Glee: Santana vs It Gets Better
There was a lot of lesbian rage when last week’s Glee aired. And a lot of lesbian interest, which I think can be proved because I’m the 3rd person to be writing about this episode on Gaelick this week.
Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the last couple of episodes.
When we first met Santana, she was 2nd queen bee at Mckinley. Only behind Quinn Fabray in high school royalty, she had power. Nobody questioned her. She was a dream girl and it seemed like pandering to some porno stereotype when we discovered she was having sex with her gorgeous bff, Brittany. Of course, Glee, as Glee does, turned the trope on its head when it was revealed that they weren’t just messing around, but they had feelings.
The story is really simple: The week before (Mash-Off), Finn told Santana she was being a coward for not being open about her feelings for Brittany. In the school hallway. At McKinley. Of course, some pizza mogul congressional candidate’s niece overheard the conversation and made sure her uncle knew. He, in turn, used it in a political ad to attack Sue Sylvester’s commitment to family values and also to imply that, like her head cheerleader, Sue may be into the lady loving herself. He, kindly, gave the crew a heads up before the ad went live.
Santana, who hadn’t told her parents, or anyone other than Brittany really, unless you count singing “Landslide” as coming out (some do), was understandably distraught and slapped Finn in front of both glee clubs.
Suddenly (in the next episode, I Kissed a Girl), McKinley has an anti-violence policy and Santana is about to be suspended.Finn recants and tells everyone it was a stage slap. Then he tells Santana that unless she comes crooning out of the flannel closet, he’ll get her suspended. Oh yeah, you can see where tempers are getting a bit fired up. (Does this remind anyone else of Will setting Finn up for possession of weed to make him join Glee club?)
Santana tells her parents, who are actually cool with the whole idea, and then the ad airs. She’s threatened with corrective rape by some douchebag sophomore rugby head. The glee girls from both New Directions and the Troubletones come to the rescue, with Quinn and Rachel doing the bulk of the talking, because Santana is suddenly tongue-tied. Remember what Brittany said about Santana lashing back with her vicious words? Yeah, not so much now. It’s harder, you know, because nobody ever made her feel that freaking vulnerable before.
So the the glee club assignment is now formulated to make Santana feel as awkward as possible, so they sing songs that are written by women, for women. Puck sings a thin rendition of Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” to his teacher, the glee girls sing “I Kissed a Girl” as they rescue Santana from the aforementioned douchebag, Kurt and Blaine (the cutest couple alive, sorry Brittana) sing “F*cking Perfect” without the “F*cking” and Santana is not impressed.
This is where it was jarring for me. “F*cking Perfect” was a fantastic queer solidarity anthem for Glee. The happy couple, both having been victims of anti-gay violence, sing about the happiness and comfort they’ve found. And Santana rejects it, outright. When blackmailing-Finn sings a slow, kind of boring, version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Santana is touched. She appreciates it.
A lot of people were really confused.
But it actually all makes sense. And it gives a powerful voice to the people who’ve been questioning the impact of hopeful-future stories like the “It Gets Better” project, too.
The problem is, it doesn’t start better. And the people telling her these stories are not the people that, frankly, matter.
Santana has seen Kurt’s story from his coming out to his happily-ever-after half of the couple-known-throughout-the-land-as-Klaine. One of her greatest fears is to be Kurt. And, of course, she won’t be. She hasn’t spent most of her life struggling with how she performs her gender and the questions that raises. She has never had any reason to identify with queer culture at all. Except, of course, that she’s gay.
The problem is that, for Santana, she already has her Blaine. She has Brittany, and that hasn’t solved all her problems. In fact, her feelings for Brittany are actually the problem. Her abuela (grandmother) has rejected her. She can’t see her path in Kurt’s except for the hurt and the torment and the tears.
Like most of us, she didn’t come out and immediately seek the approval of queer society. She came out and wanted her peers to approve, even in fail-ally ways. Kurt is in no way Santana’s peer, socially speaking. So when Quinn sticks up for her and Finn sings her a song, that works for her.
So it has to make us think about the impact of the “It Gets Better Project”, because it is specifically mentioned in the episode (when Finn said he’s worried Santana would die by suicide like Jamey Rodermeyer) and very much referenced in the Kurt and Blaine performance. What is the benefit of it exactly? Are these videos really providing the kind of hope and acceptance that gay youth need?
Glee (at least Santana) says no. Santana needed the approval of her family and friends. In that coming out moment, when it all seems so scary, it doesn’t matter that your friends are really sucky gay allies. It matters that they’re trying and they’re still your friend and it can all stay something like it was.