Glee: Tune in to FY Glee Podcast, Episode 2 (“Women of Glee”)

There’s a new podcast in town and while I’m at Gallifrey One this weekend, the fandom streams will be crossing as I take part in a podcast on the too-often-over-looked in my corner of the fandom women of Glee. This time everyone who is participating actually likes the show more or less too!

We’ll be going live at 1pm EST on February 16th, and recordings and transcripts will be available after the fact. For more information on how to tune in, who the other panelists are, and how to ask questions in advance, please go here.

Edited to add: An archive version of this podcast is now available on YouTube.

Glee: Building masculinity

I’ve written before about how in the world of Glee being a girl is something that happens to you, but if that’s true, being a boy must be something else entirely. 

Glee has always been preoccupied with ideas around the construction of masculinity including its multiple plot lines in which various people try to “man up” or figure out how to “be a man,” usually in response to issues driven by male authority figures who also have peer status to the parties concerned: Artie (the director in New Directions), Finn (the team captain and now stand in faculty adviser of New Directions) or Schuester (the faculty adviser and original man-child of Glee).

Recently, however, this need to create masculinity as something separate from innately feminine existence and its consequences, has been more explicitly on display than ever before, with the centerpiece being “Sadie Hawkins.”

I’ve written about Sadie Hawkins dances before and their place within Glee’s narrative and the characterization of Blaine Anderson.  Here, while that backstory only got a light and somewhat sanitized mention (Tina thinks Blaine was bullied at a Sadie Hawkins dance, not beaten), the tradition itself is used to highlight how masculine identity and ritual is constructed in the world of WMHS.

Men, with their power removed to ask girls to the dance, immediately begin to experience the idea that being a girl, or at least not being a boy, is something that happens to you. The lack of agency the straight boys feel as they wait for girls to ask them to the dance is explicitly stated. Blaine, whose gender construction on Glee remains both complex and mysterious if cast in Western dichotomies, is pursued by Tina and not given the opportunity to say no.  And, the Cheerio with the neck-brace is seen menacingly oggling, confronting, and blocking the escape routes of men she finds desirable.

Meanwhile, the girls, told to enact a masculine roll, find themselves needing to construct a visual platform from which to do so.  It’s no accident that the women of the episode are placed repeatedly in dresses that reference peacock plumage in color and detail, and that we even have a dance number in which they quite conspicuously shake their tail feathers.

Similarly, it is no accident that this is the episode in which Sam discovers not only that the Warblers have cheated, but that their violation and falsehood revolves explicitly around constructing masculinity through the use of steroids.

All of these details suggest masculinity as a product of fear and a responsiveness to wishing to avoid the consequences of being a girl which are clearly unpleasant even if mostly unfamiliar to the not often empathetic men of McKinley.

This construction of masculinity theme, however, continues beyond the episode and into “Naked.”  Here we see the boys not just trying to sell themselves as heart throbs, but working hard both physically and through illusion (from costumes to spray tans) to create that image. It is a narrative that culminates in Sam struggle not to see his body as more important than his total self, something that is resolved by Blaine who has perhaps greater insight instinctively if not intellectually into the absurdity of the masculinity game but his placement along the gender continuums at WMHS.

This focus on masculinity as constructed, and therefore false (and let’s remember, Glee is obsessed with the authentic vs. performative self, genders these concepts, and rewards and punishes them differently. Femininity is viewed authentic on Glee. Masculinity is not. Authenticity is praised, but punished, because it is audacious and confrontational to a normativity-obsessed society), seems unlikely to end any time soon.

The preview Ryan Murphy released of Beyonce’s “Diva” as performed by the women of New Directions and Blaine appears, at first, to highlight a constructed femininity.  However, this isn’t actually true.  As the song tells us, “A diva is a female version of a hustla,” and so femininity here is only constructed because of its imitation of masculinity. This suggestion that feminine artifice does not negate innate feminine authenticity is underscored by Tina’s gendered insults towards Unique and Marley calling her out on them: It doesn’t matter what Unique wears, she is still always a woman.

“Diva,” through its runway staging, also brings us yet another moment this season that highlights the constant presence of the camera lens, documentation, and exposure. This ties consistently into gender, sexuality, and safety on Glee, but I’ll save that for another post.

Gallifrey One: Schedule

ImageIt’s not even February yet, but there’s no time like the present to start obsessing on my annual trip to Gallifrey One (February 15 – 17, 2013).  I’ll be getting in late Wednesday night and probably won’t be consistently close to con until the opening ceremonies on Friday.

I’ve got just one panel this year, called “Love and Monsters” (details below) and focusing on the way we often engage with properties we love by talking about how much we hate them.  This is, I suspect, slightly apropos after my recent appearance on Fandomspotting as the person who actually likes Glee.

Do feel free to say hi if you see me around, even if we haven’t met before.  I am always juggling a lot of weird things when I’m out there, so if I need to dash, please don’t take it personally.  I’ll be promoting Doctor Who in Time and Space and maybe some other stuff if I’m allowed to discuss those projects by then.  As ever ribbons reflecting some particularly terrible in-jokes and rose-flavored macaroons may be on hand if you’re very, very nice.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Love & Monsters: Doctor Who fans love a party, in person or online… but when has it gone too far? We have online communities galore, but why do people continue to discuss shows they admittedly don’t care for anymore? Why do they keep watching even if they haven’t enjoyed it for years, and how long should they stick with it? Is it unfair to heavily criticize a property while the other viewers are still enjoying it — or is it, as others claim, a necessary part of the fan process? We’ll take up the debate about when fandom goes too far, and when it’s stopped being fun. (Friday 9:30pm Program B – Lisa Carroll, Mike Doran, Tammy Garrison, Shelley Hunt, Racheline Maltese)

Glee: Tune in to Fandomspotting, Episode 15 (“Better than Regionals!”)

fandom_spottingWhile I owe this space comments on Anna Karenina and David Bowie’s new single, the only thing I’m sure of the when and where of right now is this Sunday’s episode of live-podcast, Fandomspotting.

Fandomspotting focuses on a different fandom every week (recent previous episodes have included Les Mis and hockey fandom. Not together), and this week it’s Glee.

I’ll be on the panel along with the oft mentioned here (and oft in my living room) Rae Votta; Dr. Catherine Tosenberger, a Glee fan and academic; Tamila who is one of the creators of The Box Scene Project. Gleefulfan from Tumblr has meanwhile taken up what was perhaps this week’s most dreaded job in fandom — moderating this thing.

Fandomspotting airs this Sunday, January 13 at 5pm UTC (Noon EST) on Youtube. Please tune in!

Glee: Eroticism and instruction

Glee has always, necessarily and unavoidably, offered us a clear link between desire and instruction. It’s there in Rachel’s early crush on Will Schuester and Kurt’s fascination with David Martinez and Cooper Anderson. It’s also present, whether we like it or not, because Sandy Ryerson and April Rhodes both exist.

Meanwhile, Quinn’s affair with her teacher at Yale; Cassandra’s relationship with Brody; Brody’s relationship with Rachel; as well as the high probability that a WMHS student in the crush-focused episode 4.11 (“Sadie Hawkins”) will have a thing for Finn while Kurt also grapples with interest from and in an older man, makes it clear that this dynamic is currently the subject of particular narrative focus.

This eroticization of instruction, however, is not exclusively about sex acts or the desire for them. This is particularly evident around Kurt, despite his long and overt history with the theme even beyond the examples cited above (Blaine, of course, enters Kurt’s life as a mentor character and while they’re still friends, offers, to not great effect, to teach him about being sexy).

While it’s, of course, impossible to listen to Chris Colfer’s remarkable interpretation of “Being Alive” from Company (it’s all over Tumblr and I’ll post an official link as soon as I have one), which Kurt will be singing in this week’s episode (4.9, “Swan Song”) without thinking of the current negotiations and difficulties between Kurt and Blaine, the song serves another purpose, not just as Kurt’s re-audition for NYADA, but as a narrative about erotics that is not necessarily directly connected to sexual desire or Kurt’s romantic entanglements.

This blog speaks often about Kurt’s relationship with Death, and as such, it is impossible to listen to “Being Alive” and not be particularly struck by the part of the song that is a plea from the singer to “make me alive.” This, after Kurt’s voice has been mostly silent this season, as he’s first been depressed about not getting into NYADA and then talked about feeling like he’s dying in the wake of Blaine’s betrayal, is startling.

But things have also not been all bad for Kurt. He has, for the first time, adults giving him advice that is shaping. Cassandra sends him back to Ohio to make him look at Blaine and what he did, while Isabelle who is, like Kurt, also marked with death symbols (mostly in the form of skull- and phoenix- related jewelery) tells him to take control of that relationship, even if it is ending and then embraces him after a song in which Kurt’s main line is “mother” (largely because “Let’s Have a Kiki” was cleaned up for TV).

These events are unique in Kurt’s experience because nearly everyone who has ever tried to offer him instruction or discuss the matter with him prior in the series has failed. But these women who have a darkness to them, mirroring the idea of Kurt’s dead mother, finally, start to fill this long missing function of meaningful instruction for him.

Will never knew what to do with Kurt. April Rhodes got him drunk. Blaine offered terrible and hurtful advice more than once (ultimately they learn together, but instruction from Blaine has always failed). Rachel, Brittany, and Finn all do Kurt harm through poor advice and advocacy on his behalf as well. Even Burt Hummel, who is definitely father of the year, tells Kurt he’ll have to go it alone creatively, and often throws his hands up and tells Kurt he’ll just have to wait various indignities out.

But Kurt, who still wants to go to NYADA, rejects this idea of having to remake the world by himself just so that he can fit in it. Yes, he’s a magician, but he’s been bumbling about in the dark with his power. It’s dangerous and confusing to him. It’s overlooked and frightening to others. And he needs.

In that context “Being Alive” is not just Kurt taking the emotions he has experienced over Blaine and transmuting them into a performance that makes Carmen Tibideaux rethink her annoyance with the song as an audition piece and let Kurt into NYADA. Rather it is Kurt begging for instruction in the tradition of a certain Internet story some of you may be familiar with regarding a tea cup begging to be put in the kiln.

Huge swathes of “Being Alive” can speak powerfully to an erotic understanding of instruction. In fact, for someone seeking instruction for a career in that which we call the creative arts, but should also be referred to as the emotional arts, most of the song can be read to speak to the way we often romanticize (and can benefit from) certain brutalities and perhaps excessive intimacies of instruction:

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive

This feels particularly truthful regarding Kurt, not only for the walls he puts up, but because the people that he has started to acquire in actually useful instructive roles are as vulnerable as he is, hence the singing of “as frightened as you.” The desire to have loyalty to an instructor as their subject and their product doesn’t come from nowhere. The affection he shows Isabelle from the moment he meets her as she worries about being a fraud and losing her job, and even towards Cassandra when they finally meet over her drama with Rachel, is clear.

While many people who are exposed to college-age actors often cruelly joke about where they’re going to find any stakes for their scene work, saying “‘My roommate drank my milk again’ only goes so far,” Kurt demonstrates in “Being Alive” that he has both emotional experience and the skill to convey that experience.

Yet, as much as “Being Alive” is a song of realization and maturity, it is also a song of begging. And in Kurt’s case, what he’s begging for is the ballet teacher who slaps your thigh with a ruler until you stop shaking and your leg goes higher. He’s begging for the instructor who says Again, again and again. He’s begging for the instructor from which he must learn that each criticism is an act of love and that he must have faith to hear it and see it and feel it.

Kurt is begging not to be the diamond (as Rachel always does) — not yet — but the carbon. He’s begging to be the teacup.

And this is one of the reasons, surely, that this episode is titled “Swan Song,” because this is the song of the ugly duckling becoming a swan. It’s not that Kurt achieves his full beauty in this moment, but rather, that he has somehow shaken off the useless and devastating brutality he’s endured (that helped make him a magician) to beg for the brutality of the instruction he’s finally willing and able to accept that he needs. And desires.

It’s a powerful, moving, and almost frightening naming of desire for the character and for the audiences (Doylist and Watsonian) watching him. It also speaks to the maturity and eroticism we’ve seen many characters try to claim in desire towards instructional figures. Yet, it’s only “a touch of the fingertips is as sexy as it gets” Kurt Hummel who gets the metaphor for what it is and takes it on for what it can really be worth.

Glee: Queerness, danger, and desire

While pondering the latest entry in the decline and fall of the Warblers, which is something I don’t think I’m going to comment on until after I see what “Whistle” looks like in 4.08 and how it intersects with Hunter’s introduction as “not even a little bit bi-curious” (which may not mean what you think it means), I started thinking about danger and desire on Glee, and how that linkage isn’t universal, but instead centered on the queer characters both as givers and receivers of risk, threat, and damage.

That’s not to say that desire doesn’t have big scary consequences for everyone on Glee. Even without being anything resembling the teen morality play the show often seems to be mistaken for, heterosexual sex and desire does have some admittedly serious consequences. After all, Quinn does get pregnant, and it’s worth remembering that Will and Terri Schuester were terrifyingly toxic together; Puck has arguably experienced statutory rape; Jesse’s a creep; Bieste had that domestic violence story, and a whole lot of friendships have been upended over and over again thanks to the heterosexual musical chairs at WMHS.

But all of that — from the realistic plotlines to the ones that would earn a side-eye from a soap opera — has nothing on the rather consistent darkness that seems to come with and from desire for Glee‘s queer characters. Where the straight characters risk heartbreak and being laughed at, queer characters face injury and violation as the result of desire, including desire from queer peers. This association is present from early on in the form of “predatory gay” Sandy Ryerson.

However, the link between danger and queer desire on Glee is present around far more than one unfortunate and fairly misleading stereotype. Kurt, for example, knows that being queer makes him seem dangerous to those who feel threatened by his desire, as when he and Finn have a showdown over his crush when the Hudsons first move in with the Hummels. Kurt also receives danger through desire in his interactions with Karofsky. And, of course, Karfosky’s not just a potential danger to Kurt, but to himself.

Closeted classmates aren’t the only way in which this link between queer desire and danger is present on Glee. Blaine, for example, identifies the desire of others as a threat to Kurt if he remains uneducated about sex in his chat with Burt. Additionally, Blaine is also injured by Sebastian, who aggressively indicates his sexual interest in Blaine in the episodes that lead up that event. Blaine also links danger and desire in his own interactions with Kurt when he gets drunk and sexually pushy with him after their visit to Scandals. And, of course, there is his Sadie Hawkins backstory.

Meanwhile, queer women on Glee aren’t exempted from this desire and danger link. Certainly, it’s hard to look away from the fact that when sexual assault clearly enters the Glee narrative it is through the queer female characters. Brittany, who is bisexual, frequently references events that seem to point to a history of non-consensual sex, while Santana deals with a threat of corrective rape once she can no longer avoid being out at WMHS. Additionally, she winds up in a disturbingly sexual confrontation with Sebastian in response to Blaine’s injury.

These events are not only different from the consequences of heterosexual desire on Glee mentioned previously, but also stand in stark contrast to events, such as Sam’s work as a stripper, that could be part of a narrative on the danger of desire, but aren’t, seemingly because they involve non-queer characters. In fact, when it comes to Sam being a stripper, it’s takes one of the queer kids (Blaine) to perceive and name the at least hypothetical danger present in that situation. Similarly, Puck’s interest in casual sex and sex work is played for laughs in a way that it’s not around Blaine’s random hookup and Santana’s promiscuity prior to coming out.

That this pattern seems to exist around characters and couples (Kurt and Blaine, Brittany and Santana) that have also received criticism for the chasteness of the on-screen portrayal of their romances and desires (Kurt even gets a narrative about finding sex scary, off-putting, and at odds with romance), despite the fact that both couples are canonically known to be sexually active as fairly significant plot points, is notable. It underscores how queer desire, or at least the portrayal of it, has not thus far seemed possible in the world of Glee without the presence of danger.

This association of queer desire and danger reflects, I think, not just the reality of some of the risks many queer teens experience when they express desire or are desired (and here we should all be keeping an eye on Unique when it comes to the next installment of this type of danger on Glee), but an older queer narrative as well. The presence of this particular narrative reinforces the ongoing discussion that Glee in general, and Glee‘s queerness in particular, is targeted not at current teen audiences but at 30- and 40-somethings who of course wanted a boyfriend who loved Bryan Ferry or Vivienne Westwood or a girlfriend who was just like all those cheerleaders on the cover of Sweet Valley High books.

This older queer narrative is, of coruse, one where queerness is identified as a mode of transmitting danger and can be considered to reference both historical, non-assimilationist queer culture and the way in which that non-assimilationism was both reinforced through and broken down by the specter of AIDS. Arguably, for someone who came out in the ’80s the links between queerness, danger, and desire were not only obvious then, but remain clear now, in a highly specific and and largely unvaried mode.

For a show that’s been rich in passing-related narratives that have often, but not exclusively, been centered around queerness, this link between queer desire and danger on Glee suggests a passing story taking place out beyond the fourth wall. In a world we often like to pretend is post-AIDS, and post-Matthew Sheppard, Glee shows us beautiful, young queer couples being publicly happy through America’s most public transmission-based medium. Yet, a the same time, Glee is also unable, or unwilling, to avoid the link between queer desire and the transmission of danger that too many of us watching (and presumably creating) the show grew up on.

Programming notes

Greetings from exceptionally sunny Toronto where I’m at Regeneration today in support of Doctor Who in Time and Space, which is now available for pre-order that link. I have an essay in it tentatively titled “Narrative Conflict and the Portrayal of Media, Public Relations and Marketing in Doctor Who.”

Speaking of time and space… I’ve been a bit lost in it lately. I’ve just gotten back from Switzerland where I was often working on Eastern Standard Time because of the election, before spending half of this week working from New York on European time for reasons other than jet lag; then there was a cat health drama (we have some very cute cats); and now we’re in Toronto.

I anticipate being back to my regular weekly (at least) blogging schedule by next week’s Glee episode, and catching up on other media media shortly. After all, Cloud Atlas still must be discussed; I suspect I’ll have things to say about the new Bond; the presence of “Sing!” on The New Normal can hardly be ignored; and The Carson Phillips Journal is out immanently.

I will be making at least one Glee post later today (I’m sneakily treating the Grease episodes as a duology to just my lack of recent content). For those of you looking for a media comment fix on the sorts of stuff usually mentioned here between now and then (I have to get in the shower to get ready to see a friend for brunch), you may wish to check out the discussions happening on FYeah Glee Meta! or get yourself a copy of Chicks Unravel Time, both of which are filled with great stuff from cool people I am thrilled fandom has brought into my life in one way or another.

Calling all Toronto-area Whovians!

I’ve just been added to programming at the Doctor Who Society of Canada’s one day conference, Regeneration, taking place in Toronto on November 17th. I’ll be there in support of Doctor Who in Time and Space, an academic reader forthcoming from McFarland that I have a piece in titled, “Narrative Conflict and the Portrayal of Media, Public Relations, and Marketing in New Doctor Who”

I’ll post the schedule of programming I’ll be participating in once I have it (as well as the book’s release date or pre-order info, which is also in that Real Soon Now category).

If you’ll be at the con and spend time in my little corner of the Internet, please do come say hello!

Glee: The costume department weighs in

Today, Rae Votta has an article, ““Fan Fashion of TV, from ‘Glee’ to ‘Gossip Girl’” on on Tumblr’s editorial site, Storyboard. Super tickling is that she got to ask the costume department about some of the things we talk about here.

Short version: the hanky code was not intentional, the death and transformation thing is, and sometimes a sweater vest is just a sweater vest. Additionally, the excellent color theory and character stuff some people have been blogging about is right on.

If you’re keeping score, I think that means we can call it a draw, because I’ve certainly always been clear that the sweater vest was likely meaningless from a Doylist standpoint point; from a Watsonian one everything is fair game. Also, let’s remember, analysis isn’t about what we’re told, but what we take in.

Meanwhile, I will also note, because someone has to, that while I am no fan of conspiracy theories and happy (and grateful) to take Glee’s costume team at its word, if the hanky code were a costuming in-joke in a show about teens that I had any involvement in, I wouldn’t cop to that either. So I think we can keep having plenty of unofficial amusement there.

Of course, the real excitement in the piece though (other than some fabulous art that gives a not just to Klaine but to fan favorite non-pairing Faberry), is the costume department admitting there are some in jokes in their choices, but not telling us what they are.

My top guesses? Kurt’s equestrian outfit (echoing the polo-related art and trophies in Blaine’s room) and that disaster of a Sunset Boulevard thing with the leather head wrap, both of which got mentioned here back in all the frenzy around “The First Time” when I was talking about Kurt and feminine modesty.

What are yours?

Glee: Passing and the ongoing disappearance of Blaine Anderson

Over the last couple of days, I’ve dug through all the Glee related entries I’ve posted here for mentions of passing. There are a lot of them, and they’re mostly related to Blaine around sexuality, gender, and race. They’re also mostly about my hope that Glee would deliver an actual plot line around passing.

Of course, hindsight is 20-20 and in fandom’s mad and excellent scramble to figure out what Blaine’s choices in “The Break Up” were about, it’s become clear, of course, that Blaine’s passing wasn’t just a bit of seasoning or a tease at a story that could be told. Rather, the narrative was — intentionally or not — unfurling all along.

In a show that’s ostensibly about underdogs, Blaine Anderson has always been a bit of a conundrum. Doesn’t he have too much going for him for us to really care about his problems? Certainly he’s been easy for a lot of viewers to resent, whether it’s been the “too nice, too boring” charge of my friend Shanna over at Don’t Turn It Off or just a general distaste for his prep school manners and privilege.

Blaine’s not, as far as I can tell, a character people have ambivalence about, because if Glee is about the triumph of underdogs, why does this dude, who really seems to have fewer obstacles than most of his WMHS peers get, among other things, all the solos?

But the fact that Blaine seems to have so many fewer problems than most of the other WMHS kids, is something that’s embedded in the character not just in the Doylist sense, but in a Watsonian sense as well. Blaine’s fine. Why worry about Blaine?

But Blaine isn’t fine; he just passes for fine.

Just like he’s gay, but can pass for straight at WMHS. We can argue (as a few enthusiastic people in my Ask on Tumblr often do) that Blaine can’t possibly he choosing to pass with those ridiculously short trousers and the bowties. Yet the fact remains that his outfits are based on classic menswear style, and he is seen being accorded masculine status (usually in opposition to Kurt) on repeated occasions.

From Bieste’s reaction to Blaine during the auditions for West Side Story to the choir room guys (particularly Puck and Artie) treating him like a “bro,” to Sam’s inaccurate insistence that Blaine isn’t into “gay” things that, canonically, we’ve seen that he’s absolutely in to — Blaine is, whether he wants to be or not, viewed as at least an honorary straight guy. We even see it when Kitty and her bullying friends pick on a group of New Directions members and Blaine’s sexuality doesn’t even merit a remark. WMHS hasn’t become suddenly not-homophobic; rather, Blaine just doesn’t ping their anxieties because he doesn’t visibly step out of boxes regarding gender and desire that trigger their discomfort.

In short, when it comes to sexuality and gender concerns, Blaine passes whether he wants to or not, just as Kurt doesn’t, whether he wants to or not.

But the matter of not being seen for what he is doesn’t end there for Blaine. Racial passing is also a theme in his narrative, even if its one that’s been given markedly less attention. However, aside from establishing his background with Rachel’s offhand “vaguely Eurasian babies” remark in Season 2, matters of race (and skin tone) have popped up around Blaine repeatedly. After the topic not having appeared at all this season, it shows up twice in remarks from Brittany during the election process in “Makeover.” In hindsight, that placement seems a critical reminder just before the shock of 4.04 that no one ever seems to see Blaine for what he is.

He’s gay, and passes for straight.

He’s a person of color who passes for white.

He’s gotten seriously physically hurt in canon twice, but there are no visible scars or wounds that force anyone to remember or acknowledge it happened.

These three items, combined with his talent, means he’s offered opportunities to perform, given the benefit of the doubt in social situations, and pursued as a friend and lover in ways that characters who can’t pass — Kurt, Mercedes, Artie, Santana and Becky (just to name a few; I have no idea what the show is doing or intends to do with Unique and the passing issue) — often aren’t.

But the thing is, Blaine’s not straight. He’s not white. And he’s not scar-free.

And those aren’t the only things he passes for. He also passes for responsible, supported, accepted, and just fine. With everyone. Even his boyfriend.

But Blaine’s not, necessarily, responsible (see his relationships with alcohol and sexuality). He certainly seems to be lacking in family support. And he’s not accepted by his peers, because the guy they often give acceptance to isn’t really him.

And he’s not, at the end of the day, fine, and that was clear to a lot of us by the time he performed “Cough Syrup,” if not sooner.

Blaine’s not fine because the passing is killing him.

But the thing about passing is that it’s complicated. It is not innately good nor bad. It’s a thing that some people can choose and some people can’t avoid. It’s a thing that can help some people be safe in some circumstances. It’s also a thing that can put a person at risk or make them feel like they are disappearing.

And disappearing is exactly what Blaine Anderson has been doing. His very existence is (in a marvelous bit of rubbing up against the fourth wall commentary) an exercise in persona. And, despite the people around him seeming to sense that something is wrong, the things they have done to help have either reinforced the disappearing Blaine is experiencing or underscored the futility of outside intervention in the construction and deconstruction of his identity.

One scene I keep lingering on in the wake of 4.04 is the argument Kurt and Blaine have in Emma’s office during the debacle with Chandler at the end of Season 3. One of the weirder and funnier things Blaine snaps at Kurt about is Kurt sneaking bronzer into his hand lotion.

“It looks weird,” Blaine says, “if a person just has tan hands.” Blaine is disappearing, and Kurt senses this, but can’t truly identify it and hasn’t the faintest clue how to actually stop the process. All he can do is hold on by what little he can reach.

The disappearance metaphor is heartbreaking in part because of how it ties into Blaine’s passing problems.

It’s also intriguing, because it reminds us again of the question of how much of the passing story regarding Blaine in Glee is Watsonian (in this case, internal and intrinsic to the story) and how much of it is Doylist (specifically, how convenient is it to a commercial narrative to feature a character who can be perceived as both gay and/or straight as well as PoC and/or white as individual audience members desire based on their own biases and narrative needs)?

Being a cypher, and being able to pass, seems, quite clearly, to be killing Blaine Anderson in the Watsonian sense. But it’s arguably, and unsettlingly, something that may well be being considered as quite useful in the marketing of the character.