Be your teenage dream tonight
November 11, 2010 § 3 Comments
So, the other day I wrote this whole rant about sexuality and gender, and then I deleted it all. Because this is a knitting (and cooking, and baking) blog, and I try to avoid politically charged themes for the sake of peace.
So here’s my two cents on gender, society and Glee, under a cut for your convenience.
It’s funny, sometimes, how things just come together. Saskia is taking a gender studies module this semester and I’ve flipped through her script, and her Monday seminar usually gives us pretty good conversation material. Mostly I mock her a bit, since she’s kind of straight and yet dresses pretty butch a lot of the time, and also managed to pick a picture of Brian Molko (Placebo) for a typical example of a woman. Then I somehow discovered a whole slew of alternative blogs with generally (gender)queer themes, and it’s like suddenly I can’t stop thinking. Because while I very much like being a girl, I fall somewhere towards the butch side of the spectrum, and I’ve always kind of liked emphasizing different gender aspects that aren’t necessarily considered particularly feminine. Buzzing my hair off comes to mind, for example, and even now my hair is kind of a unisex mop. Also my tendency to pair button-down shirts with a waistcoat, my refusal to hate my body – societal things, but that’s what gender is, no? It’s kind of hard for me, intellectually, to eschew the biological binary male/female, but gender binaries? Sexuality binaries? I don’t need to look far to see that the world isn’t that clean-cut.
And I’ve been noticing how everything is more or less gendered, which makes me angry at conventional feminism, for all that it’s accomplished. Because it makes me ashamed of sitting in the kitchen, in an apron, knitting while keeping an eye on the food I’m making. And then I’m already angry, and it spreads like a wildfire, to the society that institutionally condones bullying and gaybashing and has led to all those recently publicized teen suicides. And I get angry at the Neanderthal bullies (which is actually an insult to Neanderthals, now that I think about it), and conservatives, and assholes I knew in high school (even if I never got outright bullied, but I know enough people who were), and how it’s okay for girls to act like boys but not for boys to act like girls, and it’s all a big ball of rightful indignation that’s eating away at me.
Usually I work through it or push it down. I’m good at bottling up, and knitting is extremely helpful in that respect.
And then today there was Glee.
Glee has had some killer episodes this season. I was mighty impressed by ‘Grilled Cheesus’, and I love how Kurt has been getting bigger storylines. Not just because I think it’s important for the gay character in a show not to fade into the backdrop as a one-dimensional caricature, but also because I think Chris Colfer really, really deserves it.
This week was ‘Never been kissed’, and it was very much characterized by contrasts. Heartbreakingly so. As always, there were several storylines, but I’ll be mostly focusing on Kurt’s for the sake of brevity. (Except that I just have to mention how awesome Coach Beiste is, and how even her first name (Shannon) is non-gendered, and that I love that she’s butch but straight, and that I’d totally do her, which surprised me little, in a good way.)
Kurt was in two very different places this week, both physically and emotionally. The one extreme was Dalton Academy, a private all-boys high school. The other one was being shoved into lockers by a big, brutish jock.
Dalton reminded me of Salmon Rock in Brother Bear. With its no-tolerance harassment policy, their glee club rock stars, and an absolutely stunning performance of Teenage Dream. I can’t stand Katy Perry, but a guy singing it gave it a whole different context. Possibly because the way the song is written so very gendered, both in lyrics and rhythm, and it turns a pretty bland song into this subversive, hopeful piece of music. I’m convinced there isn’t a single person who didn’t fall a little bit in love with Blaine, including Kurt.
Blaine who is openly gay and the star of the show choir, who may or may not be a love interest for Kurt, or ‘just’ a friend who actually gets him. Blaine, who encourages Kurt to not back down but confront homophobia. Who sends a text message saying ‘Courage’. Just ‘Courage’.
Which segues nicely into the other extreme, this time in the familiar hallways of McKinley High, where Kurt gets slammed into the lockers, over and over again by this one ‘Neanderthal who’s made it his mission to make [Kurt’s] life a living hell’. Which, at one point, makes Kurt snap, trail the jock to the locker room, and deliver a truly glorious, furious, defiant piece of dialogue:
“You gonna hit me? Do it. Hit me cause it’s not gonna change who I am. You can’t punch the gay out of me any more than I can punch the ignoramus out of you. You’re nothing more than a scared little boy who can’t handle how extraordinarily ordinary you are.”
And then the jock does something I never would have seriously expected in a million years. With a look of pure terror on his face, he grabs Kurt and pulls him into a kiss. Pulls away, his expression of absolute shock mirrored on Kurt’s face. Goes in for a second kiss, at which Kurt pushes him away, stares at him in disbelief and shock and disgust. The jock realizes what he’s just done. Slams his hand into the locker. Storms out of the room barely holding back tears.
He doesn’t stop slamming Kurt into lockers after that – if anything, it gets worse.
It was Kurt’s first kiss.
I’ve been going back all day, watching that scene over and over again. I’m so proud of Kurt for sticking up like that. My feelings towards the jock, whose name is Karovsky, are nowhere near as clean-cut, and I love Glee for making me so conflicted.
On the one hand… bullying. Gay bashing. I can’t make excuses for that, I can’t tolerate that. Not now, not ever.
And yet… that poor kid. Oh my god. What a scary, desolate, lonely place he has to be in. In small-town America, no gay role models except for Kurt, who, let’s admit it, is kind of swishy, and whom everybody casually bullies. Sometimes without even realizing, often with ugly intent behind it. In high school and desperate to fit in, to be a man, in a society that thinks killing a man makes you more of a man but loving a man makes you somehow less of one. Terrified of being found out, terrified of losing all of his support structure, everything he knows.
Is that an excuse for kicking the gay kid around? Certainly not. But I barely know any gay guys who haven’t at one point exhibited self-injuring behavior or haven’t seriously considered or even attempted suicide, and what Karovsky is doing to Kurt is the same violence, just directed another way. And seeing it like that kind of breaks my heart.
This is only made more painful and jarring with the contrast of the almost utopian world of the all-boys world of Dalton. Which, I think, highlights nicely the dilemma we’re finding ourselves in, whether in Germany or in the US: anti-harassment campaigns being mostly lip service. How can any government expect of its citizens not to discriminate against same-sex loving people when the discrimination is institutionalized?
I don’t know if the principle applied in Dalton would actually work in reality – the institution actually enforcing a certain amount of tolerance. But it’s gotta come from somewhere, right? Either way, I’m definitely looking forward to what they’re gonna do with that storyline. I’m kind of nervous, but… curious. Anxious, but curious.
So, anyway. Binaries. Male/female. Masculine/feminine. Gay/straight. Black/white. I know the world’s not that easy, not that clear-cut, even if society would want me to believe differently. I just find it hard to empathize with people who bully people like me – but, I dunno, I’m starting to get that maybe sometimes, reaching out may be better than fighting back.
I’d like to wrap this post up neatly, with a bow. I’d love to have all these rather scattered, random thoughts to come together to form a neat package, and all I get is this… big ball of wibbly-wobbly. Some of these thoughts are old – there’s still one or two people from high school who make my blood boil if I just think about them – and some are new, and fascinating, and exhilarating, and terrifying. But the basics are there, they just need to mature, to merge, to mingle, to form something useful and cohesive and beautiful. I feel like there’s a whole ‘nother world out there just waiting for me to discover it, with things that have been brewing, subconsciously, for a long time. And Glee this week feels like just one more thing nudging me in the right direction for becoming who I’m supposed to be, because it felt so personal. Painfully so. Oh, so very painfully. It was like going through all that teen angst again.
It’s just that I can’t remember a TV show ever gripping me this hard. There’s a movie or two, but… holy shit, Glee. You kind of outdid yourself there.