Glee: Color-Coded

In Glee fandom we talk a lot about color theory, especially as it pertains to character costumes. Not every article of clothing proves meaningful. For me, it’s the larger trends and patterns that matter, and “The Back-Up Plan” features patterns that speak in surprising ways to the episode’s themes.

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.48.20 PMIt wasn’t that long ago that Kurt teased Blaine about wearing red, highlighting its attention-getting properties. Blaine definitely has a lot of red polos in his wardrobe! How interesting that he wears blue as much as he does throughout “The Back-Up Plan” then. Blue is considered a loyal color, but it’s also seen as “safe and non-threatening” [x]. It “doesn’t like to make a fuss and draw attention.” It seems essential that in this story, Blaine comes off as all of these things, that he’s shown to not be in competition with Kurt—because this story isn’t about that. So almost every outfit of Blaine is blue, from the scene at the start where Kurt first shares news of the event he’s been asked to do, to the actual performance for June, to the lunch Blaine has with June later. This isn’t Blaine setting out to conquer the world here. It’s a Blaine loyal to Kurt, who’s “taking one for the team” in becoming June’s “project.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.58.52 PMAnd yet, Blaine surely develops loyalty toward June, too, who he refers to as a “friend” before Kurt corrects him. Her colors are worth considering, too. June is always in black, a color that’s mysterious but sophisticated; it’s also connected to power and control. The other color we see a lot around June is pink. In the giant hall where the charity event is held, everything is bathed in pink light, and pink lights shine on the stage where she and Blaine sing Janis Joplin. Pink roses sit at the table when they eat lunch together. For all of June’s power and control, she also represents what pink does: grace and admiration. It’s also, interestingly, a non-threatening color—so I do wonder about whether or not, as some have suggested, June is a truly dangerous figure. (Maybe if she were wearing Tina’s T-Rex necklace, eh?) But seeing as Blaine sings about June “taking another little piece of [his] heart now, baby,” the jury is still out on her motives and methods.

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I really like that during the performance of “Story of My Life,” Blaine’s blue suit has the opposite effect: it pulls focus. It seems clear that early on in the performance, Blaine’s really trying not to draw attention. He sits on the stool, and seems to give Kurt the floor. Of course Blaine does capture June’s attention—in fact his blue actually stands out on stage, thanks to the lighting. (I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that he kneels down and kisses June’s hand.)

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 9.24.14 PMKurt’s rust-colored suit has the opposite effect: it works like camouflage. In fact Kurt continues to wear camouflage as the story continues, as he encourages Blaine to pursue the opportunity June provides. By the episode’s end, Kurt’s wearing a green shirt with a plant motif and an animal print sweater—he blends into the neutral colors of Blaine’s apartment.

Meanwhile Blaine’s wearing gray—a color “that will never be the centre of attention, the dynamic leader or director—it’s too safe and toned down” [x]. There’s red peeking out, but gray often corresponds with indecision and even compromise, since it’s between black and white. This take on gray works with Rachel’s own costumes in this episode. She starts off in black—a power color—but by “The Rose” is in a mix of black and white and gray. By the time she’s talking to Sid, she’sScreen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.22.11 PM in white and seemingly powerless. Or at least, isolated.

The animal print Kurt wears (that works as camouflage) is echoed by at least one of Mercedes’ costumes. Mercedes’ story is also about encouraging someone else to take the spotlight. During “Doo-Wop (That Thing)” she’s wearing a leopard print top, while Santana is in primary, attention-getting red. I like that in the image we can see D’Shawn in the same blue as Blaine, as he’s loyal to Mercedes and ultimately works to help her.

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This episode, which is so much about loyalty and power, is really just fun to consider at the level of color and fabric. The interpreting we do based on that is necessarily playful—the costumes don’t mean everything. But when they happen to mirror what’s happening with a character or group of characters, they allow us to marvel at the creative (and collaborative) work done by so many individuals for this great show.