The Trouble with ‘Glee’
Posted by VersusTheFans
I was frantically running around my bedroom, angling my computer just right to capture the action on the TV screen and making sure my computer wouldn’t go to sleep in the middle of recording. (This is what I call poor woman’s DVR.) I chewed all my fingernails off with anxiety before I even left the house in fear my sad attempt at recording a live television show wouldn’t capture what I needed it to. I barely made it out the door on time. What was wrong with me?
On that night, Glee was airing its season three Valentine’s Day episode. At the time, I was still trying to convince myself I wanted to be a professional saxophone player (along with denying other parts of my identity). So, I was out the door to rehearse a big saxophone solo I was performing with a local orchestra. Unfortunately, the rehearsal time was scheduled so that I might miss all or part of the Valentine’s Day episode of Glee. Sure, I could watch it later, but there was no way that was going to cut it. Not at all. Rumor had it, and oh, I don’t know, maybe twenty episodes overdue, that a beautiful moment like this was happening:
It was crazy. It’s just a television show. Even as a kid, (with the exception of Power Rangers, circa 1994), I never cared about TV and I never understood why other people got so excited about it. That is, until Glee wrote a lesbian character, Santana, and couple, Santana & Brittany. Santana’s coming out storyline during seasons two and early season three was life changing for thousands of young people around the globe. And fine, me too.
It took me months to understand why I was having a late-life fan girl crisis. It was (and still is) slightly humiliating. But, here’s the truth. It’s way more than that. Yes, Santana may just be a fictional TV character, but the story resonated so much deeper than just another TV show. Glee marked the first time I had ever seen a lesbian or lesbian couple on TV, and Santana & Brittany looked so happy in that Valentine’s Day episode, a possibility I had given up on for myself. Fiction or not, Santana & Brittany’s story was also part of my story, and that changed things in a big way.
I realize now Santana singing “Rumor Has It/Someone Like Me” at the pinnacle of her coming out arc took my breath away because my personal story should have been like Santana’s. I had known from a young age I was different, that I was gay, but I didn’t know what that meant. I lived in a conservative, rural town in a homophobic family. By the time I got to high school, Santana’s age, it would be many more years before I could even think about untangling my sexuality from sexual abuse. I never got the chance to come of age as a queer woman like Santana did, but somehow watching her story unfold on TV years later as an adult filled a void I didn’t realize I needed to address.
In that moment, I was convinced that TV is a place where magic happens. I can’t change my past anymore than the next person, but what I can do is heal it by making the world easier for other young women. When TV characters resonate so strongly with our own souls, they transcend being ‘just’ fiction: they become our hopes, dreams, experiences and identities projected on the small screen week after week. I never imagined a campy TV show about a singing troupe of teenagers would be so important to me, but it is.
Me frantically trying to MacGyver my computer into a DVR to capture that first Brittany & Santana kiss on Glee is simultaneously highly embarrassing and a perfect example of why positive representation for minorities is so important on TV; it helps people understand and accept who they are. Even after years of studying music and trying to find a deeper meaning in my saxophone playing, I could never get anywhere close compared to the emotional impact of Santana bearing her soul time and time again, leading to her coming out speech to her abuela, which concluded: “I don’t want to fight anymore. I’m just too tired. I just have to be me.”
And so, in all its inspirational and infuriating glory, Santana’s story on Glee is the unexpected key that unlocked my own path to just being me.