Glee’s Blaine Anderson and Bowties and Passing

Blaine in  a bowtieA lot of people have a lot of hate for Blaine’s bowties and cropped trousers and colours. Some people hate them because they don’t like the style or the aesthetic. Other people don’t like them because they feel he’s copying (or trying to impress) Kurt — and there are all kinds of reasons why he might do that, and I think that’s possibly right. I’m happy to set that aside though, because I think copying Kurt might have a deeper reason for Blaine than just trying to be perfect for his boyfriend.

This morning, I woke to Racheline Maltese’s post on National Coming Out Day (which, incidentally, we don’t have in Ireland) and while I was writing the long comment to end all long comments, I decided to move it over here. She writes:

Additionally, coming out is complicated. For a lot of us, it involves not a sentence, but paragraphs, about sexual preference, romantic attraction, personal history and gender presentation and identity; and if we pass for whatever reason(s) (which is this whole mess of a thing filled with advantages and disadvantages and all sorts of complicated stuff), it can feel even harder to speak up.

It’s the passing comment that gets me every single time. Blaine passes. People don’t automatically assume he’s gay the way they do with Kurt. Some of you may think that’s a good thing. But from my perspective, it makes me feel really, really sad for Blaine, because I think it’s possible he doesn’t want to.

I passed quite effortlessly for the majority of my out life. It’s really only recently with the haircut and finally understanding why I was always shopping in the men’s section that I’m finding I don’t. And I wouldn’t go back to passing as straight for anything. It was — at best — uncomfortable and — at worst — isolating.

Blaine in Dalton UniformIt’s like the bisexual woman who is dating a man — she no less bisexual — but she can feel isolated because she’s invisible not only to the straight world, but to her own community. I remember being assumed straight at Pride meetings, facing down religious protesters outside the council chambers, meeting Peter Tatchell and Angela Mason, hitting on a girl I fancied. See where this gets way awkward?

And there were reasons I didn’t try harder to not pass. I felt the way I was dressing was attractive and helpful. I enjoyed the attention I did get as a feminine looking (but oh man, not acting, wow that must have been weird) lesbian when I was among friends. I wore short skirt suits with stockings and high heels and push-up bras and makeup. It was for work, the look, because I didn’t know another way to dress (we’ll talk about my mom later) professionally and it worked in that respect, but it was always, always an act.

Now, I’ll make this 200% clear: many people pass because they genuinely are in touch with their gender identity and it is typical enough for them to pass. That’s just not my story. It may not be Blaine’s either.

I see Blaine as someone who finally has a reason to break out. He — as a guy in a relationship with another guy — now doesn’t pass so he gets to play now. There’s no fooling anyone who knows, and the whole of McKinley undoubtedly knows they’re a couple, so he can let go. He can fool around a bit with how he presents himself. He can not-pass, and I think to Blaine, who wore his Dalton blues so well, this is pretty liberating.

Honestly, in two years, that boy’s gonna be shirtless in a pick up truck at Pride (with glitter). I just know it.

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16 thoughts on “Glee’s Blaine Anderson and Bowties and Passing

  1. Oh wait, no, I I totally have something to say.

    S2 gives us the sense that Blaine probably feels pressure to pass at home, and when the prom thing happens, there’s this moment where he’s suggesting, not that Kurt pass (he can’t) but that he try, and it’s not a pleasant moment for anyone.

    But then prom happens — Kurt doesn’t step back and Blaine has to step up — and it turns out to be the one part of that mess that doesn’t suck. So, this play (and yes, trying to impress Kurt, and also trying to avoid having to come out by just being out), is really a direct outgrowth of a set of events that winds up implying “not passing sucks less” — which is why everything that goes down with the play throws everyone for a loop, because suddenly, er, no.

    That’s why I really hope we get some explicit content about Blaine’s experience of all this. We know Kurt doesn’t pass, and we’ve seen his story, now acknowledged in pretty much these terms. But what’s it like for the guy who can? Or has to make choices about it? That’s the puzzle piece I really, really want out of Glee this season (well, that and the other, non-orientation related passing stories that it may or may not be trying to tell).

  2. Yeah, well, that’s the thing though — Blaine has a choice, so he can chose to not-pass but it’s still a choice and there’s power in choice. Kurt doesn’t have that choice and there’s a power in owning who you can’t help but be either, but they’re different kinds of power.

    And once again, Kurt has to step up — Kurt always has to step up — and own who he is and deal with that without hurting the people around him (when he threw Defying Gravity) and when he conceded that Blaine was better for the part of Tony, because Kurt has learned that as much as he would like what hurts him to hurt others, there’s no actual victory in that. (Making Rachel look all wrong for Finn, for example, didn’t make Finn want Kurt.)

    But yeah, I think Blaine faces a life of choosing, and of winning and losing in different ways because he has to actually make that choice each time. He could put on a hoodie and baggy jeans and join a sports team and be that guy. Instead he probably asks Kurt’s advice on bowties and goes his own way with trousers and probably the braces too because would Kurt really sanction clip braces? Anyway.

  3. Kurt would not sanction the clip braces, and they, in fact, fill me with rage as well. But that’s a general fashion peeve I’ve had for a long time. And seriously, Blaine went to Dalton. Even if it was only for a year, a prep school boy should know better.

  4. I really, really like this analysis, and I think it ties a lot into the dichotomy some people see between S2 Blaine–dapper, passing–and S3 Blaine. Not all of it, there are other issues at play, but this is a layer of complexity that I do think is being very deliberately written, given Kurt’s lines and where S3 seems to have started and where it seems to be going and all the politics. I dunno how explicit they’ll make it–like RM, I’m crossing my fingers here–but it certainly adds to the richness of the stories I see.

    Anyways, every aspect of this post, from the comments about his clothes on, is very astute, and I really appreciate how you’ve articulated it. The words were helpful to me.

    p.s. Blaine passes as White, too. Blaine passes as a lot of things, period.

    p.p.s. As an autistic person as well as a queer person, my experiences with passing are all kinds of convoluted. I’d never thought about…not wanting to pass as straight, if you can? About Blaine in two years on a Pride parade in glitter. Indistinguishability is such a dominant goal for a lot of autistics, and my focus has always been on how damaging and unsustainable that is, but I’ve never made that connection. I’m not sure I fully grok it, but I’m aware of it now, so thank you for that, too.

  5. Blaine shirtless in a pickup at Pride, glitter: one of the best images I’ve had put in my head in a long time. I like THAT Blaine. That’s a magical, anti-S2 Blaine and I like him.

  6. I’m not sure what you’re asking? I know that DC identifies as hapa, and I’m like 99% sure Blaine hasn’t been whitewashed. I know that he his hair is less gelled in BIOTA, and then Rachel makes a reference to their future “vaguely Eurasian-looking” children, so I’m pretty sure the writers are making a conscious choice.

  7. Confirming what Julia says. DC has also talked in one or two interviews about passing and how that makes his life easier as an actor (and how that’s, you know, weird). I doubt most white people who didn’t know his background would read him as a PoC.

    Glee has only acknowledged his background as also being Blaine’s in that one line from Rachel. This is one of the other places Glee may go with the passing plotline(s) (the other centers around disability, and has been written on pretty damn insightfully by others in this very blog). Fingers crossed.

  8. I have to say, I’m absolutely shocked to discover there is a DC interview somewhere that I haven’t seen.

    Oh, and I think you’ll find the insightful blogger is the same Julia as the commenter you are backing up. I’m delighted she lets me post her stuff here because disability is another thing I find difficult to talk about, despite having a learning disability, so that’s something I’m really really happy to be reading more of. Hopefully she has more to come.

  9. I think he does pass as white–I mean, fandom as a whole didn’t seem to catch on until the hiatus after 2:16 I think, thanks to the line in BIOTA and some very persistant fans, and jokes about his hair gel etc are still widely considered HILARIOUS and not fifty different kinds of inappropriate.

    Seconding what RM said.

    …and as a white person I think I should stop talking now? Because it feels like not my place? So, yay, done.

  10. Interesting… I like this theory. It actually makes me feel a bit better about Blaine’s wardrobe which I have always felt is trying to be way too much like Kurt’s. Of course I’ve always had an issue with Kurt’s wardrobe too because there is no way in hell a Midwestern son of a mechanic could afford the designer labels he sports in the show. I have always wished they went more of a “Pretty in Pink” route in regards to Kurt’s wardrobe with him making and designing his own clothes due to financial necessity.

    Sorry I keep commenting on old posts. I just found this site and find the topics fascinating.

  11. I must say I did not think for a second he dresses that way to impress Kurt. I think it is very much his personal style, with some suggestions from Kurt. I must say though that you have raised a wonderful point with the idea of passing.

    I was wondering if his choice of clothing probably has to do too with identifying or enjoying a certain dapper/old Hollywood look too? Some people have said he dresses like a grandpa, but on a personal level, I disagree. I personally adore how he dresses, including the gelled hair, bowties and rolled-up pants. I reckon he projects an image of more grown-up person or maybe even a gentleman; we know he dislikes being crass. He has said that in the reluctance to do sexy moves, both with the ND and with the Warblers, where he said there was nothing classy about their performance. So evidently a certain idea of how someone must behave or look that is expected; something that was determined by his own persona or influenced by his parents since he was a kid (or both), and I think that part of his personality is reflected in his clothes. We know thanks to the flashback in Big Brother he dresses similarly as how he used to as a kid so I honestly do not think his look comes from an attempt to impress Kurt, though I am sure Kurt’s opinion may have swayed or informed some of his fashion decisions.

    We also know, thanks to the old camaras in his bedroom, that he has a thing for vintage things; and in clothing, he uses clothes that reference things in the past like suspenders and bowties (even when they are entering into fashion more these seasons). Let’s face it, his clothes are not really the most commonly seen in a high school scenario from a teenage boy. Sure, maybe you’d expect a teenage boy to wear a bowtie to a formal event but on a daily basis? There is something about the way he dresses to me that is very thought-out, almost formal at times. Again, I bring your attention to the bowties and blazers, which are not usually accessories associated casual-wear. It is not the type of style you go “I threw on the first shirt I saw and that was it”, like it would probably be with someone like Finn. I always saw Blaine as this mixture of a very serious, composed person (similar to the mentor we saw in Season 2) and a very energetic and vibrant personality (we see that more clearly in his performances) and I think it is reflected in his choice of colour. It’s like you have the perfectly styled hair and the very clean, perfectly styled clothes in usually a lot of neutral colours (It’s almost like a classic, serious look) and with navy blue, red mixed with the occasional mustard yellow and green and of course, the patterns which I reckon show the more vivacious side of his personality.

    Perhaps I am wrong but that is how I always saw him. 🙂

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