Welcome back to Glee and Social Issues!
Now as I said in my Part One of this series, glee does depict gay characters rather well and tackles the issue of bullying also rather well. With Marley’s storyline in season four I can also say that, in my opinion, they’re tackling her eating disorder storyline also rather well (but hey the season’s half over so who knows?). I can say that they tackled the topic of Part Two of Glee and Social issues better with Marley than they’ve done in the past.
So in Part Three, I’m going to be discussing the other two parts of LGBT, mainly the B & the T a.k.a. bisexuality and transgender.
And well before I get into that landmine area (at least where the bisexuality is concerned) let me get the usual spiel out of the way.
As always all of the stuff in this post is based on my own observations and conclusions drawn through a rewatch of the television show Glee. This is just MY opinion. If you agree fantastic if you don’t then I respect your opinion too.
(This post contains spoilers up to episode eleven of season four “Sadie Hawkins”. As well as references to shows outside of glee that will be spoiled. Sorry guys I needed examples outside the show for this.)
Okay let’s not beat around the bush here guys.
Glee is bi-phobic.
Most people say it stems from the show creator Ryan Murphy and that may be true. However, I would rather not call anyone out on my blog so I’m just going straight for what the show gives us and try to look at it objectively.
It’s a general known fact around the fandom. Seriously type glee and biphobia into a search engine and all of this stuff is going to pop up from people who know this stuff a lot better than me.
And it’s for this reason that I was having trouble writing this part of Glee and Social Issues because of this fact. I have to be objective and educated in writing this. However, I wasn’t sure how to go about explaining this fact either.
So expect a lot of links to Wikipedia articles and the like for the background reading I did to get to these conclusions.
Now the article is mainly about Brittany and Unique, however I’m also to show the biphobic aspect of glee am going to include Blaine. He went through a sexual identity crisis true. And maybe people have similar stories to Blaine’s brief sexual identity crisis. However, the way it was handled on the show is where it draws the majority of people’s ire.
Granted the whole episode “Blame It On the Alcohol” episode fourteen of season two was a bit of a train wreck. However, that whole episode is a discussion for another time. No what I want to focus on here is Blaine’s whole sexual identity crisis.
Blaine, who in season two at this point, was established as a proud, confident gay teenager kisses Rachel Berry and thinks he may be attracted to her. Now we get the following exchange of dialogue which I transcribed for these purposes because I can’t find a clip of this fight.
This transcription is word for word from the episode “Blame It On The Alcohol”.
Rachel asks Blaine on a date, and he agrees to go. Kurt accuses Blaine of leading her on.
Blaine: “This isn’t leading her on. When we kissed, it felt good.”
Kurt: “It felt good because you were drunk.”
Blaine: “What’s the harm in going out on one crummy little date?
Kurt: “You’re gay, Blaine.”
Blaine: “I thought I was, but I’ve never even had a boyfriend before. Isn’t this the time you’re supposed to figure stuff out?”
Kurt: “I can’t believe I’m hearing this right now.”
Blaine: “Maybe I’m bi, I don’t know…”
Kurt: “‘Bisexual’ is a term that gay guys in high school use when they want to hold hands with a girl and feel like a normal person for a change.”
Blaine: “Wait, wait, wait…Why are you so angry?”
Kurt: “Because I look up to you. I admire how proud you are of who you are. I know what it’s like to be in the closet, and here you are about to tiptoe back in.”
Blaine: “I’m really sorry if this hurts your feelings, or your pride, or whatever, but however confusing this might be for you, it’s actually a lot more confusing for me. You’re 100 percent sure who you are; fantastic. Well, maybe we all can’t be so lucky.”
Kurt: “Yeah, I’ve had a lot of luck, Blaine. I was really lucky to be chased out of high school by a bully who threatened to kill me.”
Blaine: “And why did he do that?”
Kurt: “Because he didn’t like who I was.”
Blaine: “Sort of exactly what you’re saying to me right now, isn’t it? I am searching, okay? I’m honestly just trying to figure out who I am. And for you, of all people, to get down on me for that? I didn’t think that’s who you were.” He stands up. “I’ll see ya. I’d say ‘bye,’ but I wouldn’t want to make you angry.”
Blaine leaves upset. End of transcript.
There’s a lot of stupid going around in this scene.
Blaine you do need to factor in that you were drunk at the time. Kurt I get that you’re bitter about this but dude not cool about what you’re saying with the bisexual community.
What makes me upset about the bisexual and sexual identity questioning story line in “Blame It On The Alcohol” is the same things that make me upset about Karofsky’s suicide attempt. This could have been an interesting, thoughtful and compelling story if given time to blossom. I (and apparently a lot of other people) think the storyline would have also worked better if it was one of the guys in New Directions who identifies as straight having this sexual identity questioning.
Why? Because up to this point Blaine and Kurt were both comfortably out. They weren’t ashamed of themselves at this point in season two. Blaine was being held as a role model not just for Kurt but for a lot of teens too. Now I’m not saying that a man or woman who identifies as homosexual can’t question an attraction to the opposite sex and explore it. Like I stated human sexuality is a very complex thing.
However, at the most basic core of heterosexual, homsexual and bisexual most people go the route of the Kinsey Scale here.
Things happen. I understand that for Blaine. He came out at a young age and then he got beat up at his own Sadie Hawkins dance prior to transferring to Dalton. If he legitimately felt something with Rachel when he kissed her then you know what? That is totally one hundred percent cool. Have him explore it.
What makes me mad is how they tackled it.
Again going back to Karofsky’s suicide attempt from my first installment of Glee and Social Issues , that storyline would have been fine if they had an episode or two with it building. Marley’s eating disorder storyline this season worked because it built over time rather than have it crammed in there. This sexual identity question had to share the stage with a message about drinking responsibly rather than getting its own pace to develop at.
Now let’s go to what Kurt said because that is really what pisses me off.
Don’t get me wrong. Kurt has become one of my favorite characters but sometimes he can just be a little brat.
There is just so much wrong with what he said during that conversation that makes me mad.
I understand that Kurt was expressing a viewpoint and that sadly it is shared by other people. While Blaine comes to a way too quick, one episode conclusion about his sexuality. Kurt doesn’t face any real repercussions for those words. Blaine kind of calls him out but no one says anything to him about how what he said really isn’t cool at least not in any meaningful way. Blaine kind of calls Kurt just as bad as the people who bullied Kurt but that’s it. Because Blaine realizes that he’s gay at the end of the episode.
If you’re going to make Blaine question his sexuality then why not throw Kurt into questioning his own prejudices? Now that would have been an interesting storyline! But what do I know?
(Thanks to episode eleven of season four’s Sadie Hawkins, Tina is now going to attempt to “turn” Blaine straight thanks to an ill advised crush. Seriously if they try to bring out this storyline with Blaine again I’m going to bash my head to the wall because that is just as stupid as Kurt trying to turn Finn gay in season one.)
Now what makes glee itself bi-phobic is that bisexuality is not honestly explored. At least not in the way Kurt being gay is or the way Santana slowly comes to terms with being a lesbian (even if they didn’t really DO anything past season three episode seven’s “I Kissed A Girl” at least not in a meaningful way).
Glee dances the very edge of what TV Tropes calls the No Bisexuals trope. They don’t fall into the trap because they do technically have a bisexual character on the show.
Brittany S. Pierce, who I will preface by saying I really like.
Now glee itself doesn’t outright use the term “bisexual” when describing Brittany rather they use the phrases “fluid” or “bicurious”. However, GLAAD lists Brittany as being a bisexual character. Brittany has been in relationships with both male (Artie, Sam) and female (Santana) characters in the show. She has kissed every boy in school (season one episode eighteen “Laryngitis”) AND expressed interest in touching Coach Bieste’s boobs (season two episode one “Audition”). In one episode, and I can’t remember which one at the present, where Santana calls her and Brittany gay well Brittany says that she’s not fully gay or something to that effect.
GLEE BRITTANY S. PIERCE IS A BISEXUAL CHARACTER SO JUST STOP SIDE STEPPING IT AND COME RIGHT OUT AND GODDAMN SAY IT!!!!!!!!!
Okay that’s not fair. Some people prefer not to label themselves in terms of sexual orientation. However, on a show such as glee, you know the character is by their label. Glee is a show about the stereotypes that the world labels people and the subversion of those stereotypes while also keeping some of those stereotypes into play.
Brittany’s stereotype is the dumb, sexually promiscuous cheerleader taken to the extreme. Her stereotype hasn’t really been subverted over the show during its run. She is perceptive about people but for the most there has been no real attempts to subvert her stereotype. So when you take the dumb, sexually promiscuous cheerleader stereotype as your only bisexual character…well you’re something about bisexuals whether you mean too or not.
Now I won’t go out and say Brittany is a bad role model here. Despite the negativity of her stereotype and glee‘s bi-phobia, she does have some truly admirable qualities. She genuinely cares about the person she’s in with in a relationship (and yes I am including Artie here despite her cheating on him with Santana because of the whole “kissing a girl doesn’t count” thing she was genuinely heartbroken over him and that whole thing was just a contrived way to break up Artie and Brittany) . She is a good friend to those around her. She is one of the main driving people in helping Santana accept herself just by loving her as both her best friend and her girlfriend. These are all admirable traits in a character.
You feel for Brittany even in her more too dumb to live moments.
She is both equal parts a good and bad representation of bisexuality. Bad because she just perpetuates this stereotype that bisexuals are sexually promiscuous and dumb and just refuse to label themselves as one or the other. Good because she does care for her partners and wants them to thrive in a relationship. Plus by watching Santana deny herself and by extension what she and Brittany have together with Brittany looking utterly heartbroken was just so sad to see, it was real.
So I suppose the real question is since glee is bi-phobic, then why do I or anyone else keeps watching? Well I don’t want to say for the average glee fan, this is where I can only talk for myself. Despite these sentiments I can’t bring myself to stop watching the show or being invested in it. All shows have their flaws because they are created by humans and humans have their own prejudices and issues and stuff like that. Does it piss me off? Yeah. Do I keep on watching? Yeah. Despite myself it’s not really about the themes presented. I don’t look at glee as a show with any real message outside of learning how to love and accept yourself in the face of what the world throws at you. That is the core of the show to me and I don’t think that’s a bad message.
So yes this bisexuality in glee thing does make me upset and it makes other people upset. But this is the television landscape for the most part you are either one or the other in TV and bisexuals on TV for the most part are still not being fairly represented. It sucks and we can hope that over time it will change both on glee and on TV in general.
And that’s my piece on it. So let’s move into the second part of this transgender issues on glee.
We only have one transgender character on glee who is Wade “Unique” Adams.
Unique is awesome. I love her.
Now she hasn’t been on the show for a long time. However unlike the issues with bisexuality that glee has, from what I could research the transgender community seems to really like Unique. Now if this is wrong then please let me know but I honestly really couldn’t find anything in my research. The only people who really didn’t seem to like Unique are from conservative, right wing people in the world.
So yeah so far glee is handling having a transgender character pretty well.
Unique is a great character. She’s vivacious, sassy, fun and very heartfelt. For someone who was supposed to be a two episode character, the writers or the creators liked her so much that they kept Unique around for season four. And there is a marked difference between Unique and Wade. When Unique is Wade, she’s much more subdued in her pressed khakis and buttoned up shirts and just looks so uncomfortable in her skin that you feel for her. This isn’t the body that she is supposed to have but rather one that she has to live with due to genetics.
Now the writers haven’t really done much with Unique’s character since episode six of season four “Glease” and I can understand why they need to move other plots around and the like. In a show with as many varied characters and location as glee has obtained during its run it is kind of hard doing the balancing act between them. Still I do find myself wishing for some acknowledgement in how difficult it may be for Unique to obtain a date in “Sadie Hawkins” episode eleven of season four. In fact did she go with anyone? I only remember seeing her for the Locked Out of Heaven number (seriously guys Melissa Benoist and Alex Newell NEED more duets).
However, when they do discuss Unique and what she is going through the writers are really ON. In “The Role You Were Born to Play” episode five of season four, Finn goes to see Unique, dressed in her Wade clothes, to tell her that he’s casted her as Rizzo in Grease despite protests and threats from Sue Sylvester. Both of them acknowledge that Unique is going to have it hard after the show but that she doesn’t want to hide who she is because of people.
And in a nice, heartfelt emotional scene between Unique and Finn, she admits that she feels “wrong” for being born a boy. That she hates not being who she feels on the inside, that she wishes she were different. You get the feeling that Unique being acknowledged as a girl by Finn and by the administration by standing by the decision to cast her as Rizzo is a real victory for her. She just wants to be accepted as she is which is most transgender children, teens, hell even the adults probably feel.
Then Sue comes in. Now I understand that some part of Sue does feel like she needs to protect the kids at…some level. It has been proven in some form or another over the years. I also understand that Sue can’t really show she has a heart because of reasons that escape me and possibly most of the viewing audience. She informs Unique’s parents who clearly do love their child but don’t fully understand that their son wants to be their daughter instead.
What confuses me about Sue’s motivations though is just how mean she is. Even before Finn lashed out in anger and dropped the “R” word in the “The Role You Were Born to Play”, she was still really mean to Unique. I…Maybe this is me missing a point or something but I don’t understand why she is doing this. Look if you want to have some sort of teacher be opposed to Unique’s casting then do it with anyone else BUT Sue. Maybe this is to make her a villain again (because gosh writers this her what eleven-ty billionth heel face turn?) however it doesn’t make sense to me to see her be so openly hostile to Unique.
It’s confusing. This confuses me. I need something to un-confuse me.
God you’re awesome. Can you have another solo soon?
So in conclusion…this just shows how very strange glee can be when it comes to different social issues. Which is what made this extremely hard to write. On one hand, it can definitely incite people to riot and vow to never watch the show again and say that it’s a horrible show with bad messages and unfair depictions of people. On the other hand, it can also be a real positive force in humanizing an issue for those not in the know and giving a very real character with real problems stemming from it but a character that can also be a good role model for people in the similar situation.
In truth it’s mainly up to us to make up our own damn minds through legit research rather than listen to what frictional characters on a TV show tell us. Most TV shows are flawed and honestly glee is no different. I suppose we notice these flaws because of how invested we are in the show even the people who claim to not watch it anymore seem oddly well informed on the details. But I’ll take the good with the bad as it comes.
NEXT ON THE GLEE REWATCH PROJECT: I have a couple ideas floating around. A character retrospective, another past perspective episode with Sadie Hawkins, I do have an idea for a series where I eviscerate really bad episodes…
Notes: So what do you guys think about all of this?
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