Review: Glee, “I Kissed A Girl”

Despite all its issues, Glee has had a lot of success with exploring the challenges of being gay. I have some issues with how and why Kurt jumped to Dalton last year, but the only good part of season two was his season-long journey to coming out and self-acceptance. The series took Kurt’s challenges and emotions seriously (sometimes too seriously) and never really waivered from examining how being a contemporary young gay male impacts your life, at school, at home and in love. Sometimes it was too preachy and heavy-handed, but Ryan Murphy would have it no other way.

Along the way, Santana and her sexuality-related fears and confusion got pulled into Kurt’s story and in a lot of cases, her problems ended up being much more compelling and complicated anyway. Early this season, I was worried that the writers were going to drop their most promising season two holdover, but thankfully the last episode “Mash Off” told us otherwise. And even though that episode was full of tonally dissonant, miserable stuff, the final five minutes were some of the best in Glee history and therefore, it was hard not to be a little excited/nervous for this week’s “I Kissed A Girl.”

Thankfully, just as we thought we knew where Glee was headed, “Kissed” mixed it up. When we thought we had the answers, they changed the questions. And by this I mean that they treated their one great storyline and one truly compelling character with very little respect, substantially damaged her arc and replaced it all with “shock” moments and bad song choices. It is a bit hard to believe that the same people who wrote Kurt’s story thought that the events of “I Kissed A Girl” were a good idea. Well…maybe it’s not.

The worst part about all this is that the writers should have known where to take this story. You know, because we’ve more or less already been down this road before with Kurt. Obviously, the circumstances are somewhat different in that Santana’s being forced out of the closet and she has much more conflicted feelings on the matter, but those differences should have made her story this season even better than Kurt’s. How does the ultimate bully deal with being bullied? How does she walk the halls of the school?

Apparently, the answer to both those questions is that she sings Katy Perry when she’s happy about being a lesbian and K.D. Lang when she’s kind of sad about being a lesbian. Complexity! Seriously though, even though I don’t expect Glee to be great every week or even at all, I could not believe how uncomfortable, stupid and damaging this episode was. From start to finish, “I Kissed A Girl” was a trainwreck and not like in the traditional Glee way because this story actually mattered.

I understand that the writers have absolutely no idea how to write a good Finn story anymore (mostly because they have no idea how to write a good story for anyone that’s not Kurt and that’s even challenging), but whomever thought it would be a smart decision to make him responsible for singing Santana comfortably out of the closet should be fired immediately. With Kurt, the writers let his identity struggles play out over time and allowed him to be somewhat in charge of how it would be constructed. Sure, people knew about him and people bullied him, but the irrational action and stupidity made sense in the context of general high school awfulness.

But with Santana, the most complex character the series has ever had? Screw it, let’s just blow through it with some forceful slow singing of pop ditties. It’s not that Finn trying to help Santana find herself and be comfortable in her own skin through song is something this version of Finn wouldn’t do, because he wouldn’t. The worst part is that “Kissed” looked at Finn’s actions as wise, caring and helpful. I think his “Lady Music Week” could have worked had the writers decided to point out how stupid it was, but allowed it to somehow force Santana to take action on her own. Instead, we were treated to a handful of songs with fellow students singing random songs to or at Santana, while she and we sat uncomfortably wondering when it would be over. You know, until FINN’S PLAN WORKED. I don’t care how confused and scared Santana is, I’m pretty sure that she would never ultimately give in to an overly idealistic plan concocted by the suddenly genius Finn. Maybe if Brittany came up with the plan. Maybe. But not this. Not now.

Thankfully, things only got worse as the episode went along. Whereas Kurt’s story had an additional layer of intrigue because of Burt, we’ve never met Santana’s family. That would be fine in any other context, but “I Kissed A Girl” decides to burn through all of the Santana version of the Kurt-Burt-like scenes we saw in seasons one and two off-screen. We never meet her parents, but she tells us, after that empowering rendition of “I Kissed A Girl,” that they accepted her, no problem. Oh, okay. Thanks for robbing us of that moment. Not to worry though, because she still had to tell her abeula and, well, that didn’t go so well. Her abeula is randomly a supreme homophobe who has now decided to disown her granddaughter for her awful life choices.

Excuse me for a second, but what the fuck?

Again, I don’t have a problem with someone in Santana’s family being upset with her sexuality. In fact, I think that’s a good idea since we’ve already seen the supportive route with Burt. But where this episode gets it totally wrong is that it assumes that the shock from abeula’s reaction is more important than all the groundwork the writers should have laid to get there. No matter what Burt’s ultimate reaction would have been to Kurt’s sexuality, his relationship with Blaine, whatever, it would have felt at least somewhat earned because the series took the time to introduce us to him and how he thinks. But here, the writers skip all the characterization so that they can throw us into a moment that makes us feel overly sympathetic for a character we already cared about to begin with. Glee is a series defined by moments, but rarely has the series so majorly screwed up one for a character/story this compelling because the writers chose the impact of an individual moment over the substance of introducing and developing characters to earn that moment. So cheap, and so stupid.

I don’t expect the writers of Glee to have much patience. They never have. But I guess they roped me into a false sense of security with how they handled Kurt’s sexuality and identity issues over a longer period of time and frankly, are still working on them. So I expected something at least as partially focused in regard to Santana. Unfortunately, I was very, very wrong. This season ignored Santana’s sexuality for a few episodes then rushed through a storyline that should have taken at least four or five episodes so that they could construct cheap, shocking moments to get a rise out of its shrinking audience.

Along the way, it turned Santana into a passive bystander in her own coming out and shaped Finn into a creepy genius guy who really, really cares about the women he has sex with and can help them find peace. Worst of all, Glee took itself way too seriously when it needed to step back for a second (Finn’s “plan”) and then didn’t treat itself with enough respect when it was a necessity to do so (the abuela scene, the Katy Perry performance). But that’s okay everyone, because it’s time for Sectionals! Conflict! Ugh.

Other thoughts:

  • The destruction of Santana’s story was the most egregious and damaging part of this episode, but that doesn’t mean anything else was very good. “Kissed” brought the end of the election story already, with no relevance or quality whatsoever. Remember when we thought that the election would provide quality character material for Brittany, Rachel and Kurt? Well, Brittany’s campaign became a horrible joke, Rachel bowed out and then cheated for Kurt and Kurt wanted to rid the world of dodgeball. I think Rick the Stick came out on the best end of all of this, right?
  • The “adult election” ended up being one of the most inert stories the series has ever done, which is both a positive and a negative, I guess. It’s good that we didn’t have to deal with Sue running for office for 15 episodes, but how ridiculous is it that we had to spend any time on it now that we see it was all a set up for a love triangle between Sue, Cooter and Coach Beiste? That’s next-level storytelling right there.
  • There was also more material with Puck, Shelby and Quinn. The baby-napping is apparently over, so now Quinn just wants to have sex with anyone in sight, but preferably Puck. Right. Although I kind of liked the scene where Puck verbally undressed Quinn and her issues, I just love it when the writers wipe away 50 episodes of terrible storytelling as “character development.” They’ve done it twice now with Quinn this season and so apparently we’re just going to keep hearing that she’s “messed up and has been for three years” until Dianna Agron kills Ryan Murphy to get out of her contract. Stay strong, Dianna.
  • Puck and Shelby is annoying me less than it is most people, if only because both actors are doing solid work despite the awful circumstances. Teacher-student relationships are the worst, but this isn’t the worst iteration of it I have ever seen. At least Mark Salling has something to do.
  • Rachel’s suspended for Sectionals. Who cares. That opens the door for Sam’s return, which I am, for some reason, excited about. I can’t wait to see how his seventh brain transplant looks.
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3 thoughts on “Review: Glee, “I Kissed A Girl”

  1. I also thought it was truly terrifying that the show didn’t make anything of the fact that all the boys in the school were inexplicably more attracted to Santana once she came out of the closet. Sure, the girls ganged up on the rugby captain, but that was because he said it was a choice to be lesbian. I’m grateful the show drew a line SOMEWHERE in its terrible representation of this storyline, but that’s a weird place to draw the line. Especially since, oh, all the other girls decide to playfully take on faux-lesbian identities for “I Kissed A Girl” two seconds later.

  2. I think you are missing the point that it does take the support of straights taking a stand on behalf of gay people for acceptance (or rights for that matter) to become a reality. The straight boys supporting her is consistent with what’s needed in reality, but also the glee kids have always thought that singing about their feelings will make them feel better. That’s been a recurring theme-they stick together as outsiders and they sing thru their emotions. The show has become a dramedy, but like any show with a large cast it’s impossible to spend adequate time on each story line. I’m satisfied inferring things without having to be hit over the head with it. Some complained that Santana was too happy when she sang “I Kissed a Girl” with the other girls, but her update about her parents’ acceptance addressed her “happy” affect without having to spend a scene on it. We’ve already seen that parental acceptance scene with Mike O’Malley. Further, she was bullied in the hallway and really her grandmother, who taught Santana to be mean, bullied her while rejecting her. I felt it was a powerful message to Santana, and reflected real life, for her to see she would be treated differently. Men don’t have the same level of disgust for lesbians as gay men and it’s pretty typical for them to think the girl just hasn’t met the right guy. They also understand the attraction to women so they aren’t put off by it. Admittedly, I love Glee because it’s different, the talent is amazing and the music is usually fun or inspirational. I’ve learned more music from the 2000’s on this show than anywhere else. It’s always been quirky and the humor sometimes does not work, but when it does it’s hilarious (ask mel Brooks about that)

  3. can i just say that i love that tina’s outgrown her goth chick emo phase? that pink outfit is cute. and tina looks so much younger. i hope it’s mike’s mom who bought her those outfits cuz she looks real classy.

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