Glee – “Duets”

“Duets”

October 12th, 2010

I’ve talked a lot about the “Three Glees” theory in the past (TM Todd VanDerWerff), where each of the three co-creators have a different perspective on the series. However, in most instances we focus on the whiplash between the various different episodes, a sort of multiple personality disorder, but what I don’t think we’ve theorized on as much is the way in which these Glees comment on one another. I think this was because, before “Duets,” I don’t think there had ever been an episode of the show which so clearly commented on the work of one of the other writers.

Since the show is basically serialized, there is always an element of connection between the episodes, but “Duets” offers direct commentary on both long-term characterizations and specific events from “Theatricality,” an episode which I had some serious problems with earlier in the year. Ian Brennan, scripting his first episode since the premiere, has created an episode which adds unseen depth to previous storylines, makes pretty substantial strides with characters both old and new, and in the process convinces me that in a scenario where one writer is to take over the series, Brennan is without question the show’s white knight.

“Duets” is not the most daring episode of the series, but it is unquestionably the most consistent, and that alone makes this one of the series’ finest hours.

Now, perhaps “Duets” is cheating: with Puck randomly in juvenile detention – a story which seemed the only problematic character development in the hour, to be honest – the show has one less character to deal with, allowing them to work Chord Overstreet’s Sam Evans into the story without too much concern. However, then your realize that they still managed to give every single character their own moment: the duet structure gave almost every character a song, and those who didn’t get musical numbers (Brittany and Artie) got a storyline which offered insight into both characters.

Also, the pairings created offered both insight into existing relationships and interesting new relationships. Rachel and Finn still don’t have a great deal of romantic chemistry, but not unlike Jeff and Britta on Community (who have no romantic chemistry, but really clicked when they turned into co-conspirators) they have quite a bit of chemistry when masterminding a scheme to allow Sam to win the duet competition. It may seem a bit sudden for Rachel to suddenly realize that she’s a horrible person, but I sort of love the fact that her eventual solution (to help Sam win so he will stay in the club and help them win Nationals) is kind and yet still a bit selfish. Brennan found the proper outlet for Rachel’s behaviour, as she turns her attention from “beating” everyone to manipulating the team so that they will eventually help her career. Rachel has, in the past, occasionally become borderline horrible as a character, but here she was just her normal, screwball self – instead of struggling with losing, she struggles with how to lose on purpose, and while the punchline (the missionary-themed performance of “With You I’m Born Again”) wasn’t hysterical the episode was one of Rachel’s best in a long time.

Finn, meanwhile, gets to become part of the episode’s most exciting element for me: the retroactive retelling of “Theatricality,” where Finn used the “f-word” in Kurt’s presence and was summarily chewed out by Mike O’Malley. The scene bugged me because Kurt was more or less stalking Finn, and his behaviour was far consistently worse than Finn’s one inappropriate outburst, so to have Finn completely change his point of view in response to that lecture without standing his ground felt incredibly false. However, perhaps Ian Brennan had the same issue with Ryan Murphy’s work on the episode, because here Finn revisits the issue with Kurt, and then Burt Hummel brings up the fact that Finn’s mother told him the other side of the story. Suddenly, the show goes from creating a moralistic tale of the dangers of homophobia to an actual conversation about how Kurt manages his sexuality. While the show still sympathizes with Kurt, which I understand, it allowed for the idea that he may not be acting responsibly in terms of how he projects his sexuality (here onto Sam, who we learn at episode’s end is decidedly not the Kurt love interest that early rumors pegged him to be).

Admittedly, the episode had me in the its pocket as soon as it made this decision: it’s one thing for the show to present an episode free from fundamental problems relating to character development and morality, but it’s quite another to present a consistent episode and simultaneously rewrite a previous scene which was extremely problematic. It’s good will that the show hasn’t had for quite some time, and the episode resisted squandering it. I’d argue the closest it got was choosing to have Brittany and Artie start a relationship and have sex, but even that was surrounded with some really insightful commentary from Artie (in both his inability to get over Tina and his response to Brittany’s lack of interest beyond having sex with every football player) and even some actual character development, more than in her own episode even, from Brittany (her final moment using her nose to push a meatball to the empty booth across from her was beautiful). Even when there was something which seemed like it went too far, like Rachel and Finn’s costumes during their performance, it worked because there was a logical reason for it to happen, or the way it resolved itself spoke to something more than the broadest quality of the storyline.

The duets themselves were less about meaning (in that the songs rarely spoke to each character’s situation, with one major exception) and more about chemistry, which has been a problem with the show in the past. While the episode argued that Mike and Tina are not in a perfect relationship, struggling over their dim sum dates, “Sing!” – the exception – was an absolute delight thanks to the showmanship of Harry Shum Jr. and his performance chemistry with Jenna Ushkowitz. Similarly, while Mercedes and Santana are still frenemies and not much else, their performance of “River Deep Mountain High” had an energy about it which spoke to their musical (if not personal) chemistry. Both numbers were there not because there were big storylines for both pairs, but because these are characters we enjoy, actors who can perform with great skill, and because Brennan wanted to show off the ensemble (a noble goal, I’d say).

However, the real star here was the legitimate chemistry between Sam and Quinn, and between Chord Overstreet and Dianna Agron. The story works because it makes sense that Quinn would understand what it’s like to join Glee club and be concerned about your image, and because this is legitimate character development for Quinn and a strong introduction for Sam. While I thought Overstreet acquitted himself quite well, and I liked how their relationship developed over the course of the episode, this is really all about Quinn for me. That scene where she stops herself from kissing him, where she verbalizes her concern over heading down the same path all over again, is the most meaningful moment the character has had so far this season, and even retroactively ties in with her quick return to the Cheerios that wasn’t given much context back in the premiere (than’s Brennan revising Brennan, though). When they get to their final scene, Sam is a fully-realized character and Quinn is entirely connected with the character’s journey throughout the series, and their relationship requires no simplification, no secrets, and no high drama. The story is subtle without seeming slight, and I’m rooting for this couple more than any other couple on the series based solely on their interactions in this hour.

However, in talking about what works in the episode (more or less everything, really), it must be said that it is successful both based on what is present and what is not. It can’t be understated that the absence of Sue Sylvester and the backgrounding of Will Schuester are integral to the episode’s success. With no Emma/Will/John Stamos love triangle, and none of Sue Sylvester’s dastardly schemes, the teenagers were left to their own devices. The episode’s structure was almost non-existent once it was introduced, and yet it created a compelling performance framework and stoked tensions both new and old in a way which spoke to the entire ensemble. Isn’t that the ideal function of an episode of a serialized show like this one, managing to introduce new storylines and develop old ones without micro-managing the storytelling? Even when introducing a new relationship, the show never seemed like it was forcing the issue, perhaps because Will wasn’t actively involved, and Sue wasn’t there to try to crush New Directions with her bare hands, and New Directions didn’t have its funding cut off for the millionth time.

I have no expectations that this will last: the other writers will come back, and considering that the next episode is the Rocky Horror take-off I have an assumption that subtle character development is not likely in the near future. However, “Duets” proves that it is part of Glee’s future as a whole, as Brennan is capable of dialing things down and delivering a quiet, compelling hour of television. Look no further than the conclusion, when Rachel duets with Kurt outside of the competitive element of the episode and mirror Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland’s iconic performance; the performance is strong in and of itself, but note that it avoids the trope of the entire group coming together in song. It gets the point across, that sometimes people can come together without the need for competition, but by keeping it to the group’s two most competitive members as opposed to the entire group also allows it to reinforce Rachel’s development in the episode along with establishing that Kurt’s decision to go solo has not ostracized him from the group. Brennan could have done that with a big group number, but he chose to tell it with a duet, and demonstrated the storytelling economy which helped the episode work so wonderfully.

Perhaps we should fault the show for not taking any chances, considering that this is one of the show’s defining qualities, but I think “Duets” was daring enough: there was a diversity of music, a moment for every character to shine, and even the resistance to using Sue as a comedy crutch. There have been funnier episodes, and episodes with better music, but I don’t think there has been an episode which managed to so successfully use a simple structure to tell complex stories without losing track of the characters involved.

In other words, it may not be the most Glee-ful episode of the series, but I’d argue it is certainly one of the best hours of television that Glee has produced.

Cultural Observations

  • Tonight’s episode was actually directed by Eric Stoltz, who has been busy this year: he directed an episode of Private Practice in the spring, an episode of Huge in the summer, and then last week’s episode of Caprica. He has a previous working relationship with Murphy, having directed an episode of Nip/Tuck last year, and I thought he did a pretty strong job here (clearly, considering the episode’s quality): I especially liked how he switched angles during Quinn and Sam’s dinner when Quinn decided it was a date, with the camera switching from one shoulder to another for both characters. Clever, it was.
  • I don’t know if Harry Shum Jr. is actually a bad singer, but the joke was worth it for “Sing!” It didn’t have the theatrics of Kurt’s “Le Jazz Hot,” but it was definitely one of the show’s strongest performance numbers. For more on Shum Jr., check out Henry Jenkins’ thoughts on his transmedia presence within both film and his role in LXD at In Media Res.
  • It didn’t end up playing a role in the episode, but Rachel and Finn would have had my vote simply for choosing the Elton John/Kiki Dee classic “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – a favourite.
  • Interesting that we got real confirmation of Brittany and Santana’s sexual activity – it’s been alluded to, and I never questioned it, but it was interesting to see it presented as something other than a joke – Brittany, after all, seems to really enjoy it, and even wants to pull out the Melissa Etheridge for a duet. I like that the final scene with Brittany could be read as waiting for Artie or waiting for Santana, and look forward to seeing where the character goes in the future.
  • On a negative Brittany note, I thought “Duet = Blanket” was too close to “Ballad = Male Duck.”
  • Love the fact that Sam’s haircut has been compared with Justin Beiber, Linda Evangelista (a Canadian supermodel you might know as one of the stars of George Michael’s video for “Freedom! 90″), and Patrick Swayze in Point Break.
  • Where do we stand on Burt and Finn’s argument that because the world is prejudice Kurt should avoid projecting his sexuality? It seems a bit complicated to me, but then I remember this is Lima, Ohio, and anything that gets Kurt to curb his behaviour is fine with me (even if their message could be slightly more nuanced).
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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Glee – “Duets”

  1. Jenna

    Great write up until I hit the part about Finn and Rachel and them not having romantic chemistry. That’s rather subjective, as I think they have quite a bit (and some to spare), so I think the Jeff/Britta comparison doesn’t quite work (for that and a number of other reasons- it’s like comparing grapefruits to bananas).

    • I’m fine agreeing to disagree, and you’re right that the comparison doesn’t work outside of this single example – it’s just that, personally, they lack romantic chemistry but have general chemistry, which is how I see Jeff and Britta as well.

      • Tausif Khan

        Many people did note that Noah Puckerman and Rachel Berry (Mark Salling and Lea Michelle) had a lot of chemistry. I feel that their chemistry is definitely better than Finn and Rachel’s chemistry. Maybe it is because Puckerman and Berry are extremely confident in an aspect of their lives while Finn still has to prove that he is great at something. For me that is part of it.

    • Jennifer

      As far as I can tell, Rachel and Finn have had more chemistry when they weren’t together most of the time. The last few episodes (and the first episode when they were official), Finn tends to go around looking utterly hangdog and miserable for some reason, like he’s in jail. Which makes you think, “If you’re that miserable, break up, dude.” This was the first episode with them officially together in which I saw them look happy about being together. Go figure.

  2. I’ve already said that on my twitter, but I’ll repeat. You have summed up all my thoughts about this episode. Perfect review, Myles.

  3. Jason

    I read Murphy plans to address homosexual violence/suicide in a very direct way later this season, in light of recent events. That scene where Finn is talking to Sam seemed a bit ominous. Kurt’s actions here and the callback to Theatricality clearly foreshadow future developments.

  4. Reggie

    Myles, you’re the real deal. What a great fucking review.

  5. Eric

    “I like that the final scene with Brittany could be read as waiting for Artie or waiting for Santana, and look forward to seeing where the character goes in the future.”

    Since this is _Glee_, I tend to doubt that the character will go anywhere in the future, but it seemed clear that Brittany understood that she had hurt Artie, and that she cared about him, and what they had shared became meaningful for her because it was meaningful for him. If _Glee_ was a different sort of show, I could easily see her seeking a relationship with Artie.

  6. Gabrielle

    Miles, I like to read your reviews after I watch Glee because I almost always agree with you and you are spot on with pointing out the problems on this show that I could not put into words.

    But this is the first time that I downright disagree with you. I second Jenna in the above. Finn and Rachel have crackling romantic chemistry. I love those two together, their two duets just sizzled. I like them much more in Season 2. They don’t compare to Jeff and Britta on Community at all.

  7. rosengje

    I have been fascinated by the Three Glees theory since you first brought it to my attention last year. Has anyone ever questioned Ryan Murphy at length about this (the show gets enough publicity that you would think it would come up)? Also: are each of the denizens of the Three Glees equally credited? I ask because I most strongly associate Ryan Murphy with the show. Is that just a matter of him having a high-profile name, or is the official showrunner?

    • All three creators are co-showrunners. Murphy just gets a lot of credit because he’s the one who had shows on the air prior to this.

      • Tausif Khan

        Are they the only three that write the show? Do they have a writing staff?

      • Tausif Khan

        Todd I would also like to challenge you a little bit on the content of your 3 Glees theory. Of all of the episodes that have been written I find that Murphy’s have been the one with most resonance. He wrote Wheels which for me had the best music and emotional depth. He also wrote Mattress which turned the power of the show toward the kids where Rachel and company made decisions together as a group for themselves, again emotional depth that had a sense of reality. So I don’t know whether I can solely characterize Murphy as the over the top guy. For me Brennan has written the worst episodes of the series with the most over the top gags and is inconsistent. Rhodes not taken introduces Kristen Chenoweth inorganically into the show and her cringeworthy behavior was irritating to me throughout the episode because it had nothing to do with the kids. I can’t remember any other resononant moments from Brennan’s shows. I like Falchuck a lot and do feel that he is an nice balance between the other two writers and does keep continuity to the show (please he also wrote Dream On which was the Joss Whedon directed episode with Neil Patrick Harris so he wins points from me there).

        • Tausif Khan

          * plus he

          • Murphy certainly CAN write a good episode – I, too, like “Wheels” and “Mattress” – but he has a tendency to slather on whatever he thinks works, rather than moderate himself, and that’s one of the show’s biggest problems as a whole. Brennan has written some bad episodes, but he’s usually reaching for something honest and character-based, and it’s that version of the show I respond to. I suspect Falchuk writes the version of the show I would most enjoy that would still remain a big hit.

  8. Tausif Khan

    “his behaviour was far consistently worse than Finn’s one inappropriate outburst”

    I do not agree with this statement. I (and I am sure many others do as well) that Finn’s outburst does not represent an individual instance but is representative of structures of power that pervade our society. Finn could have dealt with this uncomfortable situation in many different ways. In a previous episode he and Kurt bonded over lost parents. Both Finn and Kurt care about their own parents. Therefore Finn should have thought more carefully about how to tell Kurt that he is uncomfortable with Kurt’s gaze. Finn not only called Kurt the “f-word” he also was yelling at Kurt for his lifestyle and his sense of style. Therefor Finn was not only talking about Kurt but a way of life for a group of people. Finn could have yelled at Kurt for Kurt’s feelings because Finn could not possible return those feelings and Kurt’s gaze was making him uncomfortable. Instead Finn chose to attack his lifestyle which happens to be gay and shared by others in a larger community. This is why Finn’s use of the ”f-word” was wrong on more than just an individual level.

    At the same time it could be argued that then Kurt and Finn are just being used as cyphers for structural arguments and does not illuminate anything about their character relationships. I believe this was part of Murphy’s point. He wanted to the blow the door off the discussion of homophobia and bring it out into the open. Given how broad his opening salvo was it might be considered polemic but that does not deny the power of the point which must be debated in the public sphere (which includes places like blogs). Murphy did not want to pussyfoot around the issue. He wanted to speak to and about people who have not been heard in public for centuries and for that I can not fault Murphy. Given that Murphy also wrote Wheels I understand he can be good at character development so I not only understand by support his decision to make a bold statement.

    • I see where you’re coming from, but I have issues with suggesting that Finn’s behaviour represents a society driven by homophobia. I think that some of his language was, perhaps, part of that, but I think that Finn cannot be blamed for channeling legitimate frustration in a way which mimics society’s pervasive notion. I have issues blaming Finn for that behaviour, whereas Kurt stalking Finn is more objectively problematic.

      • Tausif Khan

        “I think that Finn cannot be blamed for channeling legitimate frustration in a way which mimics society’s pervasive notion”

        The question remains for me whether he is a part of a society that perptuates those notions by his words or whether he is mimicing them. Here I feel it is the former. A more critical person while angry would have been able to express their anger better. Finn did not lash out at Kurt’s actions (Kurt liking Finn knowing full well Finn can not possible respond to those feelings and trying to change Finn’s sexual orientation-including decorating their room in a way that is not very masculine and therefore reads out Finn’s identity) independent of Kurt’s identity. He tied Kurt’s actions solely to his gay identity and marginalized those ideas by calling them the “f-word”. Finn has the power to do this as a white heterosexual male. He has this power because he does not have to think of how to navigate the world as a minority. This is not a luxury afforded to Kurt. Therefore because Finn is judging Kurt on his social identity more than his actions the word Finn uses is unfair and very wrong.

        The bottom line for me is who here has more power? Is it Kurt who can truly like only a small population of people at William McKinley whose gaze has unfairly settled on Finn? Or is it white heterosexual male Finn who has the freedom to choose any words because at the end of the day he can walk away from them?

        The problem I think Murphy tried to highlight (and I agree poorly) is that if a girl likes a guy (eg Rachel) the girl only has to worry about whether the guy likes her back. It is painful if they do not. If a guy likes a guy he has to worry if the other person is gay and if they are not gay will there be any retribution for transgressing present social norms of sexuality. Murphy was trying to highlight that extra worry through this scene between Kurt and Finn that not only will it hurt that his feelings are not returned but that Kurt’s whole identity (and stakes in personhood because the white heterosexual male is the subject and the homosexual male becomes the object recieving societal judgment) is being rejected. So for me there was a lot more going on in that scene beyond Kurt and Finn.

        I will say again that I think it was handled poorly because I think it would have been better if Kurt had the response to Finn’s comments and was able to perform his identity strongly and then they were both able to come to an amiable resolution but still understand that Finn’s words were wrong no matter how Kurt had acted.

    • Eric

      “Finn should have thought more carefully about how to tell Kurt that he is uncomfortable with Kurt’s gaze.”

      I’m sorry, but Kurt should have respected Finn’s sexual orientation, just as Finn had always respected Kurt’s up until that point.

      “Finn not only called Kurt the “f-word” he also was yelling at Kurt for his lifestyle and his sense of style.”

      Because Kurt was forcing Finn to live in that style in what was now THEIR room. (One of my many problems with this storyline is the fact that the Hummel house has three bathrooms, but not a separate bedroom for Finn.)

      “it could be argued that then Kurt and Finn are just being used as cyphers for structural arguments and does not illuminate anything about their character relationships”

      Which is horrible writing when you are talking about the two male leads.

      • Tausif Khan

        1) I have never said nor thought that Kurt’s actions were correct. However, at the same time if a viewer is looking for nuance one should also understand that it is very hard to control who a person likes.

        2) Kurt was unfair in making those changes to the room. However, Finn responded by using his societal right afforded him by being a white heterosexual male to claim his freedom not to establish his own identity in that bedroom but to attack and disregard Kurt’s identity (still unexplored his what is Finn’s identity beyond jock-hence Finn’s own confusion with life.) Finn tries to portray himself as the sole victim in this situation and does not realize how Kurt is a victim because of his minority identity in society.

        3) I am not defending using cypher’s as good writing I am only saying that sometimes it is needed to show and explain societal structures operatin beyond the characters. Chappelle’s Show would be impossible to understand without knowledge of cyphers and societal structure’s impact on everyday lives.

        • Tausif Khan

          *realize how Kurt is a victim everyday

          • Tausif Khan

            James Poniewozik hits the nail right on the head:

            Finn’s outburst wasn’t excusable—however much he was provoked and reacting in the heat of the moment, he was still using a social power imbalance between the two of them to his advantage. But Kurt wasn’t innocent, either—he was coming on way too strong to a boy who clearly had no interest—and “Duets” pointed that out, through Kurt’s budding interest in Sam.

            Read more: http://tunedin.blogs.time.com/2010/10/13/glee-watch-it-takes-two/#ixzz12GFAogxr

        • I think the point others are trying to make here is that the scene in “Theatricality” didn’t acknowledge Finn’s right to be upset with Kurt’s actions. Kurt isn’t a saint (which I see as a good thing). Yes, he’s repressed and a member of a group that has less power than the heteronormative Finn, but the problem with “Theatricality” is that it was excusing his poor behavior because of his oppressed status, which is pretty naive. The idea that an oppressed person is always guiltless because they are a victim is dangerous and awful; it removes all sense of accountability, responsibility, for their actions, and only turns them into a zealot.

          Just because someone is oppressed, doesn’t mean they’re in the right. What this episode did was to show Kurt that while he is an oppressed person who has less rights than Finn, he needs to be just as considerate of others’ feelings as he wishes them to be of his, otherwise he’s just a big hypocrite.

          I hate hate hate every time the writers have Kurt hitting on straight guys in this way because it makes him look stupid and pathetic, and I don’t believe he is either of those things. What this episode did was to complicate that original naive scene in “Theatricality,” showing us the motive by retconning those pathetic, stupid actions. Kurt is lonely and desperate, and was unaware that his behavior was coming off as so, because he was in so much pain. None of that was acknowledged in “Theatricality” because the scene ended with the Mike O’Malley rant (which I did appreciate, I’m a sucker for all the father/son scenes on this show) and with Finn’s apology. Finn was made to see how he was wrong in that episode, but Kurt never was. All this episode did was even the score.

          • Tausif Khan

            @ Ashley

            I feel you are mischaracterizing my position. I do not feel that Kurt is right. I felt he behaved inappropriately.

            However, nothing that Kurt did justifies Finn’s reaction. Finn did not challenge Kurt’s actions but Kurt’s identity and at that moment he is at an abstract level and beyond the moment between Kurt and Finn.

            @Eric

            1) The gender politics are different for a hetero male/hetero female gender dynamic because in this instance the male uses his power as a hetero sexual male to reduce the heterosexual female to his gaze and not seeing her as she intends the world to see her. The male heterosexual gaze is seen as normal which is why we have magazines (women’s magazines) with scantily clad women because the logic is that everyone will find a female form attractive (not her thoughts or her beliefs but just the objective female form). This gaze continues the oppression for women in other parts of society who already view women as limited beings.

            Finn can not be reduced by Kurt’s gaze because he can just disregard Kurt’s feelings and identity and in turn Kurt as a person. Finn still has the power.

            2) Finn can not be victimized by Kurt because he can still be himself and leave minority issues behind at the end of the day.

            Again to both Ashley and Eric what I have just said does not mean that Kurt is right in his actions. All this means is that Kurt’s identity and personhood are under attack in Finn’s diatribe which is not the same in Kurt’s actions toward Finn. Finn was uncomfortable with any part of the room having a queer identity. Finn can affirm social norms by telling Kurt to change and not compromising on a shared space between them. This is what he was emphasizing in his outburst not only that Kurt’s feelings bothered him but who Kurt is also bothers him which is wrong because this is akin to persecution.

            Even if Kurt has strong feelings for Finn he can not do anything about it because he will be ostracized for transgressing sexual norms. A heterosexual male can act on this feelings until it is considered violent (oh she is just playing hard to get)

            I believe that if he does act on his feelings this would be acting on his male gaze and Kurt would be unfairly feminizing Finn (in this I find a problem of gender).

            @Evamarie

            I agree that Finn is young and I noted that Finn doesn’t really have an identity on the show he is floating between football and glee and isn’t special in either arena. Right now he is just Rachel’s boyfriend. Finn has lot’s of confusion.

            However, none of this excuses his willingness to express his anger inappropriately and with verbal violence (attacking Kurt’s identity).

          • Tausif Khan

            All of the comments I have made so far was before I happened to watch the episode Duets. Having now seen Duets I think that yes Murphy and company have made the discussion more real but also pushed forward on the idea of structural homophobia. Finn perpetuates homophobia when he talks to Kurt and Sam- Chord Overstreet. He gives Kurt the advice not to sing with Sam because it will ruin Sam’s reputation (high school word for perceived identity). Finn does not tell Kurt not to sing with Sam because this will end up hurting both Sam and Kurt because of Kurt’s overbearing behavior and Sam’s (possible) inability to return those feelings. Finn is trying to keep Sam “normal” keep him from slipping into a marginalized group. What is most annoying to me is that in this instance Finn is aware of his actions (his inappropriate use of the “f-word” and how Rachel can be really stuck up showing he can be perceptive) and yet still tries to maintain a boundary between gay life and traditional social norms. It becomes even more clear that he is trying to police this boundary (and using his white heterosexual privilege) when he talks about how Glee club is a gay world (feminizing and marginalizing the group) and then telling Sam it will ruin his reputation (Sam is true and sticks with Kurt until Kurt bends to pressure for personal reasons-needing to re-evaluate how to like someone) and then supporting the pairing of Sam and Quinn a “proper” duet. This gender politics scares me.

          • Eric

            @ Tausif

            “2) Finn can not be victimized by Kurt because he can still be himself and leave minority issues behind at the end of the day.”

            We’re going to have to agree to disagree. In my opinion, even if Finn was a fully-mature and secure member of the dominant cultural sub-group, which he clearly is not, he was still treated as a victim/target by Kurt. Abuse has a social/cultural aspect to it to be sure, but at its heart it is a personal and individual event.

          • Tausif Khan

            @ Eric I can respect that position

            I agree that he isn’t fully mature but for me he has shown the capacity to understand other people’s actions Kurt’s and Rachel’s with stunning accuracy and in that I believe he is capable of making solid social judgments.

            However, I was wondering how Finn is not a part of the dominant American white heterosexual male cultural?

        • Eric

          1) it is very hard to control who a person likes.

          It is, but we each have a responsibility to express those desires in ways which respect the other person. Kurt’s behavior in the entire “Kurt is attracted to Finn” arc failed to do that in a way that would be described as stalking and/or sexual harassment, if a hetero male did it to a hetero female.

          2) Kurt was unfair in making those changes to the room. However, Finn responded by using his societal right afforded him by being a white heterosexual male to claim his freedom not to establish his own identity in that bedroom but to attack and disregard Kurt’s identity (still unexplored his what is Finn’s identity beyond jock-hence Finn’s own confusion with life.) Finn tries to portray himself as the sole victim in this situation and does not realize how Kurt is a victim because of his minority identity in society.

          Being a victim doesn’t give Kurt the right to victimize Finn. Was Finn’s reaction inappropriate and hurtful? Yes, but Finn had made it clear to Kurt over and over again in appropriate ways that Kurt’s interest was not reciprocated, and Kurt was consistently refusing to understand that no means no. Theatricality just culminated a really badly written arc, in my view.

          • Evamarie

            Don’t forget that Finn is also a 16 (?) year old boy with limited mental faculties. He lost his temper because Kurt had stalked and harassed him and was now moving beyond that into removing Finn’s identity by taking over the bedroom without asking Finn. Finn was creeped out and over reacted. In the heat of anger, he used nasty words to lash out. I was very glad that this episode placed some ownership on Kurt’s creepy behaviour.

          • Tausif Khan

            So the point I would agree with you and Ashley on is that Kurt can use his male privilege as the central sexual gaze (every one can appreciate a naked woman) to feminize Finn. However, what is nuanced is that Finn still has the majority power because he can deny Kurt’s feelings because he also poses male privilege. Females are complete victims to the gaze they become mere objects to look good and do and say nothing.

          • Eric

            @ Tausif

            “I was wondering how Finn is not a part of the dominant American white heterosexual male culture?”

            As a white hetero male, I would argue that Finn is certainly influenced by his society, but that does not mean he operates in lock-step with it. The Slushy-throwing football players represent the dominant American white heterosexual male culture in my view; homophobic, sports-obsessed, uninterested in the Arts, and intolerant of difference. That’s not Finn.

            You are painting the blow-up in “Theatricality” as a battle between the oppressive majority and the abused minority. I see it as an incident between two individuals where Kurt was in the wrong, but Finn reacted in an inappropriate but understandable manner due to Kurt’s refusal to accept that Finn wasn’t interested.

          • Tausif Khan

            @ Eric

            I do not think that white heterosexual male culture is that stereotypical (“The Slushy-throwing football players represent the dominant American white heterosexual male culture in my view; homophobic, sports-obsessed, uninterested in the Arts, and intolerant of difference”) nor do I believe all who belong to this culture in engages in that behavior. My concept of culture is that anyone who belongs to an identity contributes to the discussion of what that identity is. Therefore I think Finn’s confusion in finding an identity for himself where feels comfortable is a part of white heterosexual male culture as well.

            Yet at the same time one thing that is identifiable about white male heterosexual culture is that they somehow dominant institutions of power. I feel that Finn acted on this power when he kept Sam and Kurt from being partners because of what it would to Sam’s reputation (identity) if he sang with Kurt (it would marginalize Sam-“Glee is their (gay) world”, as Glee is a social ostracized group, Finn is only a visitor into their (gay) world while he occupies mainstream dominant spaces and is freely able to go anywhere). Finn has the ability to reinforce social norms because of his status as white heterosexual male.

            Finally, I will state again Kurt was wrong in the way he acted. However, Kurt is also a confused white teenage male like Finn trying to figure out love and life with the added stigma of how to navigate a gay identity in high school. No one can deny that Kurt is a member of an oppressed (in the sense that he does not have the same rights as everyone else to freely consort with and eventually create a family with someone he cares about) minority.

          • Tausif Khan

            My main point is to say that Finn has free choice while Kurt does not.

          • Tausif Khan

            One more thing it is clear that Murphy was trying to bring in a discussion of how social structures impact our everyday actions this is apparent in the dialogue that I have cited. So to say that this is just an argument between two individuals is something that I believe is not a close reading of the text (or observation of the visual). In this we should try to evaluate Murphy on the argument he presents within his story. Murphy as a gay man felt it is important to tell stories of gay teenage life and therefore questions of identity (Theatricality- Performativity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performativity) become important and crucial to understand social interaction between Finn and Kurt as well as any other interaction between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

  9. Tausif Khan

    * I feel that

  10. Katie

    Wow, Myles, just wow. Nail, head, hit. Especially about the rewriting of Theatricality’s, shall we say, moral dilemma.

    And I flipped out when Kurt started singing Le Jazz Hot. Obscure musical theatre nerd ftw!

  11. Spotless Mind

    Perfect review, Myles. It’s almost scary how often my opinions match yours exactly. You are, without a doubt, the best critic on the internet. :)

  12. Brad

    Excellent review. Spot on. I could hear your review as I watched the episode. When they came back to the problems in “Theatricality” I said, “Finally!” This was a real step forward for the show. I’m a bit worried, however, over Murphy’s need to confront anti-gay violence directly. Gay bashing has become such an overused plot when telling the stories of gay boys and men. Will they go the “Tales of the City” route where the straight Brian got bashed because he was walking home with the gay Michael Tolliver? And I, for one, am disappointed that Sam was not Kurt’s rumored love interest. He’s dreamy.

  13. Milnes

    I interpreted Brittany’s duet/blanket comment as if she was thinking duet -> duvet -> blanket. I chuckled.

  14. KG

    Loved the episode – loved your review. I especially loved that there was (for this show) a lot of character development for the peripheral characters, i.e. Brittany and Mike (formerly known as “The Other Asian” I believe). And that FINALLY Kurt’s bad behavior with Finn was addressed. The music was amazing – maybe not so much in the selection, but in the performance.

  15. Evamarie

    On a wildly different note – and one that took me days before I even noticed it – why did Will assign a DUET competition to an ODD-numbered group of kids?

  16. Pingback: Top 10 Episodes of 2010: “Duets” (Glee) | Cultural Learnings

  17. Pingback: What do you think of a 5'4, 92-pound pale, white teenage male who is socially awkward, but rather sm

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