Glee: Doing It
In “I Do,” a wedding happens, but it’s just pretend. Of course everyone else is pretending, too, living under illusions of various kinds— which are reflected in the many mirrors or mirror-like images scattered throughout. It’s such a pretty episode, with so many flowers and hearts, with so many moments bathed in colorful or warm light. And yet . . . I can’t help wondering what’s real. After all, it’s Sue who says, as a fake bride about to throw the fake bride’s heart-shaped bouquet, “Let me be the one to enable your false dreams and ridiculous expectations.”
Sue’s function seems to be one of exposing the illusion: the illusion of a wedding as Forever, the illusion of the perfect anything. And just maybe, she exposes the emptiness of tradition. She performs and mocks the role of bride, with Becky leading the way, angrily throwing flowers at the attendees. She continues the role at the reception, where she does the “nonsensical” bouquet toss “in the mythical belief that whoever catches [it] will magically become the next person to get married—or more than likely, to sprint from the alter.” Of course Rachel, who’s not really single, and who was the last person to play the role of bride, catches the thing.
The real bride is worried about a different kind of transformation from the one Sue describes. “The last time I did this I turned into somebody I didn’t even recognize,” says Emma, just before the wedding is supposed to even begin. Sue, by contrast, remains Sue. She’s slouching in her chair, eating and drinking, while Emma seems caged in her dress—she’s suffocating, and she keeps checking the mirror (which at times displays multiple Emmas), as if checking to see that she’s still there.
The entire “Getting Married Today” is brilliant and painful. Emma’s lyrics continue to question outdated, but heavily weighted, ritual:
A wedding, what’s a wedding
It’s a prehistoric ritual
Where everybody promises fidelity forever
Which is maybe the most horrifying word I ever heard of
The frantic song reaches a peak as Will and Emma sing at the same time, but over (not to) each other, which echoes their communication issues from earlier in this episode and also in “Diva.” The tonal differences are striking. Emma’s words are dark and panicked; Will’s are full of optimism and joy:
Look, you know (Emma)
I adore you all (I give you)
But why (The rest of)
Watch me die (My life)
Like Eliza on the ice? (To cherish)
Look, perhaps (And to keep you)
And adding to the clashing tones is Mercedes, who just after commenting on Kurt and Blaine’s “trashy blasphemous” behavior in the backseat of a Prius, sings like an angel, operatic and bright:
Bless this day
Tragedy of life
Husband joined to wife
The heart sinks down and feels dead
This dreadful day
While Will and Emma’s wedding falls apart (and the idea of a wedding as an empty ritual, or the idea of fidelity as perhaps outdated), many of the other characters re-connect, and in many ways purposely try to define their relationships as devoid of meaning.
Rachel talks about her “modern” relationship with Brody, for instance, and how the couple didn’t want to “label” what they had. Finn asks her, “Do you really believe all that stuff about no labels and mature conversations and sex and the city? Really?” She doesn’t, of course, not really, but she continues to live the lie. And faced with the reality of a baby, the idea of such an open relationship and what it can offer is questioned. However, even as Rachel and Brody try to be open, they really aren’t anyway: they both lie about having slept with others, even as they declare the importance of honesty to what they have.
Kurt and Blaine keep insisting they’re “just friends,” even though they’re really “friends with benefits.” Their behavior toward one another is more honest than their words, as they pretty much interact the way they did when they were lovers. But even as they talk about “bros helping bros,” Kurt’s relationship with Adam, his “sort of boyfriend” isn’t exclusive, and we’ll see, I’m sure, that open relationship put to the test soon. And as far as Kurt and Blaine’s relationship goes, it was nice to see them so seemingly comfortable with one another again, and even as they pretend to be friends, they both seem to be in on the act, which makes their encounters more honest than dishonest. Blaine of course is hopelessly in love and can barely contain it to play his role; Kurt wavers through the episode between unguarded and guarded. Even as Tina mentions that she saw “two soul mates rediscovering each other,” you can see Kurt’s and Blaine’s minds so clearly in their reactions as they walk behind her.
Quinn and Santana sleep together at the hotel, too, and there’s no meaning for Quinn other than the enjoyment of exploration and curiosity. Santana reminds, “You don’t have to worry. I’m not gonna show up at your house with a U-Haul.” Her comment is important, and so is Quinn’s admission about what it meant to her. Their time together is totally honest: there’s no pressure at all, and we see a nice contrast to Kurt and Blaine, because this truly feels like Friends with Benefits.
I loved the new character Betty in this episode, and her interactions with Artie were hilarious and sweet. “Miss Pillsbury said I should look out for you,” Artie says, to which Betty replies, “Wheel. The hell. Away.” After they have sex, they both acknowledge they have no idea if it was good for them or not, laugh about it, and later decide to date. And Betty is personality-wise, the best match for Artie I’ve ever seen.
There is, finally, the Jake/Marley/Ryder referencing of Cyrano de Bergerac or Roxanne, which also revolves around honesty in relationships, since Jake is pretending to know Marley very well—and hoping that will lead to sex. They don’t, of course, and Ryder ends up being honest about his interest in Marley by the end. At any rate, in several stories the idea of relationships being founded on lies and pretending is taken to task in various ways, which I find so interesting in an episode that seems so fluffy and cute on the surface.
There are some odds and ends worth a mention.
Controlling the Uncontrollable
Emma tells Finn about how in therapy, she was told that her OCD was her way of “controlling the uncontrollable.” Many of the characters seem focused on the same. How can you control another person’s feelings? Or define them for that person? Answer: you can’t. Related to this idea is Rachel’s comment to Finn, “I think I can control myself,” after he suggests their chemistry during duets is pretty amazing. Even as she thinks she is in control (she leaves Finn alone in the hotel room rather than stick around to discuss what happened), things are spiraling—or about to. Also worth a mention: a while back I wrote about the idea of characters’ attempts to control the narrative, to spin their own stories or attempt to when it seemed like others were trying to write their stories for them. I think a lot of those concepts apply here in various ways (Tina, I’m looking at you).
Will teaches the class about American Eagles (Finn references an old Eagle’s song, too, “Lyin’ Eyes”), which are strong and symbolic of a fierce independence. A little while later in the church, Quinn references a quote often attributed to Gloria Steinem, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” and the Ellie Goulding number, “Anything Can Happen” ends with “But I don’t think I need you.” Thoughts?
“Relationships are like flowers,” says Finn to Rachel. “If you tend that garden, spring will come along and [the flower] will bloom again.” His sentiment is sweet, but really, how are either of then tending the garden of their relationship? And what about the others: how are they doing? Flowers really are all over the place, though, with specific flowers associated with certain characters or couples:
Peonies: For Marley Rose, one meaning of the flower is bashfulness, and when peonies are moved, they take several years to re-acclimate themselves before they begin flowering again.
Daisy: It’s the flower Finn pulls the petals from. They symbolize innocence and patience, which seems fitting since Finn waxes nostalgic about their time together, and appears to be waiting (not unlike Blaine) for Rachel to come back to him.
Cherry Blossoms: On the dresser in Kurt and Blaine’s room, these are symbols of love and transience.
During the reception, Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” plays, and it’s nostalgic, but also interesting for this line:
“When I and you and everyone we knew could believe, do, and share in what was true.”
I think we’re working toward that Wang Chung moment (did I really just say that?); we’re not there yet, but it’s a moment where the characters can finally be honest with each other. And that’s why, in an episode called “I Do,” a phrase that is a reference to a promise of fidelity, we find that no one really can make such a promise, for a host of reasons. Not that they have to, necessarily—the whole idea of a promise like that is questioned here. But for those who do actually want it, it’s terribly frighting promise to make, especially because the idea of “Forever” might be an illusion in the end. But isn’t that what faith is all about?