Oh, Glee. So much to say, so little of it good.
To get through an episode of Glee you have to set your bar pretty low if you don’t want to spend an hour being offended by something. The show is regularly racist, sexist, ableist, and, really unexpectedly given the basic facts of the show, homophobic.
Today we’ll add biphobic to the list. [Wait, it's always been biphobic. Kurt said bisexuality is something gay guys made up so they could hold hands with girls and feel normal or something bye.]
Back in season 2 Glee flirted with “exploring” bisexuality by having Blaine question his own homosexuality for approximately ten minutes after a single drunken kiss during a game of spin the bottle. By the end of the episode, after one date and one kiss, it was all resolved. Blaine was “100% gay.” Since then they’ve had Brittany rise through the ranks of the cast of characters from background Cheerio with no last name to what was essentially the lead of the Lima half of the show in season 4. You can read the rest of the internet for varying assessments on how they handled her relationships with Santana and then Sam, but for the record I didn’t have a problem with Sam and Brittany’s relationship. (Put down the pitchforks, friends. There’s more of you than me.) They also had Quinn engage in an incredibly well-handled hook-up with Santana in one of her season 4 appearances.
But Glee’s never satisfied with being mildly provocative, and in the second of episode of season 5, “Tina In The Sky With Diamonds”, they finally found a way to cross a line on the topic of bisexuality.
We begin the relevant storyline with Santana chatting to a co-worker, cute-as-pie Demi Lovato’s Dani. Santana bumbles her way through a conversation, mentioning that her ex-girlfriend Brittany was bisexual. Dani declares that it’s probably for the best, and that Santana needs a “100% Sapphic goddess”. Santana then flees the scene to declare to Rachel that she thinks Dani is so cute (this line was cut, but it was in the promo) and that she can’t ask Dani out because she’s “never been with an actual lesbian, it’s been all bisexuals like Brittany, or college girls trying to experiment” (presumably a reference to Santana’s hook up with Quinn last season).
If they’d just left it there it would have been fine. It’s a understandable, though unfounded, fear for Santana to have that it’s somehow different, and it gave them a really good opening to discuss how very much it isn’t different. They didn’t leave it there.
Glee regularly sets up such wonderful teaching moments, and instead of bringing it home they often reinforce the underlying prejudice in the set up. Their writing process is notoriously disorganised, but when a TV show sells itself as some kind of social justice vehicle there’s at least some obligation on their part to check their message, and Glee regularly fail to do so. Sometimes I think the writers of Glee stumble onto the few moments of brilliance they’ve exhibited in the past, and it’s things like this that make me pretty sure I’m right.
A song and kiss later and Dani is Santana’s girlfriend. One that Santana doesn’t “have to worry about straying for penis.” Firstly, Brittany never cheated on Santana; Santana broke up with Brittany, and Brittany and Sam didn’t get together until five episodes later. Five episodes is a lifetime in the Glee timeline, if Santana and Dani’s relationship is anything to go by.
Secondly, and far more egregiously, way to reinforced the stereotype that bisexuals are all promiscuous sluts, Glee. And with a revision of history, it’s really just adding insult to injury. There isn’t even a nuanced analysis necessary here. Glee said bad thing. Glee let bad thing just sit there like a shit nugget. There’s nothing deep here; you can’t make it fine with meta, and you don’t need to unpack it to make it offensive. That’s the beauty and terror of Glee that makes it easy to dismiss and why we shouldn’t dismiss it.
Se let’s start a count. How many times has Glee been offensive this season? I’d be exhausted if I counted all the ways, but on the queer girl tally we can mark at least one. See you soon to add some more, I’m sure.
PS: What's up with the little cardigan Demi wore on the show? Does she not like her arms or something?