Brittany’s (Heather Morris) mention of the “lesbian blogger community” in last week’s “Swan Song” episode may have been one of those off-notes.
First of all, a disclaimer: I barely knew there was an issue brewing on this topic before “Swan Song” aired. Brittany’s line — mentioned to put off Sam (Chord Overstreet) when the boy professed his love for her — struck me merely as a feeble attempt at some meta-comedy. It wasn’t particularly funny, but I let that pass in favor of other complaints I had with the episode as a whole.
If you missed the line even more profoundly than I did, here is Brittany’s explanation:
“It’s like, all the lesbians of the nation, and I don’t know how they found out about Santana and I dating, but once they did they started sending me, like, tweets and Facebook messages on Lord Tubbington’s wall. I think it means a lot to them to see two super-hot, popular girls in love and I worry that if they find out about you and I dating, they’ll turn on you and get really violent and hurt your beautiful face and mouth.”
I have since learned that the issue of Brittany’s love life and sexual orientation has been out there for awhile. Brittany has (for the past season or so, anyway) been openly bisexual, but her love throughout this has been Santana (Naya Rivera). But Santana has graduated, and TV’s most basic rules require a rival for Brittany’s affections.
“Glee” has chosen Sam to be that rival.
Even those of us not privy to the deeper issues of this choice were likely to be confused by this. Sam likes Brittany? When did that happen? Wasn’t he dating Mercedes (Amber Riley) the last time we paid any attention to him? Alas, this is “Glee.” Relationships between characters are what the show tells us they are, evidence and history notwithstanding.
If “Glee” chooses to put Brittany and Sam together, telling us that there is a tender, low-IQ love between the two, we’d probably be best just to accept it. Don’t try to look for subtle clues of growing affection — they aren’t there.
The meta “comedy” and the lack of history are now explained. But we still have to ask whether or not “Glee”s treatment of the situation moved from merely inelegant to downright offensive. This is a much trickier question.
Some bloggers — whether members of the aforementioned “lesbian blogger community” or not — saw Brittany’s comments as an insult coming directly from Ryan Murphy and the show’s writers. In this case, the joke was seen as an attack — on bloggers, on lesbians or on girls in general.
While the responses varied greatly, those who were offended seem to have had at least one thing in common: They don’t think the “joke” was an accident. AfterEllen.com quoted blogger Valerie Ann as being shocked at the depiction of lesbians, “as though we were some kind of man-hating angry mob with torches and pitchforks.” In the same article, Dana Piccoli explained her own reaction: “What it showed me was that Ryan Murphy and company wanted to make d**n sure we know what they thought of us.”
The response points to an unfortunate truth about public statements. Once something has been taken as an offense, the original intent doesn’t matter so much. If “Glee” fans were offended, does it really matter whether or not the offensive material was a joke? For that matter, can such a pointed commentary ever not be offensive to those targeted?
“Glee” is probably not the show to address such questions, unfortunately. While this series excels in some areas — surreal humor, pleasant characters, often glorious singing — subtle commentary and a deep discussion of its own issues are not a part of the experience.
But as this joke and its reaction show, maybe this is what is wrong with “Glee” in the first place.
Were you offended by comments about the lesbian community? How do you feel about Brittany and Sam being together? Share your thoughts with us!