Glee’s Modus operandi from Season 1, Episode 1 — and it’s a totally laudable one — has been to celebrate the underdog and bring the marginalized into the mainstream. But when it comes to gay women, Ryan Murphy’s song-and-dance baby still needs to get its act together.
Plot evenness has never been the show’s strong suit — Blaine (Darren Criss) fell for Kurt (Chris Colfer) seemingly out of the blue, and Santana came out to viewers as a no-nonsense lesbian in an equally unexpected twist — but that overarching weakness can’t explain away the differences between how Kurt & Blaine and Santana & Brittany have been portrayed (or not portrayed) as couples.
Ever since their first tender, cheer-inducing kiss, Kurt and Blaine have enjoyed a nuanced, true-to-life relationship. Together they’ve faced the petty injustices of high school with strength and courage, and primetime TV is richer for it. However, when juxtaposed against Brittany and Santana’s yet-to-be-labelled dalliance, Klaine’s carefully — almost lovingly — developed bond could be construed as an affront to what Brittany and Santana could be.
And on a hyper-inclusive show like Glee, such subtle inequities can be insidious.
Instead of fleshing out the girls’ romance and breathing life into the small screen’s most popular lesbian couple-that-isn’t, the show has let Brittana languish in a state of frustrating ambiguity. As Dorothy Snarker pointed out in a column for AfterEllen.com, the only time we’ve seen the two Cheerios get physical was in the “lady kisses” scene in “Duets.” It seems to us that subsequent lack of on-screen Brittana action implies a lack of seriousness, that their love is somehow lesser-than. Why can’t they kiss like Kurt and Blaine? What makes their attraction so different?
Earlier this season Glee devoted an entire episode to Klaine and Finchel’s first times, giving those relationships valuable three-dimensionality; a Brittana-centric episode — one dedicated to more than Brittany’s simplemindedness and Santana’s bitchiness — is long overdue. But it can’t fall victim to Glee’s tendency to turn Big Issues into punchlines. When Santana quipped, “The only straight I am is straight-up bitch,” the flippant statement reduced her closeted struggle with her sexual identity to a zingy one-liner. Funny, yes, but also dangerous.
Like most of Glee’s stereotype-based characters, Brittany and Santana can be summed up in a few words: Brit is a walking dumb blonde joke, and Santana is the fiery Latina queen of nasty barbs. The beauty here is that Brittana, like Klaine, has the potential to be so much more than the sum of its two parts.