Visi(bi)lity: Glee’s Problem With Bisexual Men
(This post contains spoilers about the Glee episode “Blame It on the Alcohol.”)
I used to be a regular Glee viewer. For the first two seasons, it was possible (though not necessarily easy) for me to look past the cringe-worthy storylines and enjoy the musical sequences. But as each new episode aired, it became harder and harder to not feel angry about the one-dimensional characters and Ryan Murphy’s obvious lack of ability to write for women, people of color, and people with disabilities. And honestly? With the exception of Kurt, the show’s handling of queer issues has been disastrous, too.
I stopped watching Glee after seeing Season 3’s episode “I Kissed a Girl,” during which Santana performs Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” as if it were a song about lesbian reclamation rather than performative bisexuality for the sake of male spectators. (Don’t worry, we will address Perry’s song and what negative messages it sends about bisexuality later in this series!) But this episode wasn’t the first time the show dropped the ball on queer representation. Season 2’s episode “Blame It on the Alcohol” stands out as a prime example of Glee missing the mark on bisexuality, particularly bisexual men.
In “Blame It on the Alcohol,” the members of The New Directions decide to get drunk together. Naturally, as tends to happen with drunken teenagers, the party devolves into a game of Spin the Bottle, during which Blaine and Rachel make out. Kurt finds the situation amusing, until Blaine decides to go on a date with Rachel. When Kurt protests, Blaine explains, “When we kissed it, it felt good...I’ve never even had a boyfriend before. Isn’t this the time you’re supposed to figure stuff out? …Maybe I’m bi. I don’t know.” Blaine’s explanation demonstrates an incredible amount of self-awareness on his part, as he articulates confusion about his sexual identity. He isn’t worried that he’s straight; he’s certain that he likes men. But does that mean that he’s gay? Or could enjoying Rachel’s kiss mean that he likes women, too?
Unfortunately, Kurt responds in the worst way possible. He tells Blaine, “Bisexual’s a term that gay guys in high school use when they wanna hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.” If the show had taken the time to critique Kurt’s sentiment and explain that that bisexuality is not just an illusion or a façade, this may have been an interesting episode. But of course, that isn’t what happens. Because, after Blaine is given exactly one scene in which he discusses his confusion and potential bisexuality, the storyline stops being about him. It becomes a story about Kurt, and how heartbroken he is that his crush his betraying him by questioning his sexuality. It also becomes a story about Rachel, and how she’s determined to prove Kurt wrong by making Blaine her boyfriend.
Throughout the episode, Blaine lacks agency. After he and Rachel go on a date, we only hear her perspective, not his. Blaine doesn’t choose to kiss Rachel again—she corners him in line at a coffee shop and kisses him without even asking. He doesn’t like the kiss (and who can blame him, really—I wouldn’t want to be kissed completely off-guard like that!), which is enough to make him realize that he’s really gay. But even that realization seems less about Blaine and more about Kurt and Rachel. When Blaine is gay, Kurt is able to continue pursuing him without feeling “threatened” and Rachel is able to use her experience dating a gay man as songwriting inspiration. Blaine’s voice throughout the episode is drowned out by the debate between Kurt and Rachel, arguing whether he’s gay or straight. It is almost as if the entire purpose of the plotline is to discredit the existence of bisexual men.
I say “bisexual men” because Glee doesn’t seem to have a problem with bisexual women. Brittany is able to date and sleep with men and women, and though her character is meant to be comic, her sexuality is treated seriously. So Glee’s bi problem is specific to men. It makes you wonder: Why have a one-episode storyline like Blaine’s at all, if it’s going to be treated as a joke and never mentioned again?
Personally, I think this was a missed opportunity. Blaine’s sexual confusion would have been an interesting topic for Glee to seriously explore. The show has gay men (Kurt, Dave Karofsky, Rachel’s dads), a lesbian (Santana), a bisexual woman (Brittany), and lots of straight people. So why not add a bisexual man into the mix? Being bi wouldn’t have prevented Blaine and Kurt from starting a relationship later in the season! It is, of course, fine that Blaine is gay, and there’s nothing wrong with the writers wanting him to be gay. But people still experiment and question their identities, and Blaine should have been able to do so in a better way.
Related: Glee: Blame It On the Alcohol
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