Let's talk Glee. I've been riding high on the goofily optimistic and refreshingly groundbreaking promo clip between isolated, too "fabulous" to live Kurt, and the newly introduced painfully charming gay guru in the following clip.
As for "Never Been Kissed" itself? I for one adored it, though I think considering I watched the "Teenage Dream" promo clip a million times, its not possible for it to completely live up to the fantasy I created in my head. That said, I think what happens in "Never Been Kissed" is extremely important. The very fact that two openly gay teens can share an exchange, let alone sing a flirty, swoony crush song to one another is (sadly?) revolutionary. I've heard several older gay men remark that they'd never thought they'd see the like in their lifetime, and it strikes me as impossibly sad that generations of gay teenagers have never really seen themselves as represented and present in society. All the sappily sweet love songs in the universe, even if they're impossibly vapid, are geared towards people who aren't you, and reinforces the idea gayness is some sort of affliction only spoken about in dark rooms in hushed tones. I found a very well worded post from Tom and Lorenzo that expresses that cultural isolation better than I:
"To the straight people reading us: remember high school? Remember your favorite songs and movies, TV shows and music videos from that period? Imagine if all of that media bombardment telling you what to like, what to wear, and how to be attractive, popular, and cool, imagine that all of that aimed for and addressed everyone else but you. Imagine what it's like when every sappy love song (or angry breakup song), every rom com, every trendy TV show and blockbuster movie, even every video game, imagine if they all depicted a form of romantic love that simply isn't available to you. Imagine going through high school without even so much as a hint of yourself reflected in any of the things you watch and listen to, any of the things that literally every other kid is talking about. Imagine the one thing you want more than anything in the world: to be kissed, please god, just to be kissed, imagine you have never seen that depicted anywhere or referred to in any way but as something to be mocked and shunned."
All fair and true points when considering the effects of mass media and minority culture. We take cues about who and what is important, and relevant by how its presented in the media and in this case, its an exercise in both overt and covert marginalization. The bloggers in the above underscore why something as simple as that scene carries enormous weight and frankly, sustaining and validating in ways youtube videos about waiting out suffering are not.
Outside of that glorious moment, the rest of the episode happened too:
As for Kurt, I find it impossible not to find his utter marginalization and torment soul shatteringly resonant. I know I've had a fairly benign high school experience in comparison, but college in a rural southern baptist town provided plenty of opportunities to get shunned and openly mocked. As an educator myself, it feels like Glee is a universe where the teachers and adults are present only when convenient. I find Shue's "You're losing it" speech to be tone deaf and wrongheaded only in that it would have been far more useful to approach the bully in question than it would to sit Kurt down and give him water. As important as this topic is to be considering and showcasing, I think the message is a bit muddled. Eventually a teacher might notice, but they'll ultimately reference it and do nothing. He's in a position where he could have at least made it known that there are repercussions for such behavior.Missed opportunity there.
Another thing I was irked by was how completely the Boys team dismissed Kurt. Granted it was to set up the reason for Kurt and Blaine meeting, but it also clearly underscores how little they appreciate and understand him. That scene makes his trip to the Dalton Academy all the more fantasy like. For Kurt, it was instantly gorgeous, enticing, warm and welcoming, and the pained expression of envy, relief and amazement on his face at regarding Blaine and this strange new habitat was amazing to watch. (Has anyone else actually ever seen Kurt beam the way he does here? I had to stop and think on it, but I've never seen him smile before at all) The scene is colorful and inviting and lavishly detailed in contrast to Kurt's school surroundings, and it serves as an indicator that life can in fact be substantively different, better, elsewhere. That not everyone is either willfully oblivious, openly hostile or indifferent about he or his sexuality. The vulnerability he displays when asking the prep school boys about their own orientations is noteworthy. The more I think about it beyond the expense, there's literally nothing at McKinley high that could convince Kurt realistically to stay. After watching that scene with the Warbelers' a few times even I wanted to go to that school, and my experiences weren't remotley as horrible. I find myself wanting to pause Glee in the Dalton Academy and stay there, as the reality of the "real" universe is grossly unpalatable in comparison.
Rachel can imply that he's loved and appreciated, but aside from that one moment in the end of Duets, its rarely noticeable otherwise. I'm not buying. The other students range from mocking him when convenient to basically ignoring his feelings, input or comments. and I'm not sure why he would either. There's little on screen interaction that indicates any open camaraderie with any character besides Mercedes, as his relationship with Finn was dashed by the "gay as sexual predator" defense, and any potential friendship with Sam was tainted by such as well.
the Puck/Artie storyline was marginally likable, and I know Puck's bluster is a defense mechanism but god, is it hard to sympathize with such an increasingly ridiculous caricature.
the Foe Yay between Kurt and his Nemesis, was a complete and enjoyable blindside. Misdirection is always nice, and yes, there are plenty of gay men that, later in life come out after years of fighting it and everyone else that could possibly remind them of it. Its a worthy story to mine, sure, but I do think its dangerous for Kurt to romantically involve himself with someone who basically brutalized him out of angst for so long. The parallels between this and Hollyoaks are well made in that regard. I'm inclined to think that helping Dave, while noble and understandable is NOT Kurts responsibility. Granted, he may be more evolved and further along on his emotional progression, but it cannot be healthy to yoke yourself to someone with a history of violence and that much self loathing.
Also? As much as I wanted to like Sam, the blonde ambition Prom scenario and Quinn's forced theatricality about the Beiste scenario was underwhelming. I think my shipping has sunk. On the whole I think this was a groundbreaking, incredibly cathartic episode that somewhat effectively peels back the human implications of both overt and subtle bullying. And yes, Chris Colfer is sodding brilliant for being able to convey the stinging, icy isolation and the sudden giddy making glimmers of hope and self awareness with the merest expression. This, ladies and gents is talent. And if anyone can take the struggles and trials of Kurt to heart and feel less alone or less inclined to look the other way, there might just be hope for the world yet.