Some entertainment franchises are legendary – a status well-earned through a continued pattern of excellence over years or decades. And some are legendary only because they believe – and carefully cultivate – their own publicity. Yes, it’s Glee!
What’s the matter with Glee? The fourth season, a long downer of a trip that has served to alienate virtually every fan it still possesses, is now mercifully winding down. If you are a Tike or Samcedes fan, you were treated to the slap in the face of having your ship break up off-screen (& in the case of Samcedes, entirely disappear as if it had never happened at all). If you are a Wemma fan, you got a featured episode (4.14, I Do, written by Ian Brennan): the long awaited wedding of Will and Emma. It would have been more accurate to call the episode I Don’t. It aired on Valentine’s Day, and featured no wedding but meaningless hookups instead, which is after all what Valentine’s Day is all about. If you’re a Klaine fan, you saw your favorites behave in uncharacteristic ways and, ultimately, reduced to cute, horny, ongoing confusion and dysfunction. And if you’re a Brittana fan, you saw your favorite couple either ignored completely (Brittana and Samcedes are occupying the same black hole of oblivion) or treated to unnecessary and nonsensical angst resulting in Brittana breaking up twice during the increasingly rare scenes that feature Brittany and Santana actually talking to each other.
Basically, season four has been a gigantic raised middle finger to every passionate, loyal viewer who has stuck with the show despite its rapid decline. Brittana fans have been singled out for the most venomous attacks, but none of the fandoms have fared well (and it’s worth pointing out that since all fans still emotionally engaged in the show are at the mercy of a creative staff that has shown a staggering lack of empathy for fans’ feelings, there is no telling who the next target will be; now that Brittana is finished, they will no doubt seek new dreams to destroy).
It’s said that Glee doesn’t have fans, it takes prisoners, people bound to the show by tremendous loyalty and passion. People who feel that to stop watching would somehow betray their favorite characters or pairings, and even perhaps betray themselves on some level. But prisoners of any kind are seldom well-treated & Glee’s audience is no exception. It’s obvious that the producers expected these prisoners to remain relatively docile and to keep on watching despite two consecutive disastrously bad seasons, but judging by the poor ratings, a lot of their core audience has escaped or is at least out on parole, biding their time & waiting to see if Glee shows any signs of returning to what it once had so effortlessly in the first two seasons.
I. It’s Just TV … Or Is It?
Clearly one of the worst ongoing problems with Glee is the poor writing, as so many other problems stem from it. Ryan Murphy tweeted in response to a viewer pointing out a massive plot hole in season four’s Sadie Hawkins episode (4.11, written by Ross Maxwell) “Please take a deep breath and remember it’s just a television show” as if such mistakes don’t matter and he somehow has license to pull storylines out of his ass, apparently lacking the awareness that his musical farts, however melodious they may sometimes be, still leave a rank smell that lingers. And despite Mr Murphy & fellow executive producer Brad Falchuk both declaiming the importance of Glee because it’s “just TV,” the truth is that it does matter. Glee is in an especially unique position of having literally changed lives and that should be accompanied by a responsibility that Glee’s creators have entirely abrogated the last two seasons. Words matter. They always have. Plays, books, movies, songs and yes, television matters. Oftentimes such creative endeavors can make a real difference in the perceptions of an audience.
When Star Trek debuted in 1966, one of the great things about the show was that it featured such an ethnically diverse cast, which was highly unusual at the time. (The Civil Rights Act outlawing racial discrimination had been passed a scant two years before.) Having that diverse cast in place, the show’s writers didn’t always know what to actually do with them. Nichelle Nichols, the lovely black woman who played Lt. Uhura on the show, was displeased with her limited screen time and told JET magazine she wanted to leave the show. It was Martin Luther King who convinced her to stay:
“When I told Dr King I was thinking about leaving the show,” Nichols said, “the smile ran away from his face. He said, ‘You cannot do this! And you will not! And you may not – you simply must not!’ … ‘Don’t you realize you have the first non-stereotypical [black] role on television? Don’t you realize that not only for our own little black children but for people who don’t look like us, for the first time they will see us as equals.’”
Martin Luther King knew his stuff. Years later Mae Jemison would become the first black woman in space, citing Nichelle Nichols as an inspiration. And who knows, without Star Trek breaking new ground in 1966, perhaps Glee’s own ethnic diversity would be more limited today.
Eleven years later ABC would air its miniseries Roots, which overnight changed the nation’s consciousness regarding early black history in America. It’s hard for younger audiences to grasp the significance of Roots. In 1977 cable was in its infancy, VCRs were a rarity, the internet as we know it now did not exist, and neither did cell phones. Jimmy Carter was president, having been sworn in a few days before Roots premiered, the first Democrat in office in 8 long years. The Vietnam War was still a gaping fresh wound. In Boston there had been ugly demonstrations against desegregating schools, and there was tremendous racial tension in the country as a whole. Against this backdrop, Roots premiered and ran for 8 consecutive nights. It became the topic of conversation in every classroom (even math!), it was talked about every evening around the supper table, it was discussed around water coolers in the workplace. The last episode garnered a staggering 100 million viewers, nearly half the country’s population at that time. 85% of homes with televisions tuned in to all or part of the miniseries, quietly gaining knowledge and awareness in the process.
Whatever Mr Murphy may think, television does indeed matter.
II. A Question Of Character
Glee had its chance to be as special as other ground-breaking television shows. The first two seasons were written in a heartfelt and egalitarian way. It was funny, engaging and irreverent, but it also showed queer characters as human beings and the storylines they had were both heartfelt and genuinely helpful to much of Glee’s audience. Beyond that, the show served as something of a beacon of light, showing regular heartland America that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. The message was uplifting, inclusive and democratic. As a political analogy, one might say that the first two seasons of the show were written by Democrats and then some traumatic brain injury overtook the writing staff (or perhaps just a brain removal, it’s really hard to say at this point) and the show took on a more Republican outlook, where only white men have any importance, and storylines had all the emotional depth & edification of a mud puddle on a sunny day. Ryan Murphy’s famous yellow hat might as well be fashioned from a Gasden flag; perhaps he’s a closet Tea Partier. The show became as sincere as the Republican Party’s outreach to minorities. Glee stopped being a show written for everyone, especially the many misfits among us, and started being a show targeted for young white men with woman issues.
Glee’s executive producers have not just forgotten who their audience is, they’ve insulted and abandoned that audience. During Glee’s second season, an original song called “Loser Like Me” became something of an anthem for the show’s fans, telling them that it was okay to be different and an outsider and that they would overcome. These outsiders were – and remain – the largest segment of Glee’s audience. By the season three finale, this essential, core understanding had so evaporated that the powers that be chose to cover Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” with the lyric “no time for losers,” which in hindsight was more accurate than fans may have realized.
And perhaps worst of all, while Glee has been reactionary, damaging and openly insulting to its audience for nearly two years now, it still skates along blithely on its reputation as a gay-friendly show, however thin the ice may be getting. With all the good the first two seasons accomplished erased by the unnecessary damage of the subsequent episodes, in the end the only ground-breaking thing about Glee became the level of perfidy its executives are capable of.
It is a crass Judd Apatow universe masquerading as La Cage Aux Folles.
III. Written Or Rotten?
The biggest changes to Glee between the second & third seasons took place off-screen. All of the episodes during the first two years were written by the show’s three creators, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. With Murphy & Falchuk starting another show (American Horror Story), Ali Adler, Marti Noxon and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa were brought on-board to write & supervise the filming of the Glee’s third season. Michael Hitchcock was also hired to write for Glee, and two other Glee staff members, Ross Maxwell & Matthew Hodgson, were also given the chance to write episodes. Pot o’Gold (3.04, written by Ali Adler) was the first episode of Glee not written by one of the show’s creators. It kicked off a string of six episodes written by hired hands and not the show’s creators. It was during this string of episodes that Glee began to spin out of control. Most of the writing wasn’t very good, and two of the episodes (I Kissed A Girl (3.07, written by Matthew Hodgson) & Extraordinary Merry Christmas (3.09, written by Marti Noxon)) were terrible. Glee had lost its way.
There are certain challenges specific to writing Glee: it features an unusually large cast and also of course each episode features several musical numbers. The new producers and writers focused on Finn and Rachel at the expense of the other characters, which was a major blunder, doubly so given that their main storyline was Finn’s asinine proposal and Rachel’s equally asinine acceptance of it. Character continuity is not a priority to anyone who writes Glee, but Rachel’s extreme levels of ambition and ego were always her main personality traits. It’s impossible to imagine a circumstance where Rachel would risk her future by accepting a proposal while she was a senior in high school. Unfortunately the rest of season three’s storylines weren’t much better. The writers lacked talent and imagination. They proved themselves to be incapable of writing healthy relationships for the show’s characters and could not sustain any level of character continuity, however marginal.
The Spanish Teacher (3.12, written by Ian Brennan) is a case in point and sums up much of what was wrong with season 3: Will Schuester’s 55 episodes as an apparently skilled instructor of Spanish were thrown out the window to provide necessary contrast to Ricky Martin’s one episode guest turn. These are scripts that would not pass muster at Fred’s Script School & Bait Shop (“the fishier the plots the better!”). The writing was lazy and unprofessional and riddled with logical fallacies.
IV. Deserting A Sinking Ship
It’s easy to lay the blame for Glee’s disastrous third season on the new writers but it’s not that simple. Writing for television is a uniquely communal experience. A script will usually pass through many hands on its way to being filmed, with many iterations along the way. Scripts are passed up the chain of command and eventually signed off by the executive in charge when it’s film-ready. Shows generally have “bibles” that keep track of character histories and the specific plot points that have been used or mentioned. Most shows have a season-long outline of the main plots and character growth that will be addressed. Glee has never shown a lot of adherence to continuity, especially as regards the large number of main characters. Season 3 (and now Season 4) have been terrible in terms of continuity and plotting, with large chunks of most episodes conveniently disappearing down some memory hole, leaving the writers with a blank slate, while viewers can only envy them and try their very best to forget what they’ve just seen. Glee’s only real continuity these days is in wretched inattention to characters, plot and detail.
Though Glee was never as good as its creators thought it was, it was a show with tremendous promise and a highly devoted and enthusiastic audience through the first two seasons. The second season showed the first cracks of inattention to detail and lazy plotting, but it also stepped up its game and gave the audience the show’s two best storylines, Kurt being bullied and Santana coming to terms with both her sexuality and her love for her best friend Brittany. (The Kurt storyline was wonderfully portrayed by Chris Colfer, but it was not new. The daytime soap opera One Life To Live featured a story about a gay, ostracized teenage boy in the early 1990s that dealt sensitively with homophobia.) The second season, not coincidentally, also gave the show its highest ratings. Ratings were down significantly in the third season and are in free fall in the fourth season. The poor ratings are a direct and deserving reflection of the poor decision making and story-telling.
So what happened between season 2 and season 3 to fundamentally change the tone of the show? There had been some valid criticism of the show’s second season and unfortunately instead of learning from it, the show’s creative staff doubled down on all that was wrong with the second season and failed to recognize what had been so good about it. This led to a disastrous change in tone, and the marginalization of three of the show’s main queer characters: Kurt, Santana and Brittany. Ryan Murphy also doesn’t seem to accept criticism very well, no matter how justified that criticism may be. Perhaps the writers’ room has become a safe haven filled with people whose main talent is sycophancy, which brings us to Matthew Hodgson, a man who owes his entire illustrious “career” to his sempai, Ryan Murphy.
V. Shot In The Foot
Matthew Hodgson got his first screen credit as “assistant to the executive producer” for Glee’s pilot episode and has somehow parlayed that into a long-term association with the show, gaining a writing gig and a Guild card in the process while deserving neither of those things. It’s clear that he is Ryan Murphy’s kohai, since he owes every credit listed on his imdb page to Mr Murphy. It’s a pity that Mr Murphy did not find someone with actual writing talent for the role, and it’s even more of a pity that, unfortunately, Mr Murphy as a sempai has no actual wisdom to impart. For Glee’s first two seasons, Hodgson was a script coordinator. This is a low-level position, but generally also includes the creation and upkeep of a show’s “bible” that all staff writers can easily check and reference for continuity purposes. Given Glee’s striking continuity problems, it’s no surprise Mr Hodgson held this job, assuming a “bible” was created at all.
During the show’s third season he was promoted to staff writer and wrote two of the show’s worst episodes, for which he has been further rewarded with another promotion to story editor. His first episode of the fourth season was the Christmas episode (4.10, Glee, Actually). The episode shed hundreds of thousands of viewers over the course of the hour, as the horror-struck audience realized they were watching an episode written by Matthew Hodgson. The episode garnered some of the all-time worst ratings for the show, finishing with 5.26 million viewers. Assuming there is a fifth season, he’s probably on track to become a producer for the show. He’s a living, breathing example of the Peter Principle run amok, and has risen far beyond his level of competence, much like his sempai Ryan Murphy had done before him.
Given Mr Hodgson’s stellar track record, it made perfect sense for him to be chosen to write the episode Shooting Star (4.18), in which shots are heard at McKinley, leading the terrified students & teachers into a tense lockdown situation. For Glee to be tackling such a subject at all is questionable. Glee hasn’t shown any genuine sensitivity about delicate subject matters since the second season and at this point in the show’s decline, and especially given the chronological proximity to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, this topic simply should never have been touched. According to the NY Daily News, an unnamed Fox source claims that the episode had been in production for six months. That statement seems … dubious, but if true the genesis for the episode predates the Newtown CT shooting last December, and begs the question as to why the episode idea wasn’t immediately shelved in the aftermath of that avoidable tragedy out of common decency and respect for the victims. And if the idea for the episode was directly because of the Sandy Hook tragedy, which seems more likely, they have exploited a mass murder of children for an hour of irresponsible and shallow television. Either way it’s reprehensible.
Since it’s Glee, we are treated to the Down Syndrome character, Becky, as the shooter. Even without addressing the irresponsible message implied in having the shooter be someone with DS, it’s worth pointing out that whenever shots are fired in or near a school, it is almost always at the hands of a white male. School shootings perpetrated by females are exceedingly rare. Either Mr Hodgson did not do his homework, and given the many tactical flaws of the episode, this would not be a surprise, or Mr Hodgson simply could not bring himself to make the shooter be a white male in a show that is now almost entirely dedicated to white male empowerment. Finally, the entire situation, where there was convincingly portrayed terror that, as it turned out, was unnecessary (so why do it at all?), served as a plot contrivance for Sam and Brittany to grow closer as a couple. School shootings should never, ever, be trivialized. (It’s also open to question whether any fallout from this episode will be addressed in future episodes. One would expect distant friends and former lovers to be distraught at the idea of their loved ones in danger, but the safer bet is most likely that we will see little to no reaction from them. After all, it’s Glee.)
VI. In Your Face
A lot has been written, mostly critical, about Mr Hodgson’s first foray into script-writing, I Kissed A Girl. But in order to understand the disaster that is IKAG, it’s helpful to examine the preceding episode as well, which gave us both the best and the worst that Glee offers its audience.
Episode 3.06, Mash Off, was written by Michael Hitchcock, who should probably stick to acting. The main conflicts of the episode revolved around the two rival glee clubs of McKinley, The New Directions and The Troubletones. The faculty advisors were preaching acceptance and respecting their foes, while the students were mostly interested in fighting things out. Over the course of the episode, there was a great deal of trash talk between Finn and Santana. Santana has always been a bitch, but her bitchiness has almost always been accompanied by an underlying sense of vulnerability. In Mash Off, she was not just a bitch, she was over the top with it, attacking a woefully over-matched Finn with her vicious, vicious words and leading to Finn outing her in a crowded school hallway. There is also a dodgeball game that ends with Santana physically attacking Rory and giving him a nosebleed. Neither of those things makes sense. Santana’s previous physical altercations had all gone rather badly for her, and the over the top bitchiness was unnecessary based upon her own words in Sexy (2.15, written by Brad Falchuk): “And what I realized is why I’m such a bitch all the time. I’m a bitch because I’m angry. I’m angry because I have all of these feelings, feelings for you [Brittany], that I’m afraid of dealing with because I’m afraid of dealing with the consequences.” Though Santana had not come out, she was dating the girl of her dreams. She had a featured leadership role in The Troubletones. She was no longer the vulnerable girl she had been. There was no reason for her to be angry & out of control, except as a convenient plot contrivance that would lead many viewers to defend the indefensible, Finn’s subsequent outing of Santana.
Outing someone is never right. There is never a circumstance that makes it right. Depicting such a thing on what is theoretically a gay-friendly show, and then never addressing the issue again, is not just insulting but it reinforces the perception that it’s okay to put a lesbian in a situation where her control is taken from her and that there’s nothing wrong with that. Santana was unable to come out on her own terms, because Finn took that from her. There is nothing that would make that situation right, but for it to never be addressed subsequently is truly reprehensible. It showed Glee’s male-focused wrong-headedness at its very worst. But the episode also featured one of the best musical numbers Glee has done, the terrific “Rumour Has It / Someone Like You” Troubletones number.
I Kissed A Girl was supposed to be the episode that Brittana fans had been waiting for from the beginning. Instead it was misguided in nearly every aspect. Instead of being a Brittana episode, Brittany was entirely marginalized from the episode. The song choices were ill-advised, especially having Finn sing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” to a thankful (!) Santana and “I Kissed A Girl,” sung by the Glee girls, with such lesbian-empowering lyrics as : “I kissed a girl just to try it, I hope my boyfriend won’t mind it.” The episode lionizes Finn’s role in “helping” Santana, which is the vilest message imaginable. The idea that Finn was being the bigger man in overlooking Santana’s insults and being slapped by her in the previous episode is ludicrous on its face, but the excuse Finn gives makes it more so. He eludes to his concern about Santana’s situation (which he had been instrumental in creating) as based upon the fact that she had taken his virginity in episode 1.15 (The Power of Madonna, written by Ryan Murphy). This was the post-coital exchange between the two:
Santana: How do you feel?
Finn: I don’t feel anything. ‘Cause it didn’t mean anything.
Yes indeed, we can definitely tell the level of Finn’s fondness for Santana as his first lover.
Finally, to a fandom clamoring for equal time and equal displays of physical affection for a show that was increasingly becoming the Finn and Rachel Hour, the last disappointment was that there was no Brittana kiss, despite the episode title which had led many to believe, for some outrageous reason, that a girl would be kissed. To the young lesbians and bisexuals watching the show, many of whom were highly invested with the characters of Santana and Brittany as fictionalized reflections of themselves, the episode couldn’t have been worse.
The show’s creative staff has never acknowledged the significant, damaging errors of the episode, but instead continues to compound them. Arguably, they have even managed to sink to lower depths of insensitivity, and once again, we have Matthew Hodgson to thank.
Saturday Night Glee-ver was season three’s 16th episode. Brittana had been featured only once before in the season, in the Valentine-themed episode Heart, when they were finally allowed to kiss onscreen (in public, of course). In SNG, Brittany releases a sex tape of the two of them (with an assist from Lord Tubbington) in order to boost Santana’s chances at fame. She does this without Santana’s consent. It’s pretty clear that Brittany does this to teach Santana a lesson, in a sneaky sort of way. (Brittany is brilliant at this, as witness her epic takedown of Rachel in Comeback.) The problem with this is multi-fold. First & foremost, Brittany doesn’t have to be sneaky with Santana because Santana is the only person who actually respects Brittany’s intellect. All Brittany had to do was, you know, talk to her, though given the producers’ reluctance to allow them to converse, perhaps Brittany simply felt drastic measures were required.
Second, Santana had shown unusual vacillation over her post high school plans. In one episode she says that her education is important to her only to change her mind and say that fame is the only motivating factor in her existence. Brittany need only have waited a few days & Santana’s outlook would no doubt have changed on its own. But as it was, Brittana fans were treated to the non-consensual release of a sex tape called Two Girls, One Cat, which is an obvious, if revolting, nod to the scatological Two Girls, One Cup, & pretty much summing up how the producers view Brittana and its fandom. This was an episode deserving of being forgotten but unfortunately, in a daring burst of continuity, Ryan Murphy revisited the sex tape in 4.12’s Naked.
The collective message from I Kissed A Girl and Saturday Night Glee-ver is that Santana doesn’t actually deserve to have free will, or to make her own life-altering decisions at her own pace. Given the number of Brittana fans who identify strongly with Santana, the inescapable conclusion to be drawn is that they too do not matter. This isn’t about some plot twist that fans disagree with, it cuts to the very heart of who many of the fans are. Societal behavior has always been influenced strongly by television and other media. People get their behavioral cues from what they see and hear. Since we do not yet live in a society where there is universal acceptance of homosexuality, that means that episodes like these are actually harmful, as they reinforce homophobia and misogyny amongst casual viewers who do not know any better. In a civilized society actions should have consequences and words should have meaning. Glee, a show that only pretends to be inclusive, continues to be above any punitive measures.
This disdain shown toward lesbians in particular would be revisited in season four. Not only have the writers broken up the queer girl couple (twice), but in Swan Song (4.09, written by Stacy Traub) Brittany has a meta moment about “angry lesbian bloggers” which is nothing more than a slap in the face to a large, passionate group of people who gave their trust to Glee only to see it betrayed. It takes an incredible amount of class to single out the most vulnerable part of your fanbase for direct insult. The cut went all that much deeper since it was delivered by Brittany S. Pierce, who, like so many of Glee’s beloved original characters, has turned into a virtual stranger in season four.
With the meta moment in Swan Song, the animosity toward Glee’s lesbian audience can no longer be explained away as an ill-advised or misunderstood plot device, nor should the fans’ response be seen as an over-reaction. Interestingly, to complete the cycle of abuse that exists between Glee and its fans, Ryan Murphy took to twitter as the episode insulting them aired, promising them great things if they would stick with the show until the 13th episode, Diva, assuring Brittana fans that they would like it. Diva turned out to be the second and final Brittana breakup, with Brittany choosing Sam over Santana. (Mr Murphy routinely lies to Brittana fans on twitter, when he’s not deriding them. He promised many duets and conversations for Brittana in season four, which in hindsight is such a ludicrous mis-statement that it can only have been made to string along Brittana fans.)
Season four Brittana has been limited but given how badly the show has spun out of control, this is actually for the best. In 4.04, The Break Up (written by Ryan Murphy), Santana returns to Ohio to break Brittany’s heart due to distance and an “energy exchange.” This is lazy story-telling at its worst. Mr Murphy didn’t even bother to make it plausible (and they must have searched hard and long to find a Taylor Swift song that wasn’t a breakup tune, coincidentally giving Brittana fans a false sense of security about their favored couple). Two episodes later, in Glease, Brittany makes it clear to Santana that she is still in love with her and that she is not dating anyone. Santana rebuffs her and tells her it would be okay if she were dating someone else, despite every evidence over the course of the previous three seasons that the one constant in Santana’s life is her love for Brittany. This rejection paves the way for Brittany to begin dating Sam three episodes later in Swan Song.
Two episodes after Swan Song, Brittany and Sam marry. Three episodes after this touching and well-executed story, Santana learns that Brittany is with Sam & storms back to Ohio to get Brittany back, only to be rejected by Brittany. None of this makes sense and, despite the talents of the actors, is entirely implausible. For Santana to leave Ohio for NYC to live with Rachel and Kurt (two people she has only shown the most marginal tolerance for) and to abandon Brittany to Sam simply doesn’t play as anything other than a means to keep them apart. There is a very slim chance that this might have worked if it had been handled better, but not without something more having being done with them when they were an actual couple during the third season.
For much of the third season, in fact, anyone unfamiliar with Glee who happened to tune in wouldn’t have even known the two were friends, much less girlfriends. Pretty much the only meaningful exchange they had all season was a couple of “I love yous” (in public, of course) and two lines of dialogue devoted to confirming their status as a dating couple. As cute as the exchange was, it’s simply bad storytelling to have dialogue convey what physical affection would have shown more convincingly. The rest of their exceedingly limited dialogue was about leprechauns and playlists and such. They were never allowed to be in private together, they were barely allowed to speak (they were allotted roughly five minutes of screen time over the 22 episodes that comprised their official dating period). The fans needed – and deserved – something more than that. It wouldn’t have taken much, but they needed more. They needed something heartfelt. Imagine this scene late in season three:
A close up of Brittany & Santana’s entwined hands pulls back slowly to reveal Brittany, as the big spoon, and Santana, in casual at-home clothes, cuddling on the covers of Brittany’s bed, while Lord Tubbington sits nearby with haughty disdain:
Brittany (softly): Thank you.
Santana: You’re welcome. (pause) Wait, what are you thanking me for?
Brittany: For telling everybody that I’m your girlfriend. You say it, like, all the time.
Santana: Well, you are.
Santana: Yeah. (pause) And I have a lot of time to make up for, from back when I –
Brittany: Don’t. It’s okay.
Santana: This is awesome. (pause) Britt, Tubbs is staring at us. Again.
Over the first two seasons of the show, Brittany and Santana’s characters were hyper-sexualized, a dirty joke the writers were entirely comfortable making. Over the course of their time as an official couple, they were chaste and perpetually confined to their cheerleading uniforms. (The only time the characters were treated seriously, in fact, came late in the second season, when they were allowed to wear regular clothes. Yes, Glee’s creative staff is that shallow.) & once they were separated in season 4, first by distance and then by the stupidity of the writers, the dirty jokes could once again resume. It is remarkable that Brittana has made the mark it did, and the thanks for that rests solely with the combined talents of Heather Morris and Naya Rivera. When allowed to work together, they become more than the sum of their parts and raise the material they’re given to work with. When done properly, Brittana became, however briefly, one of the most moving love stories done on American television. They were a unique couple not because they were two girls, but because they only show their true selves to each other and because they were two very different people whose commonality was their love for each other.
Brittany and Santana were each other’s exception. Santana’s humanity comes from the place in her heart where Brittany resides. And Brittany is the only truly unique character Glee has managed to create (entirely thanks to Heather Morris). They bring out the best in each other. It is a shame that the special nature of Brittana has been squandered.
The failure of Glee to treat Brittana as a normal couple has hurt the show by making it appear even more absurd than it already was. It’s true that lesbian couples are still a rarity on TV but it is also true that Willow & Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the first lesbian couple on American TV, were allowed to be more of a couple than Santana & Brittany ever were, and that was in 1999 and under fairly heavy censorship restrictions from the network.
Consider the evidence. Willow & Tara meet in episode 4.10 (Hush), Willow chooses Tara over a boy (something Glee could learn from) in episode 4.19 (New Moon Rising) and they passionately kiss in 5.16’s The Body. The audience didn’t have to be told what they were, they could see for themselves. The milestones that Brittana fans had to beg for – or that they never received at all – were granted to Willow & Tara as part of the natural progression of their relationship, something that has been denied Brittana entirely. It would be interesting to know why Brittany & Santana were ever allowed to become a couple at all since they – and by extension their many fans – were not going to be treated fairly or respectfully. Ryan Murphy and the rest of the creative staff should never have gone there at all given the subsequent harm they have done.
Their mistreatment of Brittana and its fans will rank amongst Glee’s biggest failings because the dynamic chemistry between the young women playing Brittany and Santana and the unique nature of their relationship is the best thing Glee has done. And the ultimate irony now is seeing Brittana destroyed and ignored in season four when it was the most mature and “non-high school” relationship while the other couples will be inevitably reunited. There is no apparent plan to reunite Brittana. There have been so many bad decisions made by Ryan Murphy and company, but this one will hurt them the most because by destroying Brittana they have assured themselves an ignominious place in pop culture history – and are in danger of seeing their show relegated to pop culture irrelevance.
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