. Because while Brave is about a girl and her mother overcoming the pitched war that often goes on between mothers and daughters at some point in their lives, Brave is also, thanks in part to a very judicious use of a voiceover, about the creation of legend.

And, because Merida’s voiceover in the film suggests, when combined with her father’s recounting of his battle with a bear that everyone has heard so many times they can tell it along with him, that what we are witnessing is her story as it has come to be told as opposed to the events as they happened, Brave provides an access point for people who distrust or just don’t have the receptor sites for animated features. Because if we’re being told a legend — a broad tale meant to teach us a lesson — its not being live-action is, in its way, more honest.

It’s a fabulous trick in a film that gives repeated shout-outs to stories and story-telling: there are the troublesome triplets that turn into the three bears; Merida, like Robbin Hood, splits an arrow already occupying the bullseye location on a target; the witch’s head in the caldron evokes the The Wizard of Oz; and the importance of storytelling technologies, from oral tradition to woven tapestry is plot central.

Prior to seeing Brave, I had been warned that it’s slight, but I really don’t think it is. Rather, the film has three things happening at once — comedy; structure about storytelling; and a narrative about freedom and duty. While, as audiences, we are deeply used to films about masculine honor and duty (see: Gladiator as perhaps the most obvious example of hundreds if not thousands of films), we’re not used to, I don’t think, films about feminine honor and duty where obligations are both questioned and ultimately met through change. This, combined with the lack of romantic resolution in the film could, I suppose, make it easy to miss the amount that happens and changes in the course of it.

Also contributing to the idea that the film is slight, may be the degree to which Merida and her disinterest in marriage is something of a cypher. Is she supposed to be echoing forward to some idea of Queen Elizabeth with her red hair and statement that only she is worthy of her own hand? Is she asexual? Is she lesbian? Is she just far too young to be interested in marriage? The film never tells us, but this is less a failing and more another structural nod to the construction of legends: Merida is whatever we need her to be. It’s an awfully dutiful role for a character that just wants her freedom.

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.