Despite the first paragraphs, this is not actually Screenwriting 101. This is, in fact, about Will. It’s about Will, and why all his students are abandoning him.
Will is a Good Guy. That’s the problem.
There’s a lot of criticism in some segments of fandom whenever the writers have characters criticize Will for favoring certain voices and students. The criticism suggests this is intellectually dishonest, or lazy, or bullshit–that it makes Will into a scapegoat for the decisions and favoritisms of his creators. It’s not Will who gives every solo to Rachel, they argue—it’s Ryan Murphy.
Time for some Writing 101:
1: Ryan Murphy is not, in fact, a character in the world of the show. He has characters to do things for him and make things happen.
2: Therefore, Ryan Murphy may need to give Lea Michele a lot of solos for real-world reasons, but that does not mean that Will Schuester can’t have his own, textual reasons for giving Rachel lots of solos, reasons which may or may not be good ones. In fact, that’s generally how storytelling works–characters have motivations which cause actions which execute the author’s schemes.
3: Similarly, character actions do not imply author approval. ESPECIALLY if said character is routinely ridiculed by all three author-avatars (Kurt (Murphy), Sue (Brennan), and Burt (Falchuck) all hold Will in absolute disdain.)
4: Is there any particular reason why “Rachel and Finn get half the leads and this causes drama that never properly resolves and thus keeps recurring” isn’t less lazy writing and more…continuity? Any logical reason at all?
5: Is there any reason, any reason at all, why Will plays favorites and is not actually a good teacher can’t be an explicit, long-term plot this season?
And this is where it gets interesting. What if, just imagine, what if the fact that Will’s students keep abandoning him was its own storyline?
It’s certainly been building long enough, and now it keeps turning into actual lines and plot points. These signs all typically point towards something being, like, an actual, developing story. This could serve a purpose, be part of a larger, or its own, storyline, and pull several disparate elements of the show from the very beginning together really nicely.
Of course, it means that Will isn’t going to come out of things looking very good. One-third of his show choir already defecting to another teacher and none of his remaining students taking him seriously can take the shine off anyone’s reputation as it is, but the season has only just begun, and, if we’re being honest….he hasn’t looked good for a while.
There is an argument, of course, that “the show clearly intends for Will to be a good guy/sympathetic character/competent teacher, but keeps failing in the execution.” I’d say the failure has been overwhelmingly consistent for two seasons and counting now. Complaints about Will’s character becoming “unlikable” rest upon the assumption that a man who abandons his new students for a boy band of his own (1×03, Acafellas), has an old crush and current alcoholic headline his glee club at his students’ expense (1×05, The Rhodes Not Taken), and never, ever tries to remove the slushy machines, could ever have been intended to be likable. This is the same character who planted pot in a student’s locker to get him to join a show choir in the pilot, yes? The same man who consistently handles his own guilt by tearing into Figgins/Sue/his students for similar offenses moments later? (See: Will vs the glee club in “Wheels” and Will vs Sue in “Funeral,” for example.) When does this stop being failed executionand start being consistent characterization or continuity or really interesting deconstruction?
Because let’s face it. The character of Will, in canon, based on what has come across and leaving aside impossible questions of intent, is incredibly interesting. He’s privilege personified. He’s our default straight white enabled cis adult male. He never grew up, and he never had to. He’s a teacher–a teacher for this ragtag group of misfit underdogs. He’s supposed to be the Good Guy. He’s supposed to be our Hero.
Except it turns out that our Hero is Kurt in every way imaginable, and always has been, and in a story where this tiny cannot-pass-for-shit gay-diddy-gay-gay-gay countertenor is our Hero, what does that make Will?
Will becomes a fascinating character. He’s a character who doesn’t realize what everyone around him learns or already knows–he’s toxic. He doesn’t, can’t understand what his students experience, nor does he try. His attempts to help often make things worse, and when rebuffed, or when his students are inconveniently in need or hurt or just not easy and simple enough, he lashes out at them, at the children in his care. He’s supposed to be Good, and that’s what enables him to do so much damage.
And, crucially, he has absolutely no idea.
It means several things for his character and his storyline, and for Glee in general.
1: Will can never, never learn this about himself without all of the rules changing.
2: For many reasons, this is not an element the students can explicitly voice, even to each other.
3: Will thus becomes not a character to be explored in how own right, but a character for other people to deal with and process and work around.
4: Glee gets moral ambiguity and moral complexity embedded into its basic structure.
Beyond that list though, this allows Glee to play with several different ideas.
1: What is a good teacher?
2: What does it mean that Will is constantly referred to as a good teacher? When does this happen?
3: What does it mean when Sue is better at protecting Kurt, Brittany, or Becky than any other teacher–and yet assaults other students?
4: Can a genuinely good teacher even exist at WMHS? Is this why Coach Bieste is running everything now?
5: What does it mean that Will is Finn’s role model–and yet Finn threatens to get Coach Bieste, and explicitly not Will, if the hockey players don’t leave Rory alone?
6: How do the different students discover Will’s true colors, and how do they process this and negotiate around them? Are they all as obvious as Quinn, dying her hair and putting on a dress and smiling just enough to be someone he’ll take? Or are they more of a Rachel, or a Kurt?
7: Why, exactly, does Figgins ignite so much righteous anger in Will? Or, more precisely–when? In what circumstances?
8: When Will is a caring or responsible adult–the end of BIOTA, for example–what changes, and what motivates that change?
The lists are unfinished, of course, as is canon. A central idea emerges though. Will’s self-concept does not match the reality of his actions or how others perceive him. If his self-concept doesn’t map to the show’s reality…what about his concept of the other characters? Do Will’s perceptions of the other characters–Kurt causing trouble, Quinn as ungrateful and selfish, Mercedes as lazy, Finn as a leader–reflect reality? Do his moral judgements carry weight, or at least the weight he thinks they do?
Will is a basic, foundational character for Glee. So, too…if his self-concept doesn’t reflect reality, what about the self-concepts of others? How does Kurt think of himself? Is he right? Is Artie the social misfit he sees himself as? What about Rachel? How does Brittany view herself, and how do others view Brittany? How can this be negotiated?
It’s a complex set of elements. Will is a complex, and fascinating, character.
He’s just not a good guy. And this season, one facet of that has evolved into an explicit storyline:
His students are jumping ship.
I loathe Will, but that’s because I’m supposed to. This is all spot on. One of the things Glee tells us is the villains are not who we think.
Another thing Glee tells us with both teen and adult characters is that if you don’t try to work past your pain it will destroy you. (Which is pretty interesting an idea for a show about high school than many people can’t stand to watch because of their own high school wounds).
The only adults in the show who behave well are Burt, Carole and Mike’s mom. You know why? Because they have all been given stories involving explicit pain that they have integrated into their experiences, continue to acknowledge and have moved beyond.
All the other adults? At minimum, are metaphorically still in high school. This is why it’s so important our lead teen characters graduate and get, if not out of Lima, beyond WMHS, because they are the heroes of this story and we are watching them grow up the way so many of their supposed role models have never managed to, and, unless we get a very random redemption story, will never manage to.
Great entry and have given new depths to some recent thoughts of my own…
Another point could be that Will is as deluded in his perception of himself as most of the students-he ‘needs’ to be the ‘good teacher’ the ‘good guy’ if he’s to go on which obviously draws from his ruined self esteem. We’ve constantly been told the reason he started the Glee Club was to renact his own failed dream vicariously through the students. I did notice in the ‘First Time’ that for the ‘first time’ Will was not present in their problems (I understand they cut a scene where Finn goes to him for advice); a real sign of the kids growing up. They’ve stopped needing him. Shelby on the other hand is clearly a mature not to mention brilliant vocal coach and perhaps she represents what has been denied them.
One of my favourite moments was the look of absolute disdain Kurt gives him when Will actually asks him if ‘there’s anything I can do?’ after witnessing the boy get violently assaulted. The worst part of it was- Will clearly knows that this had been happening for a long time then laments Kurt’s attitude in the face of it. Of course if someone is being bullied it will ‘get to them’, they will be angry/upset. But there’s no room for that in Will’s little ‘Glee’ world. We’ve never got an insight into his own personal views-could he be mildly homophobic?
This could be a great story line- Glee is all about having the roles reversed…what about if Will’s ineptitude is exposed and he was forced to reassess himself in the eyes of himself and others? I really get why Sue dislikes him. At least she admits her own dark side and embraces it where he refuses to…that’s why he causes so much damage. Santana says she’s on Team Sue for good reason; she may love the Glee Club and the people in it but Sue gives her a sense of empowerment and security where Will rejects it.
Also he condescends to Becky a lot where who else but Sue would make the girl her right hand? Not just out of pity but she knows that Becky is more than capable.
Ok there’s my rant.
Love this post, Julia! It’s totally different to my reading where Will is actually the only non-magical creature in the whole show (or maybe that actually works too) and suffers consequences and stuff.
Actually watching Dead Poets Society right now and thinking about the great teacher myth. Because Will does all the “Great Teacher” things: sacrifices his personal life for his work (working extra hours to pay for Glee, etc), wants find unorthodox ways to inspire, gets involved in the personal lives of his students. At least two of these things are really dubious practices, but a lot of movies and tv shows would make those virtues.
I don’t think it contradicts Will being a non-magical being in charge of a glee club of crazy magic teenagers. I think that’s…..kind of the archetypal overlay for what I’m saying, actually.
I am positive I had something more intelligent to say here, but it’s gone. Basically, I think they’re two sides of the same coin, if I’m using the phrase correctly.
“Another thing Glee tells us with both teen and adult characters is that if you don’t try to work past your pain it will destroy you. (Which is pretty interesting an idea for a show about high school than many people can’t stand to watch because of their own high school wounds).”
Oooooh. Yes. Yes that makes sense. That ties several things together, actually.
Not just the adults, too; witness Quinn, or Santana, or Rachel at the start of S2.
“This is why it’s so important our lead teen characters graduate and get, if not out of Lima, beyond WMHS, because they are the heroes of this story and we are watching them grow up the way so many of their supposed role models have never managed to, and, unless we get a very random redemption story, will never manage to.”
That’s a very succinct summary. I keep getting nervous about who’s going to get out–and it’s *not* anti-rural sentiment, oh god, I actually laugh whenever people call the Lima on Glee rural, I live on a dirt road, honestly–but it’s such a fundamental part of the story, and its the matrix the show has given us for gauging who ultimately gets a triumphant arc, and who doesn’t. And I want them all to win.
Though, wait. Because the reason Kurt’s arc S2 was so heroic wasn’t just because he got out, or because he saved himself if we’re talking magic meta; it was because, in the end, he came back. And that’s another way to let them win, but also get another season. Have them all get out so decisively at the end of S3, Nationals or whatever….and then come back, triumphant, and bigger than what they left.
I don’t know how that would work, but I wonder if that’s where we are headed.
(I think my favorite thing about Glee is that it swaps around who the villains and heroes are.)
Hello Dan! I am assuming you are not the same Dan who actually watches Glee with me every Tuesday and makes remarks about Kurt’s clothes and groans at Will, yeah?
List of thoughts, as I do:
-I think that the idea that Will is trying to recreate his failed dreams, at least at the start of the show, is fundamental to his character and his genius as such. Yes. There are a lot of facets to it–ruined self-esteem, character motivation, an inability to look away from his own dreams and asses how they are or aren’t working and what cost they’re extracting from others, the tunnel vision we see S3, etc. It provides a lot of narrative fodder.
-S3 has really stressed how much the kids don’t need him anymore. Mercedes says “I’ve outgrown you.” Rachel tells him to stop speaking and takes over the running of the rehearsal at several points in TPPP, in a way that is less focused on her personal success and more focused on keeping the team from imploding. Finn threatens to sic Coach Bieste on the football players, explicitly *not* him. And then TFT, yes.
-I think Will is Not Homophobic. He is a Good Person, and Good People are Not Homophobic, and surely Kurt was making friends by the dumpster last year, and seriously Kurt, jazz hands, come on, blend.
-I’m not sure that Will can ever see himself clearly, from a writing standpoint. I can also see wanting to give him a triumphant arc, a redemption, too. I think it would change all the rules of the universe. Maybe at the end.
-Alternately, Will *does* know these things about himself, and can’t handle them, and ignores them, and actively punishes people who remind him.
-That is at least half the reason Sue despises him, yes.
-That scene with Becky was brilliantly directed and acted. What it comes down to, for me, is simple. We’ve never seen Sue interacting with Becky’s mom. But in order to even talk to Will, Becky knew that she needed her mom, and that her mom would need to do most of the talking. Will hardly looks at Becky at all in that scene. It’s…..horribly realistic, and very clearly done. Becky has agency around every other character. Just not Will. There just isn’t a place for her.
I think it says a lot that Schue, takes his cues from fiction, and instead of transforming these cues into pratical real world positives that make magic for his kids, he thinks the source of his borrowings are powerful enough that they will do the work for him. Schue sacrifices his own convenience (long hours, cash) but not his own comfort (he’ll not really engage about Kurt’s bullying or listen to what Mercedes is really upset about — they’re marginalized angry people and that makes him uncomfortable) and just can’t figure out why that’s not enough. He wants to transform the lives of these kids without being willing to transform himself. It’s like someone training to become a therapist without ever going to therapy themselves — ineffectual, dangerous, and rude.
You make some good points, but I actually have to disagree with you about a lot of things. For one, I think Will IS a good guy, and for that I’ll always love him. He’s immature,selfish, and stupid a lot of the time, but I’ve never doubted for a second how much he loves those kids. IMO, Will was never supposed to be seen as perfect. To me, he’s always been that guy who has good intentions, but who just screws up a lot. That doesn’t mean that he’s not a good person,though.
I also don’t think Will necessarily has an unrealistic opinion of himself. Sure he sees himself as a good person, but he also willingly acknowledges and apologizes when he screws up.
As for the solo distribution issue, I don’t think it’s been anywhere NEAR as Finn/Rachel heavy as the characters(and sometimes the fans) seem to believe. The original set list for season 1 Sectionals featured Finn,Rachel,Mercedes(on “Proud Mary), Artie, and Tina. Season 1 Regionals featured Finn,Rachel, Santana and Puck. Last season Santana,Sam, and Quinn were featured at Sectionals. Season 2 Regionals and Nationals are a different case since they were original songs. I always got the impression that the kids decided who would sing those songs. If that wasn’t the case, I’m not sure Rachel being voted the unanimous MVP at Regionals makes any sense at all. People would’ve resented her for getting solos on both “Get It Right” and “Loser Like Me.”
I wanted to add that I don’t think Will is homophobic at all. IMO, the bullying thing is a problem that the show has in tone, and I can’t really blame any of the characters for it. In early season one, ALL bullying was treated as a joke(ie. Kurt by the dumpsters, slushies, everything Sue does). It was part of the dark humor of the show. In season 2 the writers suddenly decided that gay bullying would be a serious issue, but that all other types would still be treated as jokes. Because of this tonal discord, I can’t find it in myself to judge any of the characters for their reactions to it.
I definitely agree that the solo distribution is not cut-and-dry, but the fact remains that it tends to go “Rachel on one song, one of the other girls on another,” etc. Since Will is repeatedly seen choosing leads, especially in the first episode where we see them rehearsing, I’m not sure why you think the kids decide.
I think Will has done too many harmful things to be characterized as a good person. That may depend on the worldview of who watches. Regardless though, the narrative evidence that Will is *not* our Hero is strong, no matter how the viewers may sympathize. By the rules Glee has established, Will is not a winner. Which doesn’t make him a poor character–it makes him very interesting and important.
I think the show has consistently called what we would call homophobia, ableism, etc. to be bullying. What we call bullying–Santana’s lines, slushies, etc.–it doesn’t. That’s another interesting choice, with advantages and problems, but it is a consistent one.
I disagree about the homophobia, obviously. But I’m really not interested in saying “X is a bad person,” and that’s not what the post is about. It’s about how characters are conceived of and how they operate in and given the rules of the show, and what this means narratively and thematically for the show.
I’m sorry for not keeping this all in one post, but other thoughts keep coming to me.
I wanted to address Will’s handling of Kurt’s bullying(once the writers decided it should be taken seriously) and say that I didn’t have any problems with it. The way I see it, Will was NOT blaming Kurt for letting the bullying get to him. He was trying to get Kurt to ask for help, which was necessary as Will didn’t actually see Karofsky slam Kurt into the lockers. He only saw Kurt’s terrified face afterwards. In “Furt” Will really stepped up to the plate and was truly there for Kurt. Then again, I tend to see this show differently than many of y’all do. To me, Will has always been the most relatable character, and I think he’s also the most human. He’s a guy who was trapped in an awful relationship since high school, and because of that, he’s never completely grown up. I’ve enjoyed watching him stumble his way through coaching ND with the best of intentions, and I’ve also enjoyed his love story with Emma. Despite the defections, I think Will has been a better teacher this year than he ever was before. I thought the Booty Camp was a good idea.
I thought the kids decided on leads for “Loser Like Me” and “Light Up the World” since they wrote those together. It made since that Rachel sang “Get It Right” and that Finn sang(as a duet with Rachel) “Pretending” because they wrote those songs respectively.
For me at least, intention plays a very large role in determining whether or not a character is “good.” That probably explains my different interpretation of Will.
Speaking of which, I think one of the interesting things about this show is that who the “hero” is is completely up to interpretation. I’ve always seen it as Will, and others think it’s Kurt,Rachel, or Finn. IMO, there’s evidence to support any of those theses.
Well Julia I do spend much of my viewing time talking about Kurt’s clothes and scoffing at Will’s idiocy. Perhaps homophobia was a bit of an over statement I merely meant he is technically supportive of the misfits but when he is confronted with it or it becomes to personal because it puts his lack of understanding in perspective he either rejects or rages against it. What I love about Glee is how it presents these stereotypes then turns them over and that’s how the audience re assess it. It’s not just the characters that need to believe it it’s the audience:
a) The fey gay boy is suddenly the toughest and bravest guy in the room and he does it all in designer pants.
b) The ‘dim’ girl who everyone writes off is actually the sweetest and most insightful character in the room- make a note that at the end of season 2-it is Brittany that gives the lesson ‘not’ Will-insight or what!
c) Back to Santana-she may be ‘mean’ as they say but at least she is no hypocrite and the ones she lashes out at are hypocrites. That’s what aligns her with Sue. They both stay true to themselves. Interesting to note would be Santana’s brief interaction with Becky in 3.01-in the same sentance she basically told her that she respected her intelligence but not to stand in her way. It’s why she loves Brittany-she’s honest and simple and as she herself says ‘all that is good in the world’.
d) Finn constantly calls himself a leader but he is clearly not up for the job. That’s why I think Will chose him, they’re both mediocre but status quo tells them that as a quarterback and the token inspirational teacher that they must be ‘together’ and ‘capable’. As I’ve noticed both of them have found their foils-Will with Shelby and Finn with Blaine. Both of them turn the pyramid upside down: Shelby as a woman and Blaine because not only is he gay but he’s another form of man society reveres-he’s a quietly spoken gentleman. It also doesn’t help that he was once an ideal suitor for Rachel’s affections.
It’s because of these expectations that Will and Finn just assume everything will work out in the end-hence why the show constantly has them just come through at the last minute, hence when they compete the songs are incorporated minutes or days before. The change in structure shows that things are about to change. Both men are on the verge of a break through-Will is stepping up for Emma who is far from the ‘ideal’ he has been chasing and Finn is learning to compromise what happiness is by the possibility he could just be the average joe with a tire store; the girl’s gonna move on but another one will come along.
At least I hope the show does this and doesn’t feel the need to reward them.
In case you can’t tell I had a lit teacher who taught me to over analyse everything
//As for the solo distribution issue, I don’t think it’s been anywhere NEAR as Finn/Rachel heavy as the characters(and sometimes the fans) seem to believe. //
It usually ends up being less Finn/Rachel heavy because the kids and occasionally Emma raise a stink about it, though. His first move is generally to give it to Rachel and Finn—even him giving zero songs to Rachel in “Special Education” only happened because Emma called him on being predictable at the beginning of the episode.
However, it also ends up seeming more Rachel-heavy because even when a solo was originally left to a vote or supposed to go to someone else, circumstances occur where Rachel ends up getting it anyway: Tina decides to give up the “Tonight” solo to Rachel, Kurt deliberately flubs his “Defying Gravity” audition—though notably he had to push Will for an audition instead of it being given immediately to Rachel, the one time Mercedes was given a competition solo she had to be replaced by Rachel because their songs were stolen, etc.. (And during season one solos meant mostly weekly solos, which Schue assigned. In season two he switched to weekly assignments instead.)
The decision-making behind last seasons Regionals and Nationals seem kind of fuzzy, though. At first I figured it was based on who wrote the songs, because Rachel wrote (and sang) “Get It Right”. But then it seemed like everyone except Rachel had worked on “Loser Like Me”, but she sang that too, and according to cut lines from “New York” she actually did write it, with Quinn. And then Finn wrote his duet with Rachel, and also asked the guys to let him sing it with her. Given Schue’s pronouncement at the end of “Funeral” (“We’re going back to what got us here—original songs sung by the whole club”) it seems like he probably decided the lineup for “Light up the World”, but it also seems like he didn’t notice that “the entire club” didn’t sing “Loser Like Me”–Finn and Rachel did.
//Similarly, character actions do not imply author approval. ESPECIALLY if said character is routinely ridiculed by all three author-avatars (Kurt (Murphy), Sue (Brennan), and Burt (Falchuck) all hold Will in absolute disdain.)//
Can you provide some examples of this? Because I’m not really seeing this. Kurt has seemed to disdain Will before, largely in his reaction shots to Will’s behavior, but he also immediately hugged him in the Christmas episode and opened up to him emotionally about his crush. Burt and Kurt evidently trusted him enough to be the moderator in their discussion with the Karofskys when they were deciding whether Kurt should transfer back, despite Sue being the more obvious choice, what with actually being the one to punish Karofsky for his actions. Burt credits Will’s Glee club with saving Kurt’s life. And now both Burt and Kurt are working with him on Burt’s campaign.
And for all that Sue continuously ridicules him, it’s largely insults about his personal life and his hair. (Similarly, I don’t think her ridiculing Burt in “Pot o’ Gold” is intended as a criticism of Burt’s character.) When it comes to the quality of his character and the quality of his teaching, Sue has to admit that he’s a good man with a “pure heart”, even as she’s screwing him over. Her disdain for him is presented as being based largely on her own failures as a person, and her failures to overcome her own past, than on him being actually worthy of her disdain.
In early season one episodes like “Throwdown”, she was using Will’s own shortcomings against him (although imo I think we’re also supposed to agree with Will’s conclusion that it was needlessly divisive, just as we’re supposed to agree that holding auditions instead of handing out solos is needlessly divisive). Increasingly season two, though, her attacks were on the Glee club as a whole, not on Will, to the extent that she apparently chose a different Glee club member to hate every week and then targeted them with pointless bullying tactics that didn’t affect Glee club (or Will) at all.
I mean, if anyone could speak to/of Will honestly, it would be Burt and Sue. But they actually seem to agree that he is, at heart, a good man who does good things, even as Sue makes him the focus of her unfocused rage, and even as Burt laughs at him.
I agree that Finn/Rachel end up singing in most of the competition songs. My point was that Will’s original set lists usually feature several different people. Before the mattress debacle, the set list for season 1 Sectionals was “Proud Mary,””True Colors,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” That means that Mercedes,Artie,Tina,Finn,and Rachel all would’ve been featured. Finn/Rachel simply ended up being the leads because they had to change the set list at the very last minute. At Regionals Finn/Rachel got the duet, but Puck and Santana also had solo lines.
Finn/Rachel definitely seem to be the leads, but it’s not as if they sing ALL the songs and no one else ever gets a chance. I actually think part of the issue is that the writers often use Finn/Rachel duets to further that relationship. It reflects on Will, but I think that’s actually unintentional on the writers’ parts.
“The change in structure shows that things are about to change. Both men are on the verge of a break through-Will is stepping up for Emma who is far from the ‘ideal’ he has been chasing”
“Asian F” made me love their relationship even more. It’s fascinating to watch Will love Emma so deeply and stumble around in the dark trying to help her. Their relationship is one of the most touching on the show IMO.
Burt does not say that Will saved Kurt’s life–his glee club did. That’s a really important difference.
There is nothing to suggest that Will is there for the discussion with the Karofskys as a moderator–one would think that would be Figgins’ job. Overall, throughout all three seasons, Burt has treated Will, in their interactions at WMHS, with disdain, clearly not finding him competent. There’s a lot done with body language and tone–I’d encourage you to rewatch the scenes. And regarding Burt’s campaign….it’s made explicitly clear that Burt had already formed his plan before Will suggets it and that he does not need his help or support, however nice it might be. “Adult supervision” for something his son is doing and assumed quite capable of reads to me like make-work, or humoring someone, not trying to find an area where they can actually contribute. Will likes to insert himself into things–scenes in Figgin’s office, political campaigns, the personal lives of his students, etc. This way, that can be contained.
Kurt does indeed hug Will when he visits Dalton. He’s also the only kid who doesn’t get up to hug him in NY, and the scene you reference is the only interaction between them I can think of that is positive.
Sue says that Jean said that Will had a pure heart. Again, important difference. That Will is repeatedly referred to as a good teacher is more indicative of the dystopian nature of WMHS than of any actual praise of his skills on the part of the writers. And since Sue repeatedly *does* target Will and his job, trying to get him fired or moving to NYC, moving far beyond attacks on his hair or personality (ala Burt or the other kids), I don’t think your argument holds much weight–or that we’ve seen that Sue hates Will because she hates herself. When have we seen this? When has this been stated?
And again, the problem with Sue is that she’s….Sue. She should get her own analysis. She’s a cartoon character who occasionally does really important things and occasionally is used to express an authorial viewpoint, but that’s mixed in with a bunch of over-the-top, distracting antics. Sue plays with the truth. She’s fascinating.
I think the only time Burt showed disdain for Will was in “Wheels.” He might not particularly like Will, but he doesn’t seem to have a problem with him either most of the time.
Sue said that like her sister(and unlike herself), Will has a pure heart. She also told him that he was a good friend. I believe she also complimented him as a person and teacher in “Journey.” There was also the scene at the end of the Christmas episode, which told me that the kids and Sue(deep down) recognize that Will is a good person. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t waste their Christmas Eve’s spending time with him.
It’s true that Kurt/Will aren’t especially close, but IMO it’s undeniable that their relationship is much better now that it was before. I think that change resulted from Will being there for Kurt in “Grilled Cheesus” and “Furt.” Besides the Christmas episode, another positive moment was in “Funeral,” when Will had a positive reaction to Kurt’s audition for the Nationals solo.
Even if Will wasn’t the moderator, Hudson-Hummels obviously trusted him enough to allow him to be involved in that discussion in Figgins’s office.
//There is nothing to suggest that Will is there for the discussion with the Karofskys as a moderator–one would think that would be Figgins’ job.//
Well, one *would* think, but Will was there and acting as the moderator—he got involved, Figgins watched silently. There was no reason for Will to be there if Burt and Kurt hadn’t asked for him—or, if he inserted himself, as you suggest, then because Burt and Kurt allowed him to be.
//There’s a lot done with body language and tone–I’d encourage you to rewatch the scenes. //
The thing about body language and tone is that it’s interpretive—both on the level of “well, I read it differently than you” and on the level of “sometimes actors interpret things differently than the writers do.” If you’re arguing that this is absolutely what is intended by the writers, I’m going to need some action or some dialogue to agree with you, or some commentary from the writers or actors themselves. Because yes, while I agree that Burt finds Will kind of ridiculous, there’s nothing suggesting that he holds him “in absolute disdain”–Burt also finds Kurt kind of ridiculous, so it’s really not the mark of his contempt.
I’m also wondering why, if Burt held him in absolute disdain, he wouldn’t voice that disdain, or at the very least limit his contact with Will rather than partnering with him—why give him make-work at all instead of telling him the job is already filled? Why allow Will to be part of the meeting with the Karofskys at all, even if Will tried to insert himself? I mean, when your kid is transferring back to a school where the teachers did nothing about bullying and your kid’s life was threatened, that seems like the perfect time to call a teacher out. And yet.
//Sue says that Jean said that Will had a pure heart. //
No, Sue says “You have something Jean had that I do not have—a pure heart..” Although even if she had said that Jean said it, I still think it wouldn’t be as incidental as you’re framing it. Jean is Sue’s moral compass, who opens her up to wisdom that she’s otherwise closed off to. She’s Sue’s big sister, and Sue looks up to her as kinder and wiser and more insightful than Sue herself. She’s the person Sue wants to be … and she’s also the person who she thinks shares traits in common with Will.
//That Will is repeatedly referred to as a good teacher is more indicative of the dystopian nature of WMHS than of any actual praise of his skills on the part of the writers. //
WMHS is a decent school or a dystopian school depending on what the writers need it to be. Santana, Mike, Quinn, and Mercedes all have fairly well-off parents (doctors, dentists, real estate agents) who still send their kids to McKinley despite it being allegedly a hellhole—Mike’s dad even expects him to get into Harvard, yet doesn’t think to send him anywhere more academically rigorous. (Quinn and Santana might be there for Cheerios, but the same logic can’t really apply to Mike and football, since Mike’s parents don’t care about football and since the team was losing until last year, or to Mercedes.) Tanaka was about the level of season 1 average teachers, but in season 2 we got Bieste, who was skillful enough to turn the football team from absolute losers into absolute winners, and who didn’t seem to regard teaching at McKinley to be a downgrade.
Kurt transferred back to McKinley mid-term with “a single bully” being framed as the only problem, rather than “an atmosphere of bullying that the teachers and administration tacitly approve” or even “hey, you guys hire drug addicts who have been kicked out of other districts, while at Dalton he can learn about Charlemagne.” Blaine transferred to McKinley with the only problem being “I don’t know if I want to leave my former Glee club behind”, not “no way in hell will my parents let me transfer to a school where kids don’t know how to read.” McKinley is chronically broke, yet they can afford to drop $2000 from the school budget on a musical in a community that hates the arts with a fiery passion. It’s kind of situational depending on what the plot needs, is my point.
//And since Sue repeatedly *does* target Will and his job, trying to get him fired or moving to NYC, moving far beyond attacks on his hair or personality (ala Burt or the other kids), I don’t think your argument holds much weight//
I said that she *ridicules* him on the basis of his personal life and his job, not on the basis of his flaws as a human being or an educator. If her attacks on his job were meant to be read as deserved or righteous, or her disdain for him general, I think we would see a lot more ridicule on the basis of his character, or targeted attacks based on his flaws and teaching method, or targeted attacks on just him and not the Glee club as a whole. I mean, should we take her throwing sticks at Mercedes as evidence that Mercedes is worthy of contempt, or as evidence that in season two Sue “went off the rails” and just hated Glee club because she hated them?
//or that we’ve seen that Sue hates Will because she hates herself. When have we seen this? When has this been stated?
I didn’t actually say this. I said that her hatred is because of her own failures as a person, not Will’s–because she is cruel and petty and hateful–and because of her inability to let go of her own past. Overall, though, I do think Glee’s general theme about bullies—that they bully because of self-hatred, and because they’re jealous of other people who have fuller lives than they do—is supposed to apply to Sue as well.Off the top of my head, according to “The Power of Madonna”, even all her hair jokes are because she is actually jealous of Will’s generous head of hair, because she ruined her own hair as a young woman and can’t grow it any longer than it is now.