Gleeful Bi Girls

This originally appeared in BCN issue 107.

A second look at bisexuality in TV show Glee:
This month, Brittany, Santana, and what happens
when the scriptwriters dodge using labels  

Santana: “Let’s be clear here. I’m not interested in any labels unless it’s on something I shoplift.”

If you scour the internet looking for blogs on Santana, from the hit TV series Glee, one word comes up time and time again: lesbian.   Tracey Gilchrist writes on ‘Shewired’, “Hold on to your Cheerios uniform because Glee dropped a big lesbian bomb this week.”  She goes on to say that the directors of Glee “are really broaching the subject of lesbianism”.  But are they?

So I won’t dissect the show’s view on bisexuality thus far, because that was covered beautifully in the last edition of BCN, and if you missed it because you don’t read BCN regularly, well shame on you, you’re missing a treat.   But in case you did miss it: to summarise, the general gist from the boys camp (excuse the pun) in Glee is that biphobia is bad but primarily ‘yaay to the gay’.  So, let’s hear the view from the Glee girls – more specifically the view extrapolated from the relationship between bitch-extraordinaire Santana and “the square root of 4 equals rainbows” Brittany.
Both girls date various boys throughout season one, especially Santana, who is seen as promiscuous and emotionally blunted.  Does anyone else see a stereotyped bisexual storyline coming your way?

Santana:  “It’s better when it doesn’t involve feelings. I think it’s better when it doesn’t involve eye contact,”

Despite their on-off boyfriends it is hinted at heavily throughout season one that Santana and Brittany have both an emotional and physical relationship beyond that expected between best friends.

Santana: “Sex is not dating”
Brittany: “If it were, Santana and I would be dating”.

It’s season 2 is when the Santana-Brittany tryst really gets going.   Santana’s latest boyfriend Puck is in juvenile detention and Brittany isn’t with anyone.  The fact that someone in Glee club isn’t dating someone else in Glee club is a shock in itself to the viewers, but just while we’re getting over that one, we see Santana and Brittany ‘making out’ on Brittany’s bed.  During this scene, Brittany suggests they do a duet together (in the world of Glee this is akin to asking someone on a date).   Santana refuses, saying she’s not in love with her, claiming Brittany is just someone to be with while Puck is gone.  Brittany is furious, “I’m mad at you, but you’re still so hot,” and the fight pushes her into the arms of Artie, who she remains with for the rest of the season.  This doesn’t stop the girls getting back into their usual routine of flirting and (as Brittany so endearingly calls it) “sweet lady kisses”, but Santana makes it clear it’s just a bit of fun.

Brittany: “I want to talk to you about something. I really like it when we make out and stuff,”
Santana: “Which isn’t cheating because…”
Brittany: “The plumbing’s different,”

Brittany eventually feels that things are not as clear cut as Santana is trying to convince her they are (and haven’t we all been there?) and encourages her to seek guidance from their supply teacher Miss Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow).  It’s at this point in the season that one feels the directors of Glee are trying to push in one direction, where the plot is pushing in entirely another:

“I just want to thank you for confiding in me because I know this is tough,” Ms. Holiday begins. “And I want to ask both of you if either one of you thinks that you might be a lesbian?”

Even clueless Brittany tries to help Santana’s self-identify by making her a T-shirt that says “Lebanese” (oh how I want one of those, early birthday present anyone?).
Now hang on one cotton-picking minute.  It’s not the first or the last time that someone in the show alludes to Santana being a lesbian, but everything Santana has done and said so far screams bisexual.  A bisexual girl who doesn’t like labels (welcome to the club), and is firmly in a closet, but most definitely bisexual.

Santana:  “I like girls and guys but I once made out with a mannequin and even had a sex dream about a shrub that was in the shape of a person.”

To go to the effort of using the Blaine-Kurt-Rachel triangle to examine biphobia, but then ignoring the glaring truth about Santana seems absurd.   Could it be true that in this day and age it’s still not acceptable to have a mainstream bisexual character in a teen programme?  Or maybe they can demonstrate that Santana is bisexual in every which way, but saying the word bisexual might make the TV implode? Or even worse, make the ratings drop?

Miss Holliday: Anyway, it’s not about who you are attracted to; ultimately, it’s about who you fall in love with.” 

BISEXUAL – for heaven’s sake people, say the word bisexual! It won’t kill you!
When you look at their relationship, bisexuality is stamped all over it; technically it doesn’t even need saying.  Yet it really, really does, because saying the B word, rather than implying it is very important.  If you don’t allow it to be said, it makes teenagers think that admitting you are gay is OK, whereas bisexuality is a dirty word, never to be uttered, even if you are.  I was brought up believing that to say you were a lesbian was better than saying you were bisexual: nicer, safer, less dirty, more acceptable.  It saddens me so much to think nothing has changed and we are teaching exactly the same to the next generation.

Anyway, back to the story.  A number of poignant and heart-felt love songs to Brittany and much teen-angst later, Santana concedes her feelings:

“I’m a bitch because I’m angry. I’m angry because I have all of these feelings.  Feelings for you that I’m afraid of dealing with, because I’m afraid of dealing with the consequences. And Brittany, I can’t go to an Indigo Girls concert, I just can’t. Do you understand what I’m trying to say here? I wanna be with you. But I’m afraid of the talks, and the looks. I mean, you know what happened to Kurt at this school. I’m so afraid of what everyone will say behind my back. Still, I have to accept that I love you. I love you, and I don’t want to be with Sam or Finn or any of those other guys. I just want you. Please say you love me back. Please.”

The blogging community of the world appear to take this to mean she is definitely a lesbian, linking girl-girl monogamy with being a lesbian.  I might have got this wrong all these years but I was under the impression that your sexuality is not just reflective of the person you are currently in love with, but a reflection of your actions and emotions in past, present and future relationships – silly me, must have been mistaken.  This is another reason why it is so important to give a label to the label-hating Santana.  If the show doesn’t call her bisexual, she becomes, in the eyes of the public, a lesbian. It doesn’t matter that they haven’t explicitly called her a lesbian.  The problem lies the show having suggested she might be a lesbian without also suggesting she might be bisexual. We are teaching teenagers that lesbian is the default position if you like girls.  We are also teaching them that it’s one or the other, make your decision and go with it because once you love a girl there’s no going back to the disco stick (as Lady Gaga would say).

Glee had such an opportunity to push the bisexual equality movement forward leaps and bounds.  Through ignorance and possibly desire for better ratings, they chickened out and went down the lesbian route.  A teenage lesbian on TV?  Shocker!  That’s never been done before.

I love Glee, LOVE Glee.  I have all the CDs, I went to see the live show, Monday nights are sacrosanct, I’m officially obsessed.  I’m also let down, disappointed and cheated because, in Santana, I finally got to see a character on mainstream TV I thought I saw myself in (bitchiness and coldness included).   I saw a character I admired, one that would help me take another step out of the closet and show me it’s really just fine to admit you’re bisexual in this world, and they couldn’t even let me have that.