The evolution and devolution of Brittana on “Glee”

So there is this crazy show where high school students randomly break into choreographed song and dance. They sing studio-perfect numbers accompanied by outrageous set pieces (snow, rainstorms, entire chorus lines of tuxedoed backup dancers). They say sassy things and silly things and sometimes even sweet things.

And, until recently, they had a little something for everyone – the outcasts, the jocks, the gays, the lesbians, the bisexuals, the misanthropic. But with the evolution and current devolution of Brittana happening before our eyes, I have to wonder: What is in Glee for gay women anymore?

Fans of the Brittany S. Pierce and Santana Lopez coupling have watched gleefully as the twosome went from simple background dancers to ponytail twirling besties to friends with scissoring benefits. The pairing has delighted us with the little moments – a pinky hold here, a head rest there. What started being played for laughs – mean girl Santana and her dumb blond sidekick Brittany – took on new meaning as the show progressed. Women, particularly young women, recognized their own sometimes complex, sometimes unlabeled relationships in Brittana. I have this best friend, we love each other and are together all the time, sometimes we kiss, sometimes we do more. It’s complicated and, whoa, it’s also on my TV.

But a complicated onscreen relationship is one thing, a completely nonsensical one is entirely another. Characters can develop in surprising ways, and they should. But they should never wholesale abandon their fundamental character. How did Brittany and Santana get to this point?

First, let’s look at a brief timeline of Brittana’s onscreen relationship.

Season One

“Showmance”: Cheerios Santana and Brittany audition for Glee Club with head cheerleader Quinn. They sing backup dressed as angels on “Say a Little Prayer” together.

“Wheels”: Santana patiently tells Brittany “It’s this one,” when the latter raises her left hand instead of her right during a Glee Club meeting. It’s the first genuinely sweet interaction between the two.

“Ballads”: Santana picks Brittany as her singing partner, much to their excitement.

“Sectionals”: Brittany lets slip that Santana and her are sleeping together when Santana says, “Sex is not dating,” and then Brittany responds, “If it were Santana and I would be dating.”

“Hell-O”: Santana and Brittany hold hands and while on a double-date with Finn offer to make out in front of him. Brittany also enlightens us that “dolphins are just gay sharks.”

“Home”: The pair cross pinkies and rest their heads together as Kurt sings “This House is not a Home.”

“Journey”: They link pinkies again, this time during “Over the Rainbow.” (“Over the Rainbow,” come on!)

Brittany and Santana in “Sectionals”

Season Two

“Audition”: The pair listens to Rachel sing “What I Did for Love” with Santana’s legs over Brittany’s lap. Brittany also says she wants to touch Coach Beiste’s breasts.

“Britney/Brittany”:You saw them get their anesthesia on together and dance to “Me Against the Music,” right? Right.

“Duets”: The couple is in Brittany’s bedroom, making out and talking about scissoring. Brittany wants them to duet together (to Melissa Etheridge, no less), but Santana says she’s not in love with her and doesn’t want to make lady babies. She is just with her because Puck is in juvie. Brittany then sleeps with Artie to make Santana jealous, and flashes her a “no-no boobies” sign in retaliation. But Artie breaks up with Brittany after Santana tells him she was just using him.

“Rocky Horror Glee Show”:Brittany and Santana have apparently made up because they clandestinely watch Will and Emma sing “Creature of the Night” and then skip and twirl down the hallway together. Mr. Shue also mentions that Brittany pantsed Santana once after a Cheerios win.

“Never Been Kissed”:Santana and Brittany go on a double date with Puck and Artie. But they both leave with Puck, leaving Artie with the bill.

“Special Education”:Santana sings “Valerie” complete with Brittany butt slaps and a beckoning finger.

“A Very Glee Christmas”:Brittany and Artie are now full-time dating and Santana doesn’t even know her best friend/sometimes lover still believes in Santa Claus.

Brittany and Santana in “Duets”

And if that total about-face Brittany made from being jealous and sad about Santana not wanting to make lady babies to being in total love with Artie and wanting him to walk for Christmas gave you whiplash, there are also the contradictory things the show’s creators and cast have said.

First, creator Ryan Murphy confirmed that Santana and Brittany were indeed sleeping together. Then he said he would never show them kissing because it was primetime TV. Then he said they were filming a kiss. But then the twosome never really kiss in “Duets,” they just nuzzled and neck grazed.

On Monday in an interview with the German press, Murphy confirmed that there is only one gay member in Glee Club. His translated quote: [Hat tip for the translation, Kara!]

Glee is a show about a show choir. That says everything, doesn’t it? But Glee isn’t about being gay, really. The Glee club has 13 members and only one of them is gay. So if it were up to me, it would be even gayer.

And then there were also star Chris Colfer’s thoughts on the Kurt/Blaine and Brittany/Santana relationships in his interview on AfterEllen.com earlier this week:

I think Blaine and Kurt’s relationship is there for the uplifting, inspirational message and then there are the girls for the comic relief. And it’s really very funny, because it’s usually the other way around.


The other way the genders are reversed, and it’s interesting, is that usually it’s the guys who are much more promiscuous …. Maybe Brittany and Santana are just so sexual they don’t know how to have a relationship with anyone that isn’t sexual.

Oh dear. I don’t want to delve too much into the troubling gender politics of his quote, but needless to say we don’t need even more stereotypes of bisexual women as sex-crazed maniacs who will hump anything that moves.

The thing about the Brittana relationship is there’s no good reason for this to be devolving as it is now. They were progressing at a slow, but understandable pace. So this new Brittany and Artie relationship is confusing, at best. Its entire purpose for being was to make Santana jealous and now it’s a central theme of the show? And how did Brittany go from just a ditzy blonde to an infantilized woman-child? I mean, we expect her to say dumb things. We don’t expect her to still tuck in her Barbies at night and believe in St. Nick.

Glee seems to be giving us women as hypersexualized beasts (Santana), virginal queens (Quinn), simple children (Brittany) and bossy narcissists (Rachel). And now the sudden withering of the Brittana relationship leaves lesbians and bisexual women feeling left out. Sure, we’ll always have Jane Lynch to say rude things and make us love her more. But, just like everyone else, we long to see our experiences reflected on the screen.

The thing is, most lesbian and bisexual fans of the show would have been happy to keep watching Brittana’s slow progression. Sure, we’d always want (and deserve) more. But we’d be content with the pinkie holds and the butt slaps and the whispered talk of scissoring. We’re in it for the interactions, small as they may be. So to suddenly stop them and turn one into a child on Santa’s lap and the other into a friend who doesn’t seem to even really know her best friend is – even just from a story perspective – ridiculous.

The saving grace of this sad turn of events is that the stars themselves, Naya Rivera and Heather Morris, have been nothing but supportive of both the Brittana relationship and their gay female fans. After this week’s show, Naya tweeted:

Her quote, which has been widely circulated on Twitter and Tumblr by Brittana fans, has given us some hope for a return to what was. But it doesn’t blunt the rightful anger we feel at being tossed aside. For a show that says it wants to be big and fabulous and inclusive and a champion for the underdog, surely Glee can find some room for the gay girls.

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