Glee Episode 422 Recap: All Or Nothing Or Everything Or Something Or Whatever

We then jumprope our way back to Lima, Ohio, where Blaine & Kurt are dining at Breadsticks with Jan and Lizz. Blaine really lucked out because who better to convince his boy-toy that making a premature long-term commitment based on adolescent feelings is not only a good idea, but the best idea ever, than two lesbians?? We’re so good at this shit.

oooo liz tell them the one about the first time you got your whole fist inside me

oooo liz tell them the one about the first time you got your whole fist inside me

It’s adorable and special, these two on our screen: Jan, played by Patty Duke, and now Liz, played by actual gay lady Meredith Baxter. Liz tells Blaine and Kurt that when they first met, lesbians had to walk five miles in a snowstorm uphill both ways just to make out:

Liz: “It was different times then, you know. There were no gay clubs at school. You know, nobody talked about it, we had no representation.”

spaghetti fatigue

please stop talking about cats

Jan continues:

Jan: “AIDS. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Ellen. We’ve seen it all side by side. Remember when we couldn’t even do this in public, hold hands?”

Apparently Jan and Liz have been chowing down at Breadsticks for 30 years, which is pretty amazing because heart disease. Kurt says it’s really inspiring to hear their story. When she says that Blaine and Kurt are a sweet couple Kurt’s like, “oh we’re not a couple.” RED FLAG.

"hey jan i feel like we're the cutest couple ever" "hey liz me too"

“hey jan i feel like we’re the cutest couple ever” “hey liz me too”

But then! Then Jan proposes to Liz right there at Breadsticks! They should’ve had the server bring out the ring on a piece of cheesecake.

hey lady i found this on the ground, does it belong to you

hey lady i found this on the ground, does it belong to you

Everybody is super excited about it:

holy crap blaine stop dropping ice cubes down my shirt

holy crap blaine stop dropping ice cubes down my shirt

You know what they say: when you’re here, you’re family.

yes, i will go to a-camp with you! we'll be the best golden girls ever!

yes, i will go to a-camp with you! we’ll be the best golden girls ever!

You guys cute lesbian cougars on our television!!!!


Back in the hallowed halls of McKinley High, Marley tells Ryder Bieber-Strong that it’s not fair to ditch Regionals just ’cause she liked to cyber in the afternoon, but Ryder demands answers:

Ryder: “I need to know why. Okay, you say we’re a team but you’ve been lying to me and messing with my head, and I need some kind of explanation if I’m gonna go to regionals.”

i mean do you have any idea how much time has been wasted on this stupid storyline? You should've fessed up months ago!

i mean do you have any idea how much time has been wasted on this stupid storyline? You should’ve fessed up months ago!

A bizarre shaky-cam informs the viewer that Unique is hiding behind a wall, lurking on the conversation, and she then emerges from the shadows:

Unique: “Because I know I’m not your vision of beauty.”
Ryder: “Wait… it was–?
Unique: “Yes, I’m Unique aka Wade, aka katie, aka Catfish. Marley, I love you but you don’t have to cover for me anymore.”

Glee422-00212

We then starswipe to a flashback of Unique confessing to Marley that she’s Katie_xoxo and that it started out innocent but then she got in way too deep and “you have no idea how long it’s been since I felt this close to someone without all of this [gestures at her body] getting in the way.”

it's ok, i also

it’s ok, it’s totally normal for all girls to have crushes on santana, lawd knows i do

Unique says to Ryder:

Unique: “I know you’re probably going to punch me in the face, but the truth is, I reached out to you because I liked you. So I got a picture of a cute blonde to make you like me back. But all those stories, all the jokes, the connection that we had, that was all me, and that was all real. I’m sorry I stayed hidden, but I didn’t do it to hurt you. I just… I really don’t want to lose what we have.”

Glee422-00215

Ryder: “We don’t have anything. I’m not gonna punch you in the face. But I’m also not gonna talk to you ever again.”

Glee422-00219

Womp WOMP.

When Unique stepped out of the shadows I started sobbing. Yes, it’s been a stressful week and it’s likely I’d actually cry over spilled milk at this point — but although television often makes my eyes water, it’s never before caused me to burst into full-on tears like it did on Thursday. Alone on my couch, with whiskey/regret, so sad for this trope being used.

Maybe I was the only Glee-watcher on earth who held out ’til the moment of revelation refusing to believe that Ryder’s “catfish” would be Unique. But I definitely wasn’t surprised that everybody had predicted it’d be Unique. I wasn’t surprised because it’s the only storyline we ever see for transgender characters — as described by Julia Serano: “Media depictions of trans women, whether they take the form of fictional characters or actual people, usually fall under one of two main archetypes: the “deceptive” transsexual or the “pathetic” transsexual.” This one seemed like a mix of both, with Ryder being the “innocent straight guy” Serano describes in the “deceptive” scenarios.

So I started skimming the Unique tag on tumblr and I found so many rants that confirmed my worst fears of how fans might digest this storyline…

fanpop

…but I also found a lot of positive and empethetic commentary as well that made me wonder if my perspective hadn’t been tainted by internalized transphobia, the result of growing up in a world where only one transgender narrative existed. Maybe the problem was me, not Glee, maybe I was unable to see Unique’s story as its own, to divorce this situation from all the “deceptive” stories I’ve seen before and the trope in general. Because there were these heartwarming things from cis teenagers on tumblr:

I love Unique. Like I can’t put into words how happy I am that they kept her. And her saying she was Katie because she didn’t want Ryder to be put off by her body really hit me, because it’s so relatable. I for one know that feeling like you need to hide behind something because you’re scared about what someone might think and you don’t want it to get in the way of a relationship. Not to mention she’s hilarious.

I  just want Rynique to happen so bad. It would be a beautiful storyline if done right, cause really, it’s just the inside that counts. Plus I don’t want Unique to go under the Mercedes treatment and just never get a love interest.

I called it and I knew the moment I called it that it had the potential to be one of the most powerful storylines Glee’s every touched on – and I hold to that. In my opinion, they’re off to a phenomenal start.

So that was nice.

But no.

No, no, no. No I can’t. No this isn’t okay.

There are some things I can’t get over.

The fact that Glee would have katie_xoxo use male pronouns and speak about Unique how she did — alternately inaccurate and invalidating — because kids at home don’t know, really, what’s okay to say and what isn’t, and having a transgender character use those terms, even while pretending to be somebody else, is confusing and irresponsible.

Glee416-00079

The fact that they had Unique crushing on a boy who bullied and misgendered her is sad. I don’t want something that sad for Unique.

The fact that Unique wasn’t just attempting to pass as cis, but also as thin and white, and the fact that Glee doesn’t, never has, and never will, have the writing chops to actually address the complexity of that issue.

The fact that regardless of her motivations and regardless of Ryder being an asshat, what Unique did to Ryder was wrong and there’s no way around that, and I don’t think we can afford to have TV’s first transgender teenage female character doing something so blatantly shitty.

The fact that violence was even mentioned in this context — “I know you’re probably going to punch me in the face,” says Unique, and Ryder, as if he’s doing her a favor, replies that he won’t punch her in the face — no. No, just no. You just cannot mention or invoke or suggest violence when a white cis dude and a transgender women of color are having a conflict. Just no. Would Glee have a cis female character say to a cis man, “you’re probably going to punch me in the face?”  We saw Ryder get violently angry early in the episode, which is a dangerous emotion to summon in a story like this one. Kitty even said that the catfish should fear being murdered, based on Ryder’s emotional state, and no. No no no. You cannot do that with this.

The fact that this was the laziest way for this storyline to pan out — we already knew what her motivations and Ryder’s reaction would be before we saw them, but with a different character it would’ve been more of a twist/mystery. If this situation is indeed laying the seeds for a Rynique next season, then I’ll be pleased — but if not, then this is just another wasted moment on all sides.

The fact that Ryan Murphy would never do this to a gay character because he has stated again and again his dislike of the “predatory gay” trope.

And, finally this: the problem with the “deceptive transsexual” trope is that it reiterates the concept that transgender folks can only find love by tricking cis people into thinking they’re also cis. (This particular play-out is also reminiscent of a broader application of “deception is the only way to find love” used in film/television to marginalize all women who don’t fit standard conceptions of beauty, like Janeane Garafalo’s character in The Truth About Cats and Dogs.) That’s not accurate and it’s not kind and it’s not even interesting. 

I want, and the world needs, a different story. A new story. A story of a teenage boy falling in love with a teenage girl where the boy is cis and the girl is trans and yeah, maybe that will involve some complicated conversations, but it won’t be the focus of the entire relationship. I don’t want “all this” to get in the way, as Unique told Marley, I want “all this” to be front and center and still be okay. I want them to tell that story. Degrassi is telling that story for Adam, why can’t Glee tell that story for Unique?

But as always, although I can bring my experience with media critique to bear upon this analysis, I remain cisgender, and hope our trans* readers share their perception of this storyline in the comments.


Pages: 1 2 3 See entire article on one page

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2781 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. I’ve never seen this show – just read the recaps – and the simultaneously hilarious and horrifying thing is that sometimes I can’t tell if some of this stuff is actually happening or just Riese being sarcastic.

  2. I was pretty mad when Unique turned out to be the catfish. goddamnit.

    Also seriously I know that the Brittany thing isn’t supposed to be that serious but it’s a litttttttle fucking ridiculous. This is not how MIT works.

  3. I don’t even watch the show I just read these, but I am so disappointed in what they have done with Unique’s character. There is so much potential good and they don’t see it.

  4. Your analysis of the Unique situation is spot on, naturally. It’s so fucked up that not only did Ryan Murphy use that problematic trans* trope, but the only storyline we get for either black female characters is revolving around their body image and/or whether they are worthy of the attention from the white guy. Fuck this show.

  5. Little known fact about MIT: There is a huge music/dance scene on campus. Brittany will have a great time, even if this was just a throwaway-write-her-off-the-show situation.

  6. Riese, when the show ended and before I started feeling all the feelings, I thought, “Huh, where was Finn? I bet Riese will be happy about that but then we don’t get any fun potato jokes!”

    But really though– yeah. Just– yeah. All of what you said. I was naively really surprised when Unique was first suggested as Catfish way back and then also kept holding out hope that a show that pretends to care about bullying would not go down such a putrid road. Wrong. I was wrong and the show was even more wrong.

    (Thank you for quoting Serano too, she’s so good at just breaking it down tho not for everything, she’s less awesome at intersectionality).

  7. Remember that time when Tina mentioned that #gleehatesgirls but it was in the absolute wrong context? I couldn’t help but feel the same way about the advice from the (undeniably adorable) Lesbian couple. No one is telling Blaine not to get married because he’s gay; they’re saying it because he’s like 17 and he and Kurt aren’t even together!
    Also, did Lima suddenly move to the other half of Ohio? Or maybe even one of the coasts? They’d been doing such a good job of representing the difficulty of navigating sexuality in a small, conservative, middle American town, but now everyone in fake olive garden wants to cheer for that proposal?
    I know there’s no point in complaining about the inconsistencies of this show, but come on now, I thought Ryan Murphy at least still cared about the cis-gendered, white, gay men. What’s left now?

  8. First of all, I just have to say that, Riese, your analysis is perfect, and you’re the best fucking cis ally ever, and I love you for it.

    Second of all, ever since Unique was first introduced, I’ve had this sneaking suspicion that the writers have been deliberately trying to be as transphobic as they could get away with, while being just sympathetic enough to trick gullible cis audiences into believing they were doing something groundbreaking. I’m probably being paranoid, but can anyone really be this stupid on accident?

    From the very beginning Unique’s entire personality has read like a caricature of what ignorant gay cis men think trans* women are like. Not that it’s impossible that some trans women might be like that(and there’s nothing wrong with acting that way), but for the most part even the straight and femmey ones among us don’t act like overzealous drag queens, and that’s a misconception that really needs to die.

    Then they force Unique to present as male to “protect her from bullies” and act as if that isn’t totally messed up. They still let her perform as a girl though, thereby subtly implying that being a drag queen is acceptable, but being trans is too extreme. Then, when it is confirmed that she wants to physically transition, and is taking the steps that are available to her to do so, they imply there’s something problematic about it. They intentionally leave it vague as to whether it’s the physical transition or the non-prescription method they object to, in order to preserve their illusion of acceptance (just a theory), but they imply that she is just following an unhealthy trend by having her say “all the trans kids are doing it”. Again the subtle implication is that changing your body/full-time gender role = bad, but performing in drag is left as the acceptable alternative, which is a common belief among transphobic gay cis men.

    And now there’s this masterpiece of transphobia. I’m not going to talk about it because Riese pretty much nailed it. I will say that I absolutely do not ship Rynique under any circumstances. Ryder is boring and I hope he leaves for good. I can’t fathom why Unique would crush on him. Literally any other human at that god forsaken school would be a better match for her than him.

    Wow, this turned into a rant. I may just be being paranoid, but if Unique, in the end, decides that her desire to be a girl was merely the product of internalized homophobia and her true dream is to be a world famous drag queen, then my transphobic gay male conspiracy theories will be proven true!

    • I know there are plenty of people calling Unique “he” and “Wade/Unique” still, so clearly, Glee has failed on even covering the basic trans issues. And Unique’s portrayal as a drag queen-ish type has always bugged me. From my limited interactions with trans women, they’re nothing like Unique. I wish they had given her a slightly more mellow personality, because I know the more ignorant people are going to have a complete misunderstanding of what being trans is. -shakes head-

    • i love you niki! and yes, everything you said is so so so true you’re so right.

      it’s funny — what you describe feeling about gay cis men playing out their transphobia all over unique is similar to how i imagine a lot of trans guys felt about lesbian cis women playing out their transphobia all over max in “the l word.” everybody on the l word team gave themselves a big round of applause for introducing a trans male character to the show, but by the last season it was grossly evident that visibility was never ilene chaiken’s intent, she just wanted to further marginalize, “other” and distance the community from trans guys. and what’s scary about that is that a lot of us drank her kool-aid because it was the only kool-aid delivered to our homes once a week and we were ignorant. at no point did it seem like an actual trans guy had been consulted on anything they did. (and! considering it was a show about women, why didn’t they ever have a trans female character, yannow?)

      and so a part of me is cringing and panicking that the same thing is happening here, and that there will be gay guys who will drink Glee’s kool-aid, and that it will only get worse from here (like it did with max), and similarly, they’ll never get called out on it in a serious way. which is just to say that i don’t think you’re being paranoid at all.

  9. I was waiting for this recap as soon as I found out Unique was the catfish and I’m really curious to see what some of the lovely/articulate trans* autostraddlers have to say about this.

    I know I should stop giving a shit about continuity because uhh http://glee.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Things_With_Little/No_Continuity

    but I just feel like this whole trope is not only super problematic, but doesn’t even make sense for her character. Like Riese mentioned why would she intentionally misgender herself and be crushing on a boy who bullies and misgenders her all the time and is ALSO THE WORST. Ryder has the personality of partially cooked spaghetti. Plus Unique has always seemed to be pretty confident and I just feel like she knows she deserves better than him? Maybe her confidence is overcompensating/covering up insecurity, but this shows writers cannot handle the complexity of this storyline, and like, why can’t we have some self-confident body positive fat loving trans woman of colour realness on our teeeeveeees. Is that too much to ask for!?

    But also this does kinda further reveal Ryder as a huge jerk so maybe he will learn a lesson? I don’t really want them to end up together though because Unique IS beautiful/sexy/amazing and she deserves someone who wants to be with her and knows that, not wants to be with her despite of that. I’m also tired of the queer and trans people on this show being used as Very Special Lessons so the cishet white dudes can EVOLVE. Nope nope nope.

    I just feel like her being the one trans feminine character on the teevee PLUS her being a woman of colour has so much potential and so much responsibility and glee isn’t living up to either, ya know?

  10. You really nailed all the reasons this storyline/characterization sucks. I always thought the two main trans woman characters on Nip/Tuck fell perfectly into that deceptive/pathetic charicature dichotomy. Unique actually kind of embodies both sides now. She was painted as confident at first (I guess in kind of a superficial, drag-queeny way), but she rarely speaks up when characters who misgender her or demean her, she even gratefully accepts their friendship. Not that other characters stand up for her much either which also sucks.

    Anyone remember the episode of Popular where their teacher transitioned? Very condescending and afterschool-specially. Yet probably pretty groundbreaking for a teen show in the 90s. It’s frustrating that one of the few creators with power willing to create (multiple) trans characters does so in such a problematic way. RM (and any other writers responsible for these depictions) clearly believe they are doing so with sensitivity… and it must mean a lot for some young trans and questioning girls out there to see this *relatively* decent representation, but at what point does a representation start doing more harm than good? Maybe we’re there right now with Unique…

  11. It’s funny that you mentioned hamburgerology, Riese, because my dad proudly displays his PhD (Pampered Hamburger Degree) from Lawry’s in the kitchen. His big brother got a PhD in something tougher but much less delicious—physics—and the die-cut, gold-foil seal makes it clear that they are equals.

    • YES! the only reason i even know about it is because my mother had the same phD hanging in her office! she was a mcdonalds manager in chicago for some years, including while she was pregnant with me. HAMBURGEROLOGY FOREVER

  12. Jan is pretty much the reincarnation of Ninny Threadgoode and therefore she is the best thing. I could not stop watching because hello, Jessica Tandy come back from the dead as another cute old lady lesbian! And then she proposed…oh my goodness fucking gracious.

  13. Fast forward thru episode – watch greys – wait for recap.

    But you guuuuys! Did anyone watch the last episode of greys anatomy? No spoiler alerts butbutbut WHAT a disappointment.. I mean hot… but no.. but really hot.. but nonoNO.

  14. Ok, maybe pointless coment but im happy i was not the only one that notice Brittany fixing her dress and Santana throwing her hands in the air (as she did it when goin with Quinn to the hotel room) as she walked to the “wedding”

  15. Riese!

    You hit the nail on the head on the Unique-Ryder-catfish storyline! I hated that storyline. Also that was the lamest story ever. And so predictable. And boring.

    Also, this

    “That she and Landry killed that guy who attacked Tara? That Dawn is the key?” — I laughed so hard. I actually enjoyed your recap more than the season finale.

    I tried to watch it but I just…I just couldn’t. It was just too painful to watch. :-( Except for Santana and her abs. And her scenes with Brittany.

    You continue to have the most kickass recaps ever. Thanks for being the voice of reason throughout this season of crapfest Glee.

    Thanks and see you next season.

    Or not. ahaha!

    Cheers!

    • A person only needs to be gay to experience internalized homophobia, and only needs to be trans* to experience internalized transphobia. The two are deeply related and often exist side by side, but can also exist independently of each other. For example, I(a gay trans woman) have experienced an enormous amount internalized transphobia but almost no internalized homophobia.

      It’s a common misconception that trans people only transition because they have so much internalized homophobia that they would rather be straight women/men then gay men/women. It’s a misconception that I suspect the writers of glee may have bought into.

  16. I’ve realized from reading these recaps you (Riese) and the AS readers aer all for Brittana, but I’ve personally never liked the pairing, and I feel like the only one.

    In fact for a while I hated the pairing. Not necessarily because of Santana and Brittany *themselves,* individually as characters, (although Brittany’s storylines do just annoy me now because they’re so impossible), but I hated the pairing because of the way their relationship has always been portrayed.
    Idk I guess some people can get past the problematic stuff enough to see the good in it, but with this, I just haven’t been able to. (Maybe it’s too personal for me to weigh in on, or maybe I’m right about something, I don’t know)

    I’ve always been really, really disappointed by their relationship because of how carelessly it’s been dealt with. Even at the tail end of season 2, when the Brittana scenes were the strongest (i.e. the whole “I love you” spiel), I had a big issue with the fact that Brittany seemed to be trying to force Santana out of the closet before she was ready. She didn’t seem to understand the very real reasons Santana didn’t want to come out. She seemed to just get irritated every time Santana would get scared, and it came off as unfeeling and careless to me (in pretty stark contrast with how much Brittany says she cares about Santana).

    The Born This Way episode comes to mind specifically…the episode where Brittany made Santana the “Lebanese” shirt and then got offended when Santana (obviously) didn’t want to wear it. While I understand *why* Brittany would be upset, it wasn’t *right* for her to be, and I think that should’ve been addressed. I think that later on, Brittany should have apologized for trying to make Santana feel bad for not do something she clearly wasn’t comfortable doing. (There was’t a scene where an apology happened, right? I could be drawing a blank).
    To me, this was kind of an attempt to out Santana. That most likely wasn’t Brittany’s intention, but still, Brittany should’ve tried to understand Santana’s POV instead of trying to force *her* POV on her partner. Guilt tripping somebody because they’re not out yet, or because they’re not as comfortable with their sexuality as you are, is never the way to go in my book. Everyone has to come to terms with it on their own timeline, and accepting your loved one’s right time is key to truly being there for them.
    Brittany didn’t do that. At least not at first, and at least not initially, when it was probably most important for her to.

    Also as far as outing goes, Brittany outed Santana another two times without it being properly addressed–on Fondue For Two (on accident, but still, the rest of the school got the message that Brittany didn’t mean to send), and in season one on a group phone call with Merceds, Artie, and Tina (also an accident, but again–never addressed). Santana’s face during the group phone call threw me off (and resonated with me) the first time I saw it…she was obviously really upset by Brittany mentioning something about their sex life, but Brittany didn’t even have to own up to doing that or take responsibility for it, and it was just never *taken seriously.* In fact the entire moment was used for comedy purposes, and that bugged me.

    From all of those scenes on, I saw a pretty weighty communication problem starting to form between them, and to me that miscommunication has continued ever since. They’re never quite on the same page; they get close here and there, but they’re never quite on the dot. Santana is way more serious about the relationship than Brittany is, and even when Brittany does start to get a little serious, I think she still somewhat misses the points Santana is trying to make to her. Jane Lynch said it best, while season 3 was still airing – “”Well I don’t think Brittany’s in it. I don’t think Brittany’s in love with Santana. I think Santana needs a girlfriend. Brittany loves her, but she’s not her girlfriend.”

    I feel like Ryan Murphy and the powers that be have never allowed Brittany to seriously address her relationship, or her bisexuality, or anything she’s ever done, and I’m sad for the development of her character. I think they make Brittany come off as so obtuse that she really does just think that she and Santana are still just “best friends who have lady sex,” and not “girlfriends” or anything else more intimate. To me the two of them still haven’t had that (on screen, at least) moment where they sat down, heart to heart, very seriously, and said, “Look, what are we?” And I think that with how emotionally invested Santana has always been, Brittany owes her that conversation. Brittany doesn’t ever *think* about what she’s doing. They always write her decision making processes so simply and so rushed, especially now…she just has no depth to me in canon. I’ve always felt like that “What are we?” moment has been missing from their story line, and without it, I just canNOT get into the pairing or take it seriously at all.
    Whenever I see them together romantically, it just makes me sad for Santana because I see it as her being in a relationship with someone who can’t properly communicate with her. As best friends they seemed to understand each other very well, and I do really like their moments of friendship…but as lovers, they’re off beat. I don’t think they do well at all in a romantic or sexual relationship together.

    The two of them are cute together at times, yes, but like I said, I can’t get past what is, in my opinion, a really problematic element to their relationship: Brittany doesn’t understand Santana as a lover. Maybe I missed a scene or missed a “moment” or something and that’s why everyone else ships Brittana way harder than I do, but as much as I love(d) this show and wanted to love its token lesbian relationship, all of the stuff I just listed wouldn’t allow me to.

    Sorry this was so long (lol), I just wanted to leave it here for Riese or anybody to weigh in on it if they want to?

    Like I said, I really wish I could get on board with Brittana, since apparently it’s going to continue on at this point, and I wish that I could’ve gotten on board back when I used to actually watch this show…but I just can’t.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.