My Glee Ship Manifesto: Will and Emma

A lot of people really hate Wemma — the pairing of Glee teacher Will Schuester and guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury. I love it, but I was having a hard time figuring out why until recently.

Part of it is undoubtedly nostalgia. The first half of the first season of Glee, which is when I started watching the show a few episodes in, is the story of how Will and Emma discover their feelings for each other. Will, at the time, is married to a woman who lies in the most inconceivable ways (pun intended). Her (and her family’s) attitude to life is fundamentally detached from Will’s (and, by extension, I think, the audience’s). By comparison to Terri, we read Will as some kind of saint. That’s an illusion, of course, because none of the characters in Glee are saints (there are magicians and nature spirits but no saints).

And the love story is sweet, and story-booky for a while. But real life gets in the way.

Real life is nothing like romantic stories or movies, and if it is, it isn’t for very long. Here’s where my love for Will and Emma gets personal.

I feel really bad for Will. It isn’t easy being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t act the way you expect them to. Being in a relationship with someone who isn’t neurotypical is really fucking hard work. It means you lose out on things, and it’s not their fault and it’s not your fault but there are times the two of you will just lie in bed crying at how hard it is.

I know, because I’m my wife’s Emma. I don’t have the same issues as Emma, but I have issues. And because of it, I fail my wife on a regular basis on things that any neurotypical person would just be able to do. My whole brain works in ways that sometimes I love and a lot of the time I hate. I used to have medication for it but we can’t afford that anymore. And strictly speaking, it’s not 100% necessary. It just makes life easier for us.

These medications also do not solve the lifetime of broken that has happened pre-diagnosis.

I like the way Glee treats Will in the context of Wemma. Yeah, ok, so Tumblr is full of revulsion because Will talked about morning wood. But it worked, and it showed the cracks that still exist in a relationship that otherwise looks reasonably ok. And Will isn’t a jerk for wanting to have sex with Emma. Emma seems to want to have sex with Will, and it’s likely that has happened since Will feels comfortable making a casual proposition.

But Will’s a fairly normal guy — he’s done some good and he’s done some bad — who is struggling in a very real way with loving a person who is different. He doesn’t push her away and say he can’t cope with her being different. He doesn’t say that because she fails to meet the expectations he’s been taught by the world to have that she’s not good enough. To the contrary, he thinks she’s worth the extra work and he doesn’t begrudge her that.

And it’s one thing for fans to be all “Emma, you deserve more” but Emma wants Will.

So you know, I’m apparently all about the Will-love today. I’m sure it’ll pass.

*It strikes me how often I’ve used, or wanted to use the word “willing” in this post. In every plot, Will is shown to lack the magic others have. He’s unable to induce a magical cure for Emma like John Stamos’ character did. He couldn’t just come up with the money for Glee club — he had to work another job for it (nobody in Glee works for money except Will). He’s unable to magic Kurt off to Dalton the way Puck does. He tries and fails a lot. He does awful things sometimes. Everything Will accomplishes is done the plain old ordinary human way, which has to kind of suck for him. Mr Schue is a Saturday’s child. Will’s only power is will.


8 thoughts on “My Glee Ship Manifesto: Will and Emma

  1. “That’s an illusion, of course, because none of the characters in Glee are saints (there are magicians and nature spirits but no saints).”

    Oh I love that.

    You know my feelings on Will are pretty middle ground most of the time. I don’t hate him. I don’t love him, and he drops the ball (when he even seems to realize there is a ball in play) a lot, but at the end of the day I always give him props for trying. No ones else at that school is trying in quite the way Will is. Figgins, Sue, random geography teacher, teacher who threw shoe at Glee club during Christmas are usually keen on doing nothing. Emma and Beiste are helping guard what Will’s clumsily made, but you’ve got to give props to the guy for creating a safe space for the outcasts of this school. It’s not perfect, but it’s more than there was two years ago.

  2. It’s possible there are more people who are neutral on the Mr Schue than I know. Generally, I think I pick up on the criticisms, and have mostly been mystified by them. I mean, he’s done awful things, but so has everyone else. But no one has worked as hard as he has. That’s gotta count for something.

    I actually believe a lot of the Schuester hate has come from the weird things the actor has said in interviews moreso than from the actual show. But that’s just a wild theory 😉 Because fandom has not much time for MM.

  3. I’m pretty neutral on Will, as well. I was kind of rooting for him Season 1, and then… he just kind of went limp. I guess what happened is that I was watching him for me “I need an adult to relate to with all these kids in the way” and he was it — and then we got to know Burt Hummel and that’s all the adult I need right there.

    And Emma is adorable and sweet and yet… they’ve made her such an impossible character. She’s very flat and you can just chalk up everything about her to this overblown OCD depiction. I don’t know how much longer I can care.

    It’s funny, because when I think of the show as a whole, I don’t immediately think, “boy, everything about this is implausible and campy” and then the moment I try to dig a little deeper, I always end up at “boy, everything about this is implausible and campy!”

  4. Oh, man. I respect your opinions. And you have compassion for Will. I … well… I’ll consider giving it some thought.

  5. I’m a Will/Emma fan, and there are actually many of us. We just aren’t as vocal as the Klaine, Brittana, Finchel fans on Tumblr and places like that, so we tend to get drowned out most of the time. Even so, the fan base for the couple is quite large.

  6. Will definitely has a lot of vocal haters. I just meant that I think he has more fans Tumblr and LiveJournal(particularly ONTD) would lead one to believe. Negativity is always more vocal online than positivity. I’ve never understood the Will hate to be honest. More often than not he at least tries to be a good person.

    I also think the hardcore Will and Will/Emma fans tend to skew older than the fans of the other characters on the show.

  7. I think Jayma Mays and Mathew Morrison are both superb actors and this relationship is one of the most touching on the show. What I think is so beautiful is the how Will handles a spouse with mental illness; he’s a character who just tries to fix things and that sense of hopelessness he feels with her is heart breaking to watch. He’s not perfect but he’s just doing what he can and through it all they’re relationship is stronger for it.

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