Thursday, March 17, 2011

Queer Gleek ramblings: Klaine and Brittana and stuff

I can't quite get Kurt and Blaine's  (Klaine!) kiss from the most recent episode of Glee out of my head. And it's not just that the kiss was kind of perfect. And it's not just that we almost never see gay kisses on television, but those are both bound to be parts of it.

I'm just starting to get a bit overwhelmed at how the writers in Glee have managed to pull this off so well.

Of all the things Glee does, the most incredible thing is how it artfully dances through minefields. The writers and cast have managed to be representative without being tokenistic; they've avoided stereotypes without losing the identities (class, sexual, gender, racial) of each character; they've navigated stories of identity in teenagers, and in the cases of their queer characters -- that's right, there's more than one, so far Kurt, Blaine, Brittany, Santana and Karofsky are all not straight -- they've managed to humanise what so many Anti-Prop 8 type campaigns have failed to.

So that's, what? Five queer characters in a show with a regular ensemble cast of fewer than 20 people. Karofsky is not a regular character, although it's been suggested that his story will be featured more prominently in coming episodes. But still, that leaves about 20% of the regular cast that isn't straight.

The Santana and Brittany story is unfolding right now, so it's hard to really give it an overview. But the way it appears is this: the two have been fooling around for quite some time, under the rationalisation that fooling around with another girl isn't cheating ("The plumbing is different," says Santana). But slowly we're learning that Santana may well be a lesbian, while Brittany is happy with her boyfriend, Artie, we are still left quite clear that Brittany is bisexual and has always had feelings for Santana. So it was easy to expect that when Santana came running to Brittany to tell her she loved her, that Brittany would immediately dump her boyfriend and ride off into the sunset with her lesbian love. But they didn't do that. Here, bisexuality is being handled well, with the character being someone we already know and love and who isn't angry/unstable/dishonest. It will be interesting to see how Santana -- the angry, bitchy and sexually confident girl -- evolves as she comes out as gay (if that's indeed what is happening).

Kurt and Blaine are both gay, although Blaine explored the possibility that he was bisexual after a drunken kiss with Rachel at a party. It should be noted that he managed to explore his bisexuality without hurting people or cheating, or being dishonest or becoming a serial killer -- all things that unfortunately tend to go hand in hand with bisexual representations in the media. But in the end, realised that he was "100% gay" (to Kurt's delight).

To be honest, (and feel like a total traitor to the ladies) Kurt and Blaine is the relationship I love the best. In the words of people significantly younger and hipper than I, I "ship" Klaine.

First, Kurt is a marvelous character. For those of you who don't know, Kurt wasn't originally in the show. After Chris Colfer auditioned for a different role, they created a character for him -- even going so far as to name the character Kurt after Colfer's role in The Sound of Music. From the beginning, Kurt is the outsider of outsiders. He can't help it. Not only is Kurt effeminate, but he lives alone with his mechanic father since he lost his mother at a young age. Kurt's also a countertenor and has a high-pitched speaking voice that sets him apart from the other boys, even if his clothing and demenour didn't. Now that he's at Dalton (which I'm convinced is temporary), we don't get to see his outlandish dress sense so much, so sometimes you forget how different he really is. Until he curtsies on stage, that is.

The story arc where Kurt admits he is gay and ultimately tells his father is almost expertly crafted. It's idealised, of course, -- Glee is a musical comedy by genre -- and the father admits he knows but that it freaks him out and he doesn't know what to do.

And Blaine is idealised too. While Kurt ends up at Dalton Academy -- a posh private school -- to escape the bullying at McKinley High, he does so on the back of his father (and new step-mother)'s life savings, and even that will only keep him there a year. Blaine gives another impression -- and although his home life has never been explored -- we know that he's from money and privilege. He's also not effeminate. He has a lot of advantages Kurt hasn't. But he's sound. The first time we meet him, he names his privilege too. He cares. We see the effect marginalisation can have on someone even with all these advantages. Being gay is the single dent in Blaine's well-adjusted armour. He transfered to Dalton (which has a zero-tolerance bullying policy) after having trouble at his last school. Blaine seems comfortable in himself and tries things out with absolute confidence that the world will bend to his terms. But Blaine looks out for the new kid who arrives and is so out of place. He even tries to help him confront Karofsky at McKinley. And while he's occasionally clueless and sometimes condescending (and I applaud the inclusion of these character traits), he is mostly pretty cool. Blaine is also a dreamboat. Just saying.

While we almost expect the world to fail people like Kurt, because it does on so many levels, it's important to show that when it comes to gay things, the world just fails. Blaine shows us that.

David Karofsky, the bully football player who shoved Kurt into his locker, and later kissed him, shows us another way the world fails gay people. We have to assume, or guess, because we don't know much about his background, that he has a less supportive family and group of friends than Kurt and Blaine have. Karofsky is plainly terrified of coming out. He doesn't question whether it's right for people to bully gay people -- he just knows that if he's gay, people will bully him.

All this means we have a rainbow of gays. From out and proud to closeted and terrified.

And Glee continues to rock.

1 comment:

A Strange Boy said...

I love that there is a network show like Glee making sure there is representation of such a diverse group of gay people within a larger cast.

We've come a long way since Ellen took the leap out of the closet. No longer are we invisible, but we're at the point where the wildly different experiences we have are being represented, and not just on a cable show for mature audiences only.