In which I argue with Dorothy Snarker on Glee’s behalf

But here’s the thing, “Glee,” what you do doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can’t say, outing is so terrible and so wrong and so tragic and so possibly suicidal one minute, yet just three months earlier say outing is A-OK if the popular hero quarterback dude does it to a kinda bitchy mean girl and then makes her sit awkwardly in front of him as he sings a song about girls wanting to have fun. Granted, sure, everyone’s experience is different. But you can’t really have your cake any way you want it. Otherwise the message is: Boy outing is super bad, girl outing is super helpful. Not cool.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, what the actual fuck with Kurt lecturing Quinn on how she should feel about Karofsky’s suicide attempt? What kind of my minority issue is more important than your minority issue speechifying is that? No. Uh-uh. Not cool. This isn’t the Ism Olympics. This is a silly little show about a Midwestern glee club that can, at its finest, provide crystalline moments of emotional resonance. And other times, they just sing and dance really well, and stuff.

via Dorothy Surrenders: What doesn’t Glee you.

I thought the handling of Kurt’s bullying, Santana’s outing, Karofsky’s outing and subsequent bullying was actually pretty amazing. Kurt and Santana had support at home, and if you want to know why other bullying comparisons are not valid to LGBT issues, that’s one of the big reasons why. If you’re bullied because you have freckles, chances are your parents love you just the same. If you’re bullied because you’re a redhead, again, you’re unlikely to be targeted at home because of that. But if you’re bullied because you’re queer, chances are still pretty good that the bullying happens at home, too.

And if your parents are the kind of people who think that “gay is a disease”, it’s likely you think, or at least feel, the same thing.It’s hard to get that shit out of your head if you’ve been taught it all your life. And so at school people bully you. And you come home and your mother looks at you with disgust. And in your head you hear that you’re weak, and diseased and wrong. And sometimes, you sneak into a gay bar, but the only other person your age there says you’re fat and ugly, so you’re not even feeling the love from the community either.

I really don’t think that Glee was endorsing Santana’s outing. It was painful for her, and the consequences of that hallway argument were far larger than they should have been. But Santana’s parents were good, and accepted her, and she has glee club, and Brittany. She may not have her abuela right now, but that’s one person.

Kurt was accepted by his father and by glee club. And then Dalton provided the escape he needed from the brutal halls of McKinley.

Dave Karofsky was accepted by Kurt, who he then made very uncomfortable by asking out, and he lost the only person he felt was on his side. He felt totally alone. And he thought the only escape from his life and his mistakes was to die by suicide. Remember when Will wanted Dave to join glee club? He should have joined glee club.

All in all, I think Glee‘s choices make sense.

Issue number 2:  When Quinn said that she couldn’t imagine wanting to end it all, I thought “How nice for you.”

It was an ugly fight yeah, but Kurt’s been there, of that I’m absolutely certain after this epsiode. Quinn was essentially saying “It’s stupid to feel the way you have and Dave did, and wow, the poor families.” Fuck Dave’s family. Seriously? His mom told him he has a disease and can be cured.

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24 thoughts on “In which I argue with Dorothy Snarker on Glee’s behalf

  1. Amen about Issue #2. Just STFU, Quinn, and let your ignorance lie there unspoken. I’ve had the potential to be the “family left behind” for years now and I can tell you I wouldn’t be blaming my mom, or think her a selfish bitch – I’d be pissed at Nature/God that gave her a brain chemistry that drives her regularly to suicide. I’m the one with (mostly) functional brain chemistry and a decent life with average stresses; my mom doesn’t owe me anything other than doing her best, and someday if that’s not enough, then “pray for” her (whatever the hell that accomplishes). I’ll survive and hope she’s at least at peace.

    And yes, Quinn, “How nice for you.”

  2. I think the things you’re focusing on in your criticism of Dorothy Snarker’s criticism are not the things that she is actually focusing on. Her issue with Santana’s outing pretty clearly isn’t that Santana ultimately turned out okay despite being outed. It’s the way that her being outed was framed in the first place–as “super helpful” and ultimately for Santana’s own good. (And ironically, as necessary so that Santana wouldn’t commit suicide. Santana had to be outed because otherwise she might commit suicide, but Karofsky attempted suicide because he was outed. These messages: a little bit mixed.) The fact that her parents accepted her doesn’t have much to do with the fact that she thanked Finn, the guy who outed her, for blackmailing her into a weeklong outing singalong that she repeatedly said was against her will.

    Characters may not be “blocks of gender on sticks”, but they also aren’t genderless (at least, these characters aren’t); gender may not be the only issue but it also can’t be entirely removed from the equation. The fact that a woman’s choice being taken out of her hands was framed as good for her and a man’s choice being taken out of his hands was framed as a tragedy isn’t the *only* thing going on in those stories, but it is *one* of the things going on.

    Similarly, I’m pretty sure that her issue with Kurt and Quinn was that Kurt belittled Quinn’s experiences, not that Quinn’s opinion that suicide is selfish was okay and shouldn’t have been refuted (which it was in the narrative, by both Kurt and Schue). Thus the comments about Ism Olympics and comparing minority issues. Because yes, there’s validity in what you say about the differences between LGBT bullying issues and other bullying issues. That was probably what Glee was going for, especially with the comment about how “the world still loved [Quinn]”.

    But in the process, they reduced Quinn’s entire arc–being rejected by her parents, being kicked out of her home, being rejected by her mentor, being bullied, giving up her baby and facing the emotional consequences of that, displaying severe emotional problems, feeling like her life had no direction or meaning or anything good at all–to “you had a baby at sixteen and a bad dye job for two weeks” so she couldn’t possibly know anything about “despair and self-loathing”. They ignored the fact that the entire first season was specifically about the way that the world stopped loving her, and that the primary difference you cite between LGBT bullying issues and other bullying issues (“If you’re bullied because you have freckles, chances are your parents love you just the same.”) did not actually apply in Quinn’s case.

    In the same episode, Schue (a straight dude) was framed as having insight into Karofsky’s experience because of his own experiences with suicidal ideation, so the the show *didn’t* ultimately make the point that the experiences of gay teenagers and straight teenagers aren’t comparable. It did, however, manage to frame male experiences and male emotions as important and worthy of respect, and female experiences and emotions as not. And coming close on the heels of Sam telling Quinn that she only has “rich white girl problems”, it is a disturbing *gendered* pattern of Quinn’s experiences and emotions not being taken seriously, primarily because they are specifically “girl” problems.

  3. I feel the need to chime in on the Quinn and Kurt argument. Do I think Kurt was being dismissive, absolutely. Do I think Kurt was dismissing Quinn, no, I don’t. I think he used dismissive language to prove a point.

    As written Kurt starts the scene boiling Quinn’s struggle down to the superficial/outsider viewpoint, incidentally it’s least truthful and least important points (had a baby, bad dye-job, world still loves you). This acts as a counter to Quinn’s simplifying view of Karofsky (as a bully he was selfish, this is the latest selfish act).

    Then we get Kurt finishing Quinn’s sentence (Q: you can’t compare the… K: the despair? the self loathing?) The reason i feel the little detail of Kurt finishing Quinn’s sentence is important is because structurally this method only makes sense as a way to create a point of agreement, which provides motivation behind his apparent dismissal.

    His opening is a way of saying, see how easy it is to judge when you’re not living through it. His finishing her train of thought about pain is a way of saying he does understand that her pain and struggle is valid, just as his is, just as Karofsky’s is. Ending the argument on that note provides a final point that we all process despair and self loathing in different ways, which transitions nicely to Kurt’s confession of guilt, his way of processing this particular moment of pain.

    This may be my film student brain working on overdrive and assigning more thought and elegance than actually went into the script, and I admit I may be wildly off the path, but the structure along with the performances pinged a part of my mind so hard that I felt a need to break it down.

    However if this was what they were going for, part of me wishes they had just out and out said it. I feel this is one of those moments where Glee aimed for subtle and over shot into vague, bouncing along into muddled territory.

  4. If that was the intent, then yes, Kurt’s comment that the world never stopped loving Quinn and besides, she’s going to Yale now definitely muddled the message.

  5. I feel I should chime in with my usual reminder that race is always a factor in these discussions. I agree with Kate that gender is important here. There are many, many other ways and reasons that glee demonstrates how little it cares about the women on the show.

    The problem I continue to have with Santana’s outing is that finn framed it as ‘I’m afraid you’ll hurt yourself.’ Which while somewhat valid is somewhat besides the point. Because Santana is a WoC and queer she is at a far higher risk of experience violence and hate crimes than karofsky. The danger of the outing in each case is different.

    The majority of hate crimes happen to PoC and queer hate crimes are more likely to be violent (source — yes, I put canadian stats. The states are not different in this respect.). Compound this with a queer WoC like Santana and you realize that while her parents ended up being accepting, the real worry is how much more likely she is to be murdered for being queer, to be sexually assaulted, be assaulted by other people than dave was/is. This is why what finn did was so dangerous and awful.

    The intersection of race and sexuality is important and shouldn’t be forgotten in this discussion, especially since the consequences are so very different. And both very tragic.

  6. This gives me hope, this comment, that some day my son will not see me as a terrible mom because of depression and related ideation. Wow. You’re an awesome kid and really, really well-balanced and generous person.

  7. Thank you so, so much, Kate. I’ve been trying for the last day to figure out how to convey that while characters aren’t “gender on sticks,” the awful ways that the show has treated Santana (especially re: outing) and Quinn are EXTREMELY gendered. You’ve said it well.

    Also, DeconGlee, why that picture? I may be overthinking it, but you seem to be casting yourself as Santana, Blaine and Kurt as Glee, and Snarker as Dave at a moment in which Santana protected Blaine and Kurt from Dave’s anti-gay violence. What are you intending to say?

  8. I haven’t actually watched this episode yet, but I think that what you say about the support network being a huge difference between the coming out experiences of Satana and Dave is really key, and perhaps one of the things which Glee was most hoping to communicate with these plotlines (though, as usual, didn’t quite convey the message as well as it had hoped to).

    I’m not denying that Glee might sometimes reinforce sexist messages (though I truly think that when it does, this is by accident and not by design…), but I feel that the show in general AIMS to treat its characters more as individuals…personality types maybe?…rather than, as another commenter mentioned, representative ‘lumps’ of gender/race/class/sexuality/etc. ‘on sticks’.

    The problem is that when you are dealing with so many highly sensitive issues, as Glee is, responses are going to reflect the sensitivity of the material. I worry that Glee has reached a point now where it is going to really struggle to ever ‘get it right’ and manage to complete a narrative arc without causing offense to ANYONE. In any story, there must be winners and losers and heros and villains and those with power and those without power and with such a mixed cast of characters, I’m not sure how Glee is ever supposed to determine who to place in these roles when they are also expected to be so aware of communicating the ‘wrong’ messages about gender/race/sexuality, etc.

    It is a HUGE challenge faced by the writers and production team and a challenge I’m sure they will ever be able to win. 😦

  9. One of the things I love most about glee is that the characters are human. No one is perfect and everyone is (at least) slightly damaged. Not even my favorite characters are immune. Kurt is occasionally selfish and immature, Santana can be cruel, and both can be very manipulative. They are teenagers and we can relate to them because of their imperfections. I doubt there is anyone in this discussion that did not have at least a couple teenage moments they wish they had handled better.

    There are some things that Glee has done, like the most recent Christmas episode, that as a Jewish woman, I found extremely offensive. Many others loved the episode because of references I didn’t have the context to understand. I think many of these issues are like that. Reading everyone’s reactions regarding issues I have less experience with has taught me a great deal.

    Glee is written by adults and the opinions and life experiences of these adults will end up being expressed through their scripts. I agree with delires’s point that it is almost impossible for glee to tell the stories it wants to tell without sending at least some muddled messages. As a general statement, I think Glee has done a good job of not letting anyone be just a stereotype/hero/villain.

    Glee is never going to be able to convey the perfect message. However, I feel that it honestly tries.

  10. //I’m not denying that Glee might sometimes reinforce sexist messages (though I truly think that when it does, this is by accident and not by design…), but I feel that the show in general AIMS to treat its characters more as individuals…personality types maybe?…rather than, as another commenter mentioned, representative ‘lumps’ of gender/race/class/sexuality/etc. ‘on sticks’.//

    Regardless of their intent, though, those messages still exist. And while you’re right that people have to be placed in certain roles in order to tell the stories the writers want to tell, and that in general they are placed based on those character types…but the writers wrote those character types in the first place, and they also decide which aspects of character to highlight in certain storylines. And again, gender *cannot* actually be divorced from those configurations.

    To use another example, look at the election storylines. It’s Burt vs. Sue, and Kurt vs. Rachel and Brittany. Burt and Kurt are characterized by honesty and altruism–they play fair and they want to do good. Sue and Brittany, though, play dirty. They make promises they can’t keep and tell lies about their opponents. Sue and Rachel (and to a lesser extent Brittany) are positioned as selfish–they’re running to satisfy personal vendettas and to earn accolades, not to affect real change.

    First: men are explicitly positioned against women, period. The fact that it’s a gendered competition isn’t brought to the forefront, but it’s just a fact. There are minor male antagonists in both elections, but the main antagonists for Burt and Kurt are women.

    Second: Think about the number of female characters that could be put in those antagonist roles, with those self-serving motives and underhanded tactics. Rachel, Brittany, Sue. Probably also Santana and Quinn. Sugar would totally run for self-serving reasons. Now think about the male characters who could be inserted into those roles. Finn? Nope. Artie? Nope. Sam? Of course not. Will? Definitely not. There are a couple of female characters who could possibly step into the Burt and Kurt roles (Emma, maybe? Bieste? Rachel, depending on what part of her character they decide to highlight?) but I’m honestly hard-pressed to think of a male character who could be put into the Sue role or the Rachel role or the Brittany role in this storyline. (Sebastian and Jesse are shallow, self-serving, underhanded antagonists, but in entirely different contexts and relationships to the protagonists.)

    The writers wrote those characters in the first place, and in general, the male characters are more suited for the honest, altruistic hero role; the female characters are more suited for the shallow, self-serving villain role.

    Third: Look at the aspects of character that were highlighted and ignored by the election storylines. Kurt and Rachel both started running because they wanted something to put on their resume. Brittany’s original interest in the campaign was to represent the underdogs–that’s why she helped Kurt out with his campaign in the first place. As soon as Kurt was running against Rachel, though, his focus was on creating change (and then on a salad bar, and then on stopping bullying via dodgeball). As soon as Brittany was running against Kurt, her focus was on topless Tuesdays and pixie stix. As soon as the female characters were positioned against the male character, everybody’s motivation actually *changed* in a way that favored the male character. Kurt can be self-serving, and Rachel can be self-less, and Brittany can have depth, but those weren’t the character aspects that the writers chose to highlight for this storyline.

    Do the writers do this on purpose? Maybe not (but also maybe, given the way that the all-female troubletones were positioned against the mostly-male, and certainly male-led, New Directions this season in a way that was more explicitly gendered). But those narratives are still there, and those choices were still made.

    Sorry to tl;dr at you, but I find the idea that it’s just impossible for Glee not to be sexist because hey, somebody has to be the bad guy to be incredibly frustrating. Given it’s huge mixed cast, and given that they *choose* which stories to tell and how to tell them, the writers could make different choices and create different narratives. But these are the narratives they chose to create, and very often, those narratives are covertly or overtly sexist.

  11. Thanks, BadassMuppet. With these sorts of underlying narratives it can be really difficult sometimes to explain exactly what the problem is, so I’m glad I expressed myself well.

  12. I didn’t feel that Kurt was really focusing on the question of whose pain is more important as it’s been read by a lot of people. He was responding to Quinn’s general stance that a person wanting to commit suicide is someone to look down on, someone who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings. It’s easier for her to be disgusted with Karofsky than to grapple with the complexities. She frames herself as better than Karofsky, even in saying she feels sorry for him, because that, too, makes her better than him. She uses his suicide as an opportunity to call attention back to her problems and struggles. She doesn’t know how to handle that things aren’t always about her. He was calling her out the way Sam did when he said she had rich white girl problems. He was saying “You Have No Appreciation for All You Have to Be Grateful For. This is something tragic and awful that basic morality says is something we all need to be grappling with our own participation in as a society or at the very least fully mourn, and instead you’re sidestepping your responsibility to those tasks and using this situation as an opportunity to place yourself as better than someone else. Cut it out.”

  13. //She doesn’t know how to handle that things aren’t always about her. He was calling her out the way Sam did when he said she had rich white girl problems.//

    Sam is kind of a terrible character to use to point out that character trait to her, though, given that she was one of the people who secretly provided him with childcare when his family first lost their home without apparently making it about her at all. Him framing her as only having “rich white girl problems”, for example, definitely makes it seem like she never told him about her own stint with homelessness, and therefore did not make his problems about her. There’s also nothing about “rich white girl problems” or about Kurt’s speech that serves to point out that Quinn doesn’t know how to handle things that aren’t always about her.

  14. Just reading this and I’m sure this seems nitpicky but “Santana had to be outed because otherwise she might commit suicide…” This isn’t completely accurate. When Finn was saying that he was worried about Santana killing herself, he wasn’t saying “Oh, when it looked like I was striking back after you insulted me again? I was actually outing you so that you wouldn’t committ suicide.” By the time Finn talked about suicide, Santana had already been outed. People in the school were already talking about it and the commercial would be aired any day. It was fact that she had been out (by him, no less) that triggered Finn to worry about her hurting herself. That’s why he was so insistent on doing the “Week of Lady Songs.” To show her that they all supported her and cared for her. Now, I’m really not trying to defend the “Week of Lady Songs” at all. I’m just saying that Santana being outed *is* what made Finn worry about her. Finn didn’t out Santana because he thought outing her would keep her from killing herself.

  15. The thing is, there were actually *four* instances of Santana being outed: when Finn struck back in the hall (which outed her to Rory and the cheerleader who overheard), when the pizza guy made the ad (which outed her to Burt, Will, and Sue–or break it down further to when Sue showed the video to Will and Burt), when Finn decided to put on Lady Music week (which outed her to ND and the Troubletones), and when the pizza guy’s video aired (which outed her to the entire state). It really wasn’t one discrete event.

    You might disagree, but Santana definitely *felt* like Lady Music week was Finn outing her: she called it “forcing me out of the flannel closet.” (IMO, it was–Santana wasn’t actually out to most of those people, even if they *suspected* her sexuality, so Finn telling everybody that they were doing lady music week because “everybody in this room knows about you and Brittany”–really? even Sugar? even Shelby?–was outing her. In fact, it was the same excuse he gave for outing her in the hallway–that “everybody knows” so it doesn’t really count as outing. Finn denied her the opportunity to *come out* to the people in that room by outing her to them.)

    Before Lady Music week starts, Finn says, “I think you’re awesome. And when you hide who you are, I feel like you hide part of that awesomeness with it. And that’s why you act out, because you hurt inside every day.” When Santana accuses him of forcing her out of the flannel closet, he says, “A few weeks ago, some kid who made one of those ‘It Gets Better’ videos killed himself. You deal with your anxiety surrounding this stuff by attacking other people and some day that’s not gonna be enough and you’re gonna start attacking yourself.”

    His dialogue really clearly connects the idea that Santana hides her awesomeness by being closeted -> Santana hurts inside because of being closeted -> Santana acts out and attacks other people because she’s hurt -> one day hurting other people might not be enough, and she might hurt herself by commiting suicide. All of that is connected to her being *in the closet*, not to her being outed, and that’s how he justifies his secondary outing of her–forcing her out of the flannel closet–during Lady Music week.

    Arguably, what they were trying to go for by mentioning Jamey Rodermeyer’s suicide was that after being outed, Santana’s anxiety would increase, and she would hurt other people even more, and eventually turn to hurting herself. But they’d already connected her acting out to her “hiding her awesomeness” by being closeted, so that message ends up getting lost for me and for a lot of other people, especially with Santana’s later speech where she confirms what Finn says by saying she “walks around so mad at the world, but I’m really just fighting with myself”–that is, that she’s so angry at the world, she *acts out* at the world, because she’s closeted. And they also explicitly connected Lady Music week to Finn outing Santana *again*, with the explicit justification that he was doing it so that she wouldn’t commit suicide.

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