So now, now I feel like burning through a little of that goodwill. If fact, I feel like setting the whole house on fire and watching the flames lap loudly against my still raging soul. Why? Well, because last night’s episode of “Glee” really fucking sucked.
It didn’t just suck because of the normal inconsequentialities and flagrant inconsistencies that can make “Glee” so frustrating for people who insist on living in a fact-based reality. I’m saying it sucked because for a show that prides itself on sending a message of tolerance and diversity, it sent a message of consequence-free outing and white-male salvation. It was severely misguided to give it the benefit of the doubt, and a few of those dreaded –ist and –istic words if you don’t.
Also, don’t get me started on the fact that the episode was called “I Kissed a Girl” and no girls actually kissed. (That cheek kiss was cute and all, but come the fuck on.)
What “Glee” can sometimes do well is peel back the skin of a significant social issue and expose the beating humanity underneath in a way that helps everyone understand it better and therefore fear it a little less. It’s how things change in the world, by realizing we’re really all not that different.
What “Glee” can sometimes do badly is take a significant social issue and simplify it down to a glib streak of superficial cheerleading and then preen itself wondering why it’s not being slapped on the back and handed cigars for the beautiful bundle of enlightenment it has just birthed unto the world. That’s how people self-congratulate themselves without changing a damn thing.
I mean, the whole show started out on the wrong foot with Santana being punished for slapping Finn. Granted, physical violence – even the deserved kind – is unacceptable and should be dealt with. But Finn outed Santana. And that may not be physical violence, but it is psychological violence. And, no, do not trot out the “Finn didn’t mean to out her and couldn’t know it’d turn into a political ad” malarkey. He yelled it at her across a crowded high school hallway. He’s dense, but he can’t be that dense.
But instead of handling the fallout from this outing. Instead of delving into its ramifications. Instead of showing while, even if unintentional, it was wrong. Instead of all that, Finn is turned into some kind of gay awareness superstar and the episode becomes A Very Special Intervention Outing Glee. Never mind that last season, when Kurt was being seriously bullied by Karofsky and then discovered he was actually also gay, he took great and extraordinary pains not to out him. Never mind that Kurt did this because Karofsky wasn’t ready and it would be wrong to force someone who isn’t ready out of the closet. Never mind that as recently as last episode, Mr. Shue, Coach Sylvester and Kurt’s dad all seemed super concerned about how terrible it was that Santana was being outed.
Nope, instead there are absolutely, positively, unquestionably zero consequences for Finn outing Santana. Not a talking to from Kurt, his gay step brother. Not a lecture from Burt, his super gay friendly step-dad. Not a dirty look from Rachel, his has-two-gay-dads girlfriend. Nope, just a gold star for essentially blackmailing Santana to come out or risk suspension from school. Isn’t he a stand-up guy? Hey, kids at home, out your friends and be a hero. Everyone’s doing it! Yay! Outings! YAYYYYY!
Look, life is better when you are out. This is almost universally true. But there are very real consequences for coming out for some – including but not limited to isolation, violence and worse. And there are equally real consequences for being outed – consequences which weren’t even glossed over. They were entirely ignored.
Also, what the hell was that throw-away line from Santana about: “I told my parents last night and they were actually OK with it.” How many exceptional scenes of the Kurt & Burt show did we have when he was dealing with his sexuality? Granted, it doesn’t and shouldn’t be the same response. But it shouldn’t be an afterthought. We didn’t even get to see Santana’s parents, let alone a whole paragraph of dialogue about their reaction?
The one well-played and meaningful scene in Santana’s entire outing saga was her quiet, powerful talk with her abuela at the kitchen table. That’s what “Glee” can do well, when it wants to. That’s the raw human condition that brings us all closer. That’s real fucking life.
Also, my heavens, how spectacular has Naya Rivera been through this whole mess? So spectacular. I will go down with the Brittana ship. I will be the violinist clinging to the deck as the water pours savagely into the hull. That’s how much I enjoy these characters and these actresses.
But, lord, do they deserve better than last night. In fact, this is the worst-case scenario I dreaded when I first heard spoilers about Santana’s outing. That it would happen in a “it’s for her own good” kind of way without any repercussions therefore sending the message that outing people because “dude, the whole school already knows” is perfectly OK and probably a good thing and possibly something they’ll give you a medal for.
The thing is, you can help your friends come out. You can support them. You can listen to them. You can encourage them. You can be there to dry their tears and squeeze their hand and find their strength. But that’s not outing. That’s not taunting someone with the possibility of the person she loves not loving her back. That’s not calling her a coward. That’s not what happened That’s not the kind of private, careful, meaningful support “Glee” showed. Not even close.
p.s. This would have been a wonderful place for, say, Brittany – you know, Santana’s girlfriend – to come in and privately encourage her. Brittany, who has been so supportive of Santana throughout her whole journey. Brittany who loves Santana more than anyone else in this world. But, no, that wouldn’t fit into the show’s pre-destined hero mold.
Speaking of that and this whole “it’s for her own good” shit, what was with all the menfolk being the saviors for the womenfolk this episode? Oh, I get it. This is the “Glee” where the boys all saved the girls from themselves. Gee thanks, mister. What would those frail ladies with our crazy lady brains have done without the guidance of a Finn or a Puck last night? Poor closeted Santana and poor nutso Quinn might have gone on forever without being rescued. And if men weren’t saving women, women were sacrificing themselves for me. Like Rachel turning herself in for Kurt. And when women weren’t being saved by men, or sacrificing for men, they were fighting over the big lugs (i.e. world’s least likely two points on the bottom of a man-topped love triangle, Sue and Beiste).
Oh, and of course there was the obligatory superficial female empowerment this episode. You know, when all the Glee gals rallied around Santana for a little girl-on-girl power in the form of that ridiculous, ridiculous ode to drunken making out. Still, as much as I hate hate hate that song, I couldn’t hate hate hate the performance because that, again, is the power of “Glee.” It takes preposterous things like a 30-year-old arena power ballad about believing and makes it give you automatic goosebumps. So, yes, I tried my best to set aside my hatred for Katy Perry’s co-opting of lesbian culture to enjoy the unapologetic eye candy of every Glee girl ship, crackship and ship you never knew you shipped cavorting together for our pleasure.
Still, we haven’t even begun to touch on Quinn and her storyline of pure crazy and the Puck-Shelby teacher-student carnival of inappropriateness. If we did, we’d be here all week.
Yes, I enjoyed the cheek kiss and thumbs up. And yes of course I enjoyed the big Brittana hug (though hello – NOW KISS). And, hell, I’ll even rewatch that ballot smooch. But, no, I do not have to accept that an episode titled” I Kissed a Girl” featured exactly zero girls actually kissing each other. And, no, I do not have to accept that an episode about coming to terms with one’s sexuality was really about the benefits of outing. And, oh hell no, I do not have to accept that in an episode that should have been all about women, men were its central heroes.
Also, I will never forgive Finn Hudson for ruining Cyndi Lauper for me. Or, as Santana put it so eloquently: “Thank you, guys. Thank you Finn, especially. You know, with all the horrible crap I’ve been through in my life, now I get to add that.”
Oh, Santana, honey. We’re right there with you.