Wednesday, 9 November 2011

3x04 - Pot 'O Gold

I wrote the recap for 3x04 on Hypable last week, so my post is over there, however, I wanted to note down a few personal opinions before today's episode airs:

Finn: is taking out his own insecurities on Blaine, and it isn't fair. Blaine is famously non-competitive, was made a leader at Dalton by circumstance and not by his own ambition. He's happy to do what the group wants, and participates purely for fun. When he stands up and offers his enthusiasm or encouragement, he just genuinely wants to help - he's not being arrogant, ambitious or domineering, and Finn cuts down Blaine's contributions because he's insecure in his own leadership and talent - and possibly, possibly because of repressed homophobia (which is addressed interestingly in this blog post). He needs to knock it off and see the facts, which is that Blaine has no shitty or selfish motives here.

Last Friday Night: was the most pointless, transparent, money-grabbing number ever. It was put in purely to create sales, because Darren Criss doing pop songs has been a winning play for them in the past. However, regardless of the obviousness of that and how out if place it seemed, it was fucking adorable and strangely realistic and natural. I mean, think about it. He got the band to play a song - a current hit that they'd all know the words to without having to be taught - and he started them off in what is basically just a big sing-along, everyone running and jumping and having fun together. I love unpolished choir room numbers - Ride Wit' Me is still one of my favorite moments on the show. So I kind of loved this even though it was ridiculously pointless. However, I feel that Finn's enthusiasm was unrealistic given his prior behaviour - but apparently having two characters object to an event at the same tome is something they can't handle or be bothered going into, and they felt they had to show Santana's objections - despite the fact that Santana later calls out Finn's jealousy. So I would have liked to see Finn eye-rolling and not participating in LFN as well - it would have been self-explanatory.

Santana: is gorgeous and perfect and wonderful and nervous and vulnerable and delicate and brash and I love her forever. That restaurant date scene just killed me, she's so fucking terrified. Naya Rivera is a splendid actress - she is equally talented in comedy, drama and singing. She does very, very little with her face and yet it conveys absolutely everything, just by the way she moves her eyes or the set of her jaw. She's a gift to this show - when I saw the Glee panel at SDCC this year, the writers freely admitted that she was hired as basically an extra, a pretty face to back up Quinn, and they never, never expected her talent. They are so fucking lucky they've got her, she is one of the flawless things on this show. It was shitty of Santana to manipulate Brittany by making Rory 'wish' on her, but that wasn't her original plan - she meant what she said at Breadstix and only confronted Rory afterwards, in the heat of the moment while angry about Blaine. While it doesn't make Santana's actions excusable, Brittany does end up solidifying her own choice due to Finn's treatment of her. I am glad the dating issue was established and the fact it was done in a way that showed what I've always felt about Santana- that it must be so, so hard to be inescapably in love with someone less intelligent than yourself, that it must make communicating so stressful. But Santana is so patient with Brittany and it's gorgeous. The way she said that thing at the start, about the special place where Brittany lives - it wasn't mean, it was beautiful and almost made me cry. I think Santana deeply wishes she could be as happy as Brittany.

Burt Hummel: deserves all the awards, but especially for having time for any of Will's sctick.

Kurt: is self-involved, and bears shit in the woods. Something about his comment about the stress of Burt's campaign and how him being gay will be making it worse, and Burt's like 'lol, it's a non-issue' rubbed me the wrong way. It rubbed me harder the wrong way when I rewatched today, given some recent issues on the same subject in regards to Chris Colfer himself.

Quinn: is way fucking crazy and I'm annoyed that they've done this to her character - I wish they'd show her emotional damage in a way that would make people feel sorry for her and take her seriously.

Puck: is everything I ever dreamed he'd be since early season 1. I've invested a lot in him and he's never disappointed me - he is a phenomenal human being, he's truly a good person and his development and softening has been very consistent. Also, the Shelby thing - called it. But her unloading onto him, while I get it, was pretty unhealthy and irresponsible of her.

Rory: I kind of hate him. He's a creep. I liked that Brittany was suspicious and unhappy about him being in her room, though he changed her mind fast. When he was singing Bein' Green, my roommate said "you're pretending to be a mythical creature in order to trick a girl into sleeping with you, sorry that I don't care about your problems." Which, accurate. Also, Kurt's being a little bitch currently, but I do wonder if his negative, jealous reaction to Rory's singing is going to be extended on. Damian McGinty has mentioned that - Kurt being threatened by Rory's falsetto - as an issue in a bit of press, and he can't have been referring to just those couple of eyerolls, can he? I see Kurt getting a complex that this kid can sing in his range and in a traditional men's range as well. I honestly don't know what plot-line they could give him for another 7 episodes or whatever - wracking my brains and I can not imagine whatsoever what they are going to do with Rory.

Continuity question of the week: at the start of the episode, Kurt was viciously attacking Rachel about her presidental candidacy. At the end, during Rory's audition, Rachel is sitting between Blaine and Kurt, and nudges Kurt enthusiastically about Rory. Is the hatchet buried? Or was this just a bit of inconsistency?

Random things I loved: the protesting woman in Figgins' hallway, and the funeral directors scene. Fucking amazeballs, ohhhh my god. That is the kind of screwball absurdist comedy that this show excels at, when it's at its best. I just died. 

See you very soon on Glee Chat for talk about 3x05!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Some Questions about the "ins and outs" of Glee's 'First Time'

You'd have to be living in another solar system if you follow Glee and yet know nothing about this week's upcoming episode, 'The First Time.' Seriously, even the headmaster of Pigfarts (I hear he's a big Blaine fan) got the memo that it's going to be about two teen couples - one straight, one gay - considering having sex. 

That's as far as I'll go into Glee spoiler territory. I do know a little more, but this post does not need to involve those details and is basically spoiler-free. This is about a much wider issue than Glee plots and characters. I want to talk about whether there are double standards regarding straight and gay sex. I want to talk about defining virginity in straight or same-sex couples, and I want to talk about whether Glee will address, acknowledge, define or clarify any of these differences.

This will mostly be posed a series of questions. I don't have a solid opinion on this - I don't have something I consider to be The Answer that I am hoping Glee conforms to. I don't know what I believe. I am simply curious as to how Glee will tackle the subject at hand, or if they will at all - so this just me, asking the questions that have been running through my mind. None of them are loaded, and if anything comes across offensively, it is due to my unaware ignorance, not active disregard. Please feel free to correct me politely.

Losing one's virginity - everyone knows what that means for a straight couple. Whether or not you hold to that definition yourself, the stereotyped dictionary definition of 'having sex' is a man and woman having PIV intercourse, and losing virginity is doing this act for the first time. 

Is that definition fair? I personally think that is a fine definition as far as straight couples go, but how do you apply this to same-gender sexual relations in the name of equality?

Should there be the same standards for everyone, the generalized 'fourth base'/'furthest point' of "normal" sexual acts, using only the body and no sexual aids, between a couple (please imagine normal said sarcastically and with fingerquotes) - male/male penetrative anal sex, male/female penetrative vaginal sex, female/female oral sex? 

Is it about first time touching below the belt, first time bringing each other to orgasm, or sticking something in someone else? If it's both parties orgasming during the same sexual session, as I have seen it defined in some places, then I am a hardcore virgin and I've been sexually active for ten years.

My personal situation is fairly simple - I am a cis-gendered bisexual woman, I identified as bisexual before puberty and before I had even kissed either a boy or girl, and I lost my virginity to a guy in standard m/f sex. My first kiss was with a boy, but prior to this, my first sexual encounter was with a girl, but I do not count it as "having sex" as the situation was very one-sided. So I can define my own virginity pretty easily.

Other bisexual women don't have such a simple definition. I asked my friend C about her experiences. I know she has had a long-term gay relationship. I don't know her specific experiences with men.

Me: a) You consider yourself bisexual, right? b) have you ever had sex with a guy? c) do you consider yourself a virgin?

C: a) Yes, b) Yes, c) No, but, prior to the guy, still no.

So, regardless of being bisexual and open to straight sex, she considers her gay sex experiences to have accounted for her loss of virginity, even though, by the generalised standard, she had not crossed the line of doing "all" that is possible to someone for whom straight penetrative sex is an option she may experience.

And gay men? What do they count as "having sex" rather than sexual acts, what is counted as having crossed that virginity line? 

I'm not a man, so I feel like I can't make any calls about this. But all I hear in fandom is women making judgement calls on this matter. There is a lot of beautiful flowery Klaine fanfiction about their loss of virginity and the general consensus seems to be that the boys get to decide, define and choose what "having sex" means. Handjobs - first sexual contact, mutual orgasm. Blowjobs. Penetration. It all counts as loss of virginity from someone's perspective in a different fantasy Klaine world somewhere. However, at least 90% of this - and 90% is generous, it's more like 98% - is written by cis-gendered women and girls, a decent chunk of whom are not sexually experienced in any way. Women writing for other women about gay male sex - something they have very little genuine perspective on. I'm not going to hate on it, because I've read plenty of fanfiction over the years, but I'm just not that prepared to formulate real-world opinions on this topic based off the judgement calls of female fanfic writers, sorry. 

And it gets more complicated. If someone stands up and says "okay, final answer. losing virginity is body penetration, vaginal for straight couples, anal for male couples" does that mean, to them, lesbians are virgins forever? Is this "choosing how to define it" something that gay boys and girls actually do, or do they have their own generalised set of standards and this "choosing what counts" concept is basically a fantasy?

Should straight couples be given the right to define their own virginity the way that it's implied that gay couples do? Say that some teen male couple defines oral sex as "having sex" and that by having done that, they are no longer virgins. What about a straight guy who has also received a blowjob? Virgin? Not virgin? Why should the same physical act for one guy count as loss of virginity, yet not for another guy? What about straight couples having penetrative anal sex? Yeah, that's an act that doesn't usually happen prior in a relationship to "normal" sex (again, fingerquotes, normal) but it DOES happen, and what does that "count" as? What about when it comes down to tallying the amount of people you've "had sex" with? Another friend, L, says "I kind of consider myself as having had sex with a couple of people with no actual vagina-penis interaction." - whereas I may object if I heard through the grapevine that some guy was saying he and I "had sex" when I did not consider that the truth of the matter.

Is the main question to be asking:

How come straight couples get to have a clear definition of "loss of virginity", but same-sex couples have to pick and choose a definition, 


How come same sex-couples get to pick a definition of "loss of virginity", but straight couples have to use a pre-defined one?

I think my real question is - who's got the short end of the stick? Because I genuinely do not know. It could really go both ways.

I'm really trying not making any judgement calls myself here, about what I believe or what 'should' be the case, either in Glee or in the real world, but what I do feel is that having one set of rules for straight couples and another set of rules for same sex isn't all that fair. I just don't know which group is being, ahem, shafted.

(A couple of asides about Glee specifically: 1) are we meant to believe that Kurt is just A-OK with jumping straight into sex? The last we saw of him in regards to sex, he was throwing Blaine out of his room for bringing up the subject and basically saying he had no sex drive, did not fantasize, did not masturbate, etc. Are we meant to buy that he has worked through all this off-screen and that they've been doing "stuff" other than kissing over the last year? If that's the case, I hope that is clearly addressed because what happened in the episode 'Sexy' was clearly a deep-seated issue for him;

and 2) if they do define or imply "having sex" to mean penetrative sex and they make Blaine top, then I am side-eyeing the writers' abilities to know their own characters. Despite the fact that in a relationship with someone like Karofsky, or Finn, or Puck, or Brian Kinney, Kurt would automatically be stereotyped as a bottom (which also isn't particularly fair or necessarily true, but it's a fact that he'd be stereotyped as such), that's clearly not the dynamic between him and Blaine right now, and while, yes, things may change and grow as their sexual relationship develops, and yes, these things can be indefinable, Blaine right now is realistically the picture of a complete bottom and the people in fandom who are clinging to the idea that he's this suave, in-control, smooth top are the ones also clinging to the white-knight image of him presented in 'Never Been Kissed' - which we know was a complete act. In fact, it has been discussed at length that the reason Blaine took so long to fall for Kurt was due to him seeing Kurt as being another version of the role he saw himself playing in a relationship, the young, more fey, twinkier, and more submissive party. Look at him going after Jeremiah. And once he did fall for Kurt - once Kurt had regained his confidence and dominant personality - we have seen nothing but Blaine submitting to Kurt over and over. And yes, I know - not that emotional submission has to = sexual submission, and not that sexual submission has to do with who sticks what where. But come on. Let's be real. Blaine is submissive, especially up against Kurt, and the easiest way for a TV show to simplify and define that to an audience is to show him as a bottom. If they make it otherwise, I'm going to side-eye them very hard, both for enforcing the stereotype of guys who look and talk and act like Kurt despite their efforts to usually avoid this -  football, working with cars, not wanting to play a drag role, "I'm not a box, there are more than four sides to me."  - and for ignoring what they've developed of Blaine's character as well. I think the message it will send to the general public - the ones who don't analyse the hell out of everything - will not be one that does the characters justice, because it it is left unclarified, I think that people will assume Kurt to be "the girl." (biggest sarcastic fingerquotes possible). Anyway. This is not actually the point of this post, at all, but I just had to say that. Even though I'm a cis-gendered woman having an opinion on gay male sexual dynamics, which we've established is not really within my rights. Please disassociate this part with the main point here, but I am leaving this in because I was going to say this somewhere regardless, and having it here at least says 'yes, I'm aware of my discrepancy' as opposed to posting opposite viewpoints in two separate places.)

Does the world have a responsibility to define virginity in general, in order to calculate milestones and have everyone on the same page simply as far as what words and terms mean? Another friend, P, said 'If the dictionary, world-wide accepted definition of losing virginity was "when a person considers themselves to have lost sexual innocence" do you know how many teen pregnancies that would help avoid in my hometown, due to the stigma of "being a virgin"?'

And does Glee have a responsibilty to define Kurt and Blaine's loss of virginity, when it is unquestionable as to what it means in regards to Finn and Rachel's? Is it more politically correct to define it, or for them not to define it? 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

3x03 - Asian F

Hiatus is over today and I realised I never posted my thoughts about Asian F! So while I watch and write my thoughts on the new episode for Hypable’s recap, my write-up of 3.03 is here:

Major storylines - 

Mercedes: I don't get her deal. Are they meant to be saying that she's legitimately sick or hurt, or is she faking, lazy, or slacking off when the rest of them are working hard? If she really is sick or hurt by the physical work, is it meant to be because of her weight or fitness? 

I really, really hate her boyfriend. Like, a lot. He’s supportive, yeah, but to the point that he disregards her actual feelings about things outside competition. And you know what? Yes, Mercedes, people have told you that you're better than Rachel - on many occasions, with certain performances - you know who has mainly told you that? RACHEL, in her own weird ways. Also, why is it that her boyfriend's confidence in her has made her so apparently changed and mature and powerful, or whatever they said about her audition with Spotlight? (which I found a. boring and b. in no way a showcase to prove her a good Maria) Not that I really care either way, because I hate her, but her self-confidence shouldn't just be about a guy, right? She doesn't need other people to believe in her for her to believe in herself - no one ever got success that way. Yet she never had that drive on her own, has admitted it to Rachel in the past. She's naturally good and wants automatic credit for that, but when it comes down to it she isn't driven enough to work for what she wants.

Her attitude to Rachel when they are offered callbacks is just vile. She's known Rachel for three years and Rachel's little comment about how it can't appear as if they're just giving her the part is much in line with her comment last episode about assuming Mr Schue meant she'd be directing the musical - it's a defense mechanism, just little bits of her crazy fantasy coming out of her mouth, and when they're shot down she takes it quietly. Someone who's known her for that long, who has become her friend, should be aware of that, it should produce no more than an eyeroll. But Mercedes' response towards her when Rachel offers her congratulations is just gross, and it gets so much worse in the next booty camp scene, where she can't do the moves, and when Will asks her if she even practiced, her response is not "yes, of course" it's just "stop picking on me, blah blah Rachel, I've outgrown all of you. *knocks over mic stand*" It is an absolutely horrid and un-called for moment, like it just makes me say "what the fuck is wrong with you?"

This leads into the Dreamgirls dream sequence, which is probably the best and most ‘realistic’ surreal scene Glee has ever done. Now, it's no secret I really don't like anything about Mercedes, including her voice. It's fine, but it isn't, to me, in any way special or noticeable. A lot of black girls can sing like that and that style, to me, while good quality, technically flawless, is bland. Nothing she has ever done has moved me. It bores me and even on the Glee Live tour, her solo was the one where I'd tune out and check my phone. But aside from her voice - I have NEVER liked her character. So it made me very happy to see her being called out - particularly the fact that Kurt was involved, because I feel they have definitely outgrown their friendship and that it was a pretty shallow friendship to begin with. They stuck with each other when they literally had no one else, but it started out creepy (with Mercedes thinking they were dating) and really came to a head in Substitute, I believe, for two reasons - Kurt saying Mercedes is using him as a replacement boyfriend, and Mercedes tuning out at dinner when Kurt and Blaine were discussing gay rights. That was the moment when I gave her the red card and it upset me so much that Blaine felt he had to say "let's talk about something we're all interested in" - it's like, bitch, this kid is meant to be your best friend and you don't care about his basic human rights - particularly you coming from a minority that, less than 50 years ago, also did not have basic human rights? Cool, so you'll just tune out? That's fine. Go home. I will never forgive her for that.

Anyway, "It's All Over" was pretty awesome - I like that they twisted around the parts without changing the lyrics to create those awkward Brittany/Santana and Kurt/Finn moments. I liked that they had Puck slightly on her side, seeing as they always had a weird kind of connection. It was kind of weird that they changed people's names from the original lyric, yet still referenced Mercedes as "Effie" - and also, in Dreamgirls, the reason behind Effie's illness and slacking ends up being because she was pregnant... which is of course making fandom wonder if they're doing that with Mercedes, which I do not believe. However I do want to know if her illness/weakness is real or if she just complains more than everyone else.

The diva-off has honestly been done so many times before that I tuned out a little, but Kurt – honestly, if you think you’re going to be talking about this for the rest of your lives, you can’t have a very interesting life planned. Both girls were good, but the cutting between means neither really got the chance to show off their performance onscreen. I disagree with Rachel’s statement that Mercedes was better than her – she was about equal. My favourite thing about the entire situation was supportive-boyfriend!Finn.

Rachel’s reaction to the double-casting genuinely impressed me – I thought she’d take it much worse. She does that little defense/fantasy thing I mentioned above at first, but, again, when corrected, takes it quietly and graciously. Whereas Mercedes’ reaction was just… so horrid. I don’t get it – does she think that she won the role, that everyone thought she was better, but they double-cast because no one wanted to tell Rachel “no”? Because I don’t feel that was the case at ALL. Artie’s right – it is a “stupid pride thing” and if she’d rather let that get in the way of having fun and peforming then good riddance to her.

Emma and Will: First of all, I actually wanted to throw myself under a truck when I realised that Will was going to show Emma his porn. Please no more references to Will's penis ever. Please?  I don't like that he keeps making these little hints and barbs about having sex with her. And "kept me off of Craigslist"? Really? Are you seriously that randy? But why is it a shock that Emma has a stash of wedding magazines anyway? Remember how she was actually engaged to one guy, and hosted a wedding just to cancel it last-minute? Of course you don't. But anyway, the storyline with her parents was actually surprisingly well-done given the ridiculous “ginger supremacist” premise. They actually, somehow, made that somewhat workable and realistic, and Will calling them out was good - though probably added to Emma's anxiety, however he should not have put Emma through that in the first place after she’d asked him not to. Does no one on this show ever communicate outside the moments we see them on screen? (see: Kurt/Blaine also) Also - didn’t Emma’s OCD stem from falling into the runoff at a dairy? Wasn’t that a thing? Oh Glee, even when you manage to make something realistic and touching, you fuck it up by making it contradict your own canon. LOVE YOU SO MUCH, GLEE. “Fix You” was such a waste of a brilliant song – they could have done that at competition, all chanting in unison on the chorus, it would have been haunting, but they gave it to Will… sigh… and while it was nicely done, with the prayers and cutting over the casting announcements and all, I am a little sick of Will’s attitude about “fixing” Emma. He may have her best interests at heart, but he’s very forceful about it in a way that I do not feel is helpful or healthy for someone so fragile.

Mike: I feel like I can't comment too much on his storyline without dealing without addressing racial stereotypes of a minority I don't belong to and therefore have no right to pass judgement on. I don't know if his father's behaviour is realistic or not - because it's Glee, i'm going to guess not, especially the specific dialogue used, however I can understand the issue of any student being held back from extra-curriculars because of academics. I think Harry Shum Jr did a great job reacting genuinely and emotionally to his on-screen father, and that scene of him dancing alone in the studio is quite amazing. I wish there was a way to have shown his inner monologue without making him look like he was hallucinating, but the points were so valid - especially about the threat of injury, which was something a dancer friend of mine was dealing with at the exact time the episode aired. The Tina fantasy was a bit weird, as was her previous scene with him - it's like nearly every line they give her is exposition and not very natural, which is a shame. They do it in the choir room scenes as well sometimes, they give her lines that are basically to explain the situation to the audience, like "so it's a _____" which is getting kind of old. She needs stronger plots, especially if she is one of the few remaining cast members still at McKinley in season 4.

But anyway. Mike's actual audition is amazing. I've seen some arguments about the song choice, because in the film "Cool" is a song done after Riff dies, and that's where the very famous floorwork/kneepad choreography comes from, but in the actual stage show it IS Riff's song, so, whatever. He looked amazing and sounded fine - definitely passable for that role in a high school show and I seriously hope we get to see him and Blaine act together as Riff and Tony. At the end, when Bieste comments about him wasting his time teaching the footballers the choreography, his response is one of those moments of Glee where for a second I feel like I'm watching a genuine drama show - perfect emotional delivery. I can't wait to see Harry act in more serious roles, such as the upcoming White Frog.  And the bit with his mother was so sweet, though I found it a bit convenient that her dream had been dancing too. Surely sometime in the past 17 years, this had been discussed, as Mike’s dancing has not been a secret, at least since he joined Glee?

Kurt/Brittany/Rachel/presidency: Although Kurt's line about Brittany "whimsically hopping and skipping" alongside his running made me laugh out loud, I think that with Santana behind her, helping her translate and express her ideas, Brittany legitimately is making some good points and appealing to the female population to vote will probably work. I loved Sue and Emma awkwardly dancing in the pep rally. But Rachel.. oh, Rachel. You are incredibly irrational and your fear drives you to do very stupid things, I understand, but your running was really not cool – specifically as you were the one to suggest and encourage Kurt in the first place. But here’s the thing – when Kurt confronts her about her candidacy, it was him I was rolling my eyes at. Rachel was desperate and selfish and thoughtless, and she’s wrong, but she was NOT being malicious, but Kurt’s spiel about how if she won it would help her college chances but if he won it would make a difference for kids like him? Please. Please. This is the first word we are hearing about his campaign having any altruistic motives – he originally applied for exactly the same reason as her, and it’s only now, when challenged, that he has invented some moral high ground to take in order to fight with her. I’m not saying that it isn’t a valid platform for him to use, or something he wouldn’t be concerned about, but that was NOT his original motive and he’s acting like it was in order to be superior, and I kind of want to smack him. Yeah, Rachel’s in the wrong, but she’s so socially unaware that she isn’t secretive or manipulative about it, she doesn’t hide her ambition – Kurt tries to give himself moral superiority through emotionally manipulating and cutting others down. They both need to knock it off. And does Kurt really think that Rachel wouldn’t have his issues at heart if she did win? She has a rainbow flag in her locker. Even though her and Kurt are having issues right now, this is yet another aspect of why they have the potential to be legitimate best friends forever, whereas Mercedes will end up being someone Kurt forgets. Rachel was probably educated in and supporting gay rights before even Kurt was.

Little things:

- Does Figgins still seriously believe Tina is a vampire? Does she dress up as one to get him to do her bidding, or was that a figment of his imagination?

- Bieste is so fucking awesome, she is one of my favorite characters and one of the only people on this show who talks sense.

- Kurt/Blaine: I'm going to try and not spend too long on this because they weren't an A-plot, but their one scene didn't sit well with me. I'm pretty sure we were meant to find it cute. I didn't find it cute. I didn't exactly say "oh, it wasn't genuine" or think it was sinister as much as I know some other people were saying about it, but what stuck with me was the "You always zig when I think you're about to zag." line - THAT just left me thinking "oh, awesome, so Blaine expected Kurt to be shitty about it? That's healthy." Giving Blaine support, the flowers, it was the right move on Kurt's part, for sure, but the fact it was an afterthought is what still worries me. it's good that he came to that conclusion, whether it was because he really felt it or because he knew objectively, despite jealousy, it was the right thing to do. But it was once again an afterthought, whereas Blaine's choices always seem to be Kurt's happiness first. It's his automatic compulsion, and the fact that Kurt's automatic compulsion isn't Blaine is what makes me think that dynamic can never really be good, because I still don't think you can LEARN to be automatically compelled to be selfless. At the end, when the cast list is announced, Kurt really seems to be struggling - he fakes happy for Blaine but is clearly still upset, and that is just... shouldn't they be talking about this? Is this going to keep being a plot point? Equally important, is that little moment on the stairs where Blaine held back from PDA going to be a plot point?

- I liked the booty camp scene where Will is encouraging Finn and is all "you can do it!" and Puck is like "no he can't" as like, a motivating bro move. It's a really cool and realistic moment of Puck and Finn's friendship. 

- All of Rachel's dress and hair choices this episode - flawless and I want them. 

- This was hyped as the best Glee episode ever. Cory Monteith said in an interview that if we did not feel that way he would give us all $20. Cory Monteith, you owe me $20.

Monday, 10 October 2011

I lost something today.

"I’m having a hard time starting this..."

Me too, Bill.

It would be pretty difficult to know me at all and not be aware of what The Academy Is... were to me. Most have you have attended a show with me at some point, or read my LJ after a tour, or seen pictures. You know. But I'd like, if it's alright, to tell the story again, one last time.

And I guess I should just start at the beginning, or at least, the beginning for me.

I first saw TAI in May 2006 - not too long after I moved to the UK. It was the two Brixton Academy shows of the Black Clouds and Underdogs Fall Out Boy tour. I was - and still am - a huge, deeply emotionally invested Fall Out Boy fan, and this was to 
be my first time seeing them. In fact, one of the first things I had done upon moving to the UK was to buy the first three FOB albums - Evening Out With Your Girlfriend, Take This To Your Grave and From Under The Cork Tree - because when I had left Australia they were not yet distributed there. Anyway. I knew of TAI, I knew about their relationships and collaboration with the other bands within the FBR family - Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year, which William sang on, was my favourite FOB song - and I knew and liked the several songs I'd heard off of TAI's album, Almost Here.

So I was really looking forward to seeing Fall Out Boy, and quite excited to see TAI as well. I lined up early and was on the front barricade for the show. After the first opener, The Hush Sound, TAI took the stage, opened with Attention, and turned my world upside down.

I had NEVER seen a live band like this. They were so powerful in the most undefinable way. I remember spending a good part of that set with my hands unconsciously clamped over my mouth, gasping. They were magic. I'd always thought, from the first time I saw a picture of William, that he must be quite special and unusual. He didn't look or sound like anyone in the other bands associated with the "scene" TAI were a part of. He looked like someone from another time, another era. All of them did, a bit - rather than emo, they looked kind of indie/hippie/glam.. very 70s, but not like they were trying to be. And I come from 70s music and glam rock - before I got into the scene, I listened to almost no current music - the most notable exception being Placebo, who are not exactly shining examples of their own era, either.

FOB were brilliant, and solid, and their live shows were nearly always brilliant and solid, but they did what I expected them to do. TAI were a complete shock to my system - I had not been prepared for them whatsoever. They were a revelation. I was an instant convert. They were what I had been waiting for - what I didn't even know I'd been waiting for until that moment.

It's funny how you fall in love. I know TAI aren't technically the best band in the world or anything. I know they're not the most ground-breaking. I personally think they're quite individual, but people who aren't very aware of them group them in with a scene that doesn't really, sonically or thematically, include them - they're more there by association and friendships. (This could honestly said for any of the first Big Five of the Decaydance family - Fall Out Boy. Gym Class Heroes. The Academy Is. Panic! At The Disco. Cobra Starship. None of these bands are technically in any way alike yet all get lumped in.) TAI aren't even the band that I have had the most desperate, crying-late-at-night responses to. I just fucking liked them. Something about them fit me, in the most perfect and positive way. A combination of their sound, their style, their live show, their lyrics and the boys themselves... everything about being a fan of theirs was an incredibly positive and fulfilling experience. And that first show - They were just... explosive. William - all legs and hair, jumping around without a guitar, he was a firecracker and so elegant, he made me think of Marc Bolan, even Bowie. That album - the songs were poetic and emotional - wistful without being vein-openingly tragic, snarky and snarly without being angry noise, hopeful without being preachy and inane. They had a touch of nostalgia about them, despite it being a first album, and they were clever, so clever - every single word counted.

They were absolutely perfect to me.

The next night was just as good, though I knew what to expect this time. I'd seen them wandering around the venue that day, as well, and been too nervous, overwhelmed, to speak to them. I remember very clearly Bill hanging about in flares, knee-scarf and an old blazer and couldn't believe he was a product of the 21st century.

I followed them closely online after that - their summer on Warped Tour, TAI TV, Tom leaving - by the time I got to see them again, it was nearly a year later - March 2007 and it was their headline UK tour. At this point, I'd been through quite a harsh time the previous winter, and that tour was the first time in a long while that I'd spent with my friends, particularly some who had been involved in that drama. But it was wonderful. I attended four shows - Oxford, Leeds, Portsmouth and London - and that week was perfect. I rebuilt quite a few of those friendships back up to their former strength, made new ones, and got to meet the band themselves for the first time. They were lovely and it progressed quickly from awkwardly asking to take a picture to having long, genuine conversations while hanging out before doors, or at the bus after the show. I remember one very clearly - before the show in Portsmouth. It was unseasonably hot for March in the UK and I remember I was wearing a Placebo t shirt and had taken off my shoes. I remember being leant up against the warm brick wall of the venue and talking to William for a good long while about books and music - I know Adam was around for a while as well because they both commented on my shirt and talked about how much they loved them and the slight influence on their upcoming record Santi, of which they'd been playing a couple of songs. But that conversation with William must have lasted a good hour and I remember thinking afterwards "damn, if we had met in a different way, I think that boy and I would make really good friends." I believe he guest-listed me for that show, as well, for some reason.. maybe I hadn't originally intended to come down that day and it was sold out? I can't remember. But despite the fact I was becoming chill with them off-stage, the live shows still thrilled and excited me and the fact they were so nice to me meant I was basically the biggest fangirl ever.

Later that year, after Santi came out, (and for the record, I LOVE Santi, it is the record I empathise with the most, the one that makes me cry) and after I moved back to Australia, they came Down Under for the first time. This was both really cool and also terrifying, because Australian fans are crazy. Like, yes, I'm an Australian fan, but en masse they are overwhelming. In airports and at the venues they demanded a LOT of attention and watching the band get mobbed in a way that I had never seen before really upset me - not because I wasn't getting to talk to them, because I still did, but just because I didn't like seeing them being treated like that. It made me realise how much I really loved them for themselves, not just for the entertainment or excitement I got from them. But kids in Australia just get really over the top - maybe because no one ever comes here, so when ANY band does they get treated like the Beatles - and even though there was some over-zealous behaviour off-stage, it meant the shows themselves were intense in a really good way. The crowds certainly weren't boring. Apart from the mobbing, I loved that tour, and I met many people on it who became my friends, and at the time I didn't have any Australian friends. I went to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and from watching the soundcheck in Adelaide to the last number of the Brisbane show when William came into the crowd and grabbed onto me, they went out of their way to be good to me. But seeing them play the Roundhouse in Sydney, where I had grown up going to shows, and totally dominate it - I was so proud of them. I remember at some point on that tour saying that at the end of it, I would have seen TAI eleven times. And I thought that was like, a lot.

That was August. Sometime soon after that, Amy and I decided to meet up in America for three weeks and go to the Sleeping With Giants headline tour. Neither of us had done anything this big for a band before - tours around our own country, yes, but not this. Amy is a great friend of mine from the UK. I met her through a different band, but TAI are her band as well, and she's known them for around 2 years longer than me. However, she has never been bitchy or elitist about this, and planning that trip was one of the most exciting things ever, for both of us.

If planning the tour was exciting, it was nothing compared to actually getting there. It was my first time in the States, and I believe it was Amy's as well, though that might be wrong. Besides visiting Chicago and New York for fun, we went to nine shows - Poughkeepsie NY, Hartford CT (on Halloween), Philadelphia PA, University of Connecticut, Hampton Beach NH, Albany NY, Long Island NY, Worcester MA, and Toronto, Canada. Each show was unique and special in some way. Amy and I were a little nervous and embarrassed about seeing the band off-stage, we were not sure what their reaction would be to us having travelled so far and obviously spent so much money to see them. Whether it was creepy. But no. They were golden. I will never forget the look on William's face when he saw us and pointed us out in the crowd and the first show. But it was all of them - even Mike, who at that point I didn't think even knew who I was, came up to us and said lovely things about us being there that just had us at a loss for words. I think Adam's first words to me upon seeing me were asking if I had noticed them playing Placebo on the PA in between sets, retaining and throwing back to that conversation on the UK tour in March. We could barely believe any of it.

I loved every second of that trip - every town, every train and Greyhound ride, every weird hotel. Again, we made friends - especially Lacey, who has remained one of Amy's very closest friends now - and we saw Jess and Beth Ann, who had done what we did in reverse - American fans who had come to the UK in March to see that tour. I also met Chris for the first time, on that trip, and saw him speak. I learnt a lot about the USA and about travel planning, but most of all, over that tour, all those 2007 tours, I came to see just how wonderful the TAI guys were, not just as musicians but as human beings. I saw how kind and patient and considerate they were with all the fans, how they would truly try to respond to requests, get people without tickets into shows, never cut anyone off for a picture or a signature, how during shows they would pick out fans that they'd met in the crowdS and play up to them, make them feel special.

But the shows. The shows were still the core thing. The more relaxed I got talking to the band and being chill and conversing normally, the more I started to worry that they may think that we were coming out because we thought it was cool to be "known" by them or something like that - that we weren't in it for the right reasons. And at one of the last shows of our SWG trip, in Long Island, I voiced this fear to William, something like "I hope you know how much this means to us, I realise when we talk to you we're not necessarily talking about the music and how we feel about that and I hope you know that that really is our priority, we're not just here to hang out..." 

His response, which I am not going to quote verbatim, was one of the most touching things ever said to me, and talking about it still makes Amy and I weepy. But basically said he knew, that we didn't have to explain that, he felt that we were genuine, he could tell that we "got" it when not everyone actually does, and lots of other beautiful, beautiful things that made me feel so appreciated. I am at my best, I think, when I am a fan. I am emotional but not creative, and that is where the most earnest fan behavior comes from - people who cannot express themselves and who find others who have expressed it for them. Unless you have experienced it, you can not understand how it feels to have an artist who you feel you connect with say "Yes. That's it. You understand. Not everyone does, but you do." Amy and I got in the taxi to leave the venue that night and we both just started to cry.

In 2008, after becoming more interested in behind the scenes work in the music industry, I took the opportunity to go to America for four months to travel and then work on the Vans Warped Tour. A friend's band were on the first half and I managed to jump over to help out another band for the remainder. In May, before Warped started, I got to see TAI play Bamboozle in New Jersey - my 21st time seeing them. It was crazy, the biggest show I'd ever seen them play, and I managed to go to their signing and say hi, and they were friendly and kind and pleased. I saw them around a couple of times in NYC as well in the month I stayed there - they were recording there and we occasionally went to the same bars and gigs - and I warned them that'd see me around that summer on Warped.

I saw "warned" because, while I was excited by the chance to see them play, hopefully a lot - once again, like coming to America for SWG, I worried desperately that they would not be comfortable that I was around, that it was too much, or that it would be misconstrued as me following them around for the summer, which was not the truth. They were a huge bonus, but NOT the reason I had come to work on the tour. Once again, my worries were completely stupid. They were totally cool with it, couldn't care less, and I got to spend 8 weeks seeing them play nearly every day. I would organise to take my lunch or dinner break in order to catch their set whenever possible. Amy and Lacey did a road trip that summer and, after we met up at an off-day Decaydance headline show in New Orleans, they attended a lot of Warped tour as well. I got them guest passes, so most of these sets we watched from side of stage. Fran and Nettie and Megan too. But the best was always when TAI played first (Warped has a rotating schedule) and we would get down the front before the gates opened, and watch them properly, from the barricade. William never failed to thank me - never - for the times when I would be down the front in the crowd even though I had an AAA pass. I did like watching from side of stage as well, watching the effect they had on the crowd, watching the technical aspects.. I just loved everything. Out of 46 dates, I probably got to 35 of their sets. It never got old.

Quite soon on Warped, though, something else started to happen, which was very odd to me. I would speak to the guys after their set, sometimes, and I would acknowledge them if I saw them in passing or at the parties at night, but I mainly tried to stay the fuck out of their way, because they knew I was a fan - not like, "oh dude, your band rocks" "yeah, I love your band too", but a real, legitimate, "can I get a picture with you," "I flew to America to see your band" FAN. And I didn't want them to feel intruded upon. But then, they started to approach me - particularly William. He would come up to me and chat, spend a little time with me. About ten days into the tour, we were side of stage watching Jack's Mannequin play, and completely unprompted, he asks me if I would like to listen to their new (unreleased) album with him and tell him what I thought. I remember very clearly that I didn't even say anything, just wrapped my arms around his waist and hugged him. A few days later I was shut in the back lounge of TAI's bus, listening to Fast Times at Barrington High off of William's iPod. He sat with me, curled up on the couch and I remember not knowing what to look at while we listened together, so I was staring at the soles of his shoes. I couldn't believe this was happening, I was a little scared and incredibly touched.

The summer continued, and I felt a little less weird spending time with him. I remember - sort of - a particular party off-site where I was probably the drunkest I had ever been - my first time having Jagermeister - and he was a bit wasted too and I remember us kind of hanging on to each other for most of the evening, and talking into each other's faces at what I'm sure we thought was a normal volume but was probably actually shouting. I remember another night in... I want to say it was Cleveland, on the Jack's Mannequin bus.. and another at the Chicago Angels and Kings after-party where he introduced me to his lovely girlfriend Christine and a couple of his family members. But we saw each other around nearly every day and it just became... normal. And I was always reminded of when we first met, and that conversation where I'd thought "if I'd met this guy as an equal we'd be friends". But I was highly paranoid of over-stepping and very concious that I was a fan and no matter how much you get along with someone, that's a dynamic that doesn't really go away. Until one night he saw me stomping around and came over to talk to me when I was in a particularly stressed and upset mood due to a stupid thing with a guy, and I took it out on him. Quite badly. I ended up snapping at him and almost yelling at him, saying he didn't have to feel obligated to do the polite thing like after gigs, that I wasn't going to be any less of a fan if he didn't come up to me whenever he saw me, that I was letting him off the hook. He then read ME the riot act about how he doesn't do anything he doesn't want to do, that he didn't feel obligated, that he was never ON the hook. It was kind of an over-dramatic moment on both our parts but we ended up being excessively complimentary to each other, talked about how much we liked each other, and we hugged it out, and after that I was much more comfortable thinking of him as a friend.

My favourite TAI-related memory that summer, I think, was an off-day towards the end, where the Decaydance bands again had a side-show, this time in Missoula, Montana. I adored this town, it had great vibes, and I had a great day with my girl friends at lunch and hanging at the hotel. The show was very cool, and I remember standing on a chair in the crowd to watch TAI's set and watching Cobra's from the stage, and when William came to watch as well he took me by surprise and hugged me from behind. I then spent the rest of the evening sitting backstage with him, down in the bowels of the theatre, just talking. Despite the fact many of his friends in various bands were there, hanging around in the dressing rooms, despite the fact that Gym Class were playing, he sat with me at a table in the main green room, drinking and talking, for hours. That conversation, and what he talked about during it, is when I really realised that we probably were friends. He'd always had a habit of dropping weirdly personal bits of info - stuff that I'd internally say "er, should you be saying that to a fan" about, but this conversation was like "whoa, okay." - very candid. This took place after the aforementioned slight meltdown I'd had, so I knew we were okay, but I was still surprised and flattered at how comfortable and personal he had become with me, and the fact he was choosing to spend the evening with me. When the venue kicked us out, it was raining, and he gave me his jacket so I could go back to my bus, which was further away than his.

Warped Tour ended (after a very weird and awkward moment in which I gave him a letter thanking him for being so good to me, and he said some wonderful things about me that I am embarrassed to repeat) and we all flew back to Australia, because TAI and Cobra were supporting on a P!ATD headlining arena tour there, that I was attending as a fan. This was a great tour - Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide again - it was weird to see both TAI and Cobra rock out these stadiums and be pursued by the mad Aussie fan base again, after spending 8 weeks in such close quarters with them. But it was also awesome, and made me proud and happy. At the end of the tour, when I was really saying bye, that was a bit hard. I remember being at the airport in Adelaide, which is about the size of a two-bedroom apartment, about to fly back to Sydney and the tour was flying on tour Perth. I remember Gabe Saporta being like "yo Natalie, you coming to Perth?" and when I said no, his face got sad and he hugged me - and I don't hug Gabe. Pretty much ever. I only, like, do bro-knuckles with him. I really did not like saying goodbye to William, but he gave me his email address and a lot of hugs, and that was that.

They came back to Australia a year later - August 2009 - with Anberlin, and my paranoia had set in again. I had exchanged a few emails with William, but not for a while, and I was so afraid that in the past year they had formulated the idea that actually, no, I was creepy, that at the first show when my friends were meeting the guys, I sort of... casually hid behind a tree. This obviously failed, and was obviously stupid, and they were wonderful - not just Bill, but all of them, even Tony, their tour manager, whom I had been absolutely petrified of for years. That tour was a really awesome mix of being a fan and being a friend, I spent every show except Sydney with my fan-friends, queuing and watching from the crowd, etc, I even went to the meet and greets, but I spent the last show, Sydney, backstage. I got to officially interview Bill at that show, which was pretty special, and was a wonderful conversation aside from being an interview. He also wrote a beautiful piece of prose in my notebook. The set was amazing, that tour, even though they weren't headlining. It was the first time I heard them play a lot of the Fast Times songs, and those songs that will always be special to me because I got to hear them first. Leo and I went to the afterparty of that show, and left the party with Bill and Tony to go to a quieter pub. It was a ridiculously long and great night and I think I have a picture somewhere of Bill and I drunk in Taylor Square at about 2am. That was the last time I saw them play.

I have never "gotten over" them. I have never been jaded about them as a band, ever. No matter how much time I spent with them or how familiar I had become, the second they go onstage as The Academy Is..., they still thrill and excite me, I would still rather be on the barricade in the crowd than anywhere else on the planet. 32 shows, plus Warped Tour - about 70 performances in total. Every single time, it isn't "lol those dudes" it is  "that's the best live band in the world". They still did it for me. Every time. They have been worth every bit of time, effort and money I have ever put into being at their shows on three continents. It wouldn't matter if I'd never met them, if they didn't know who I was. I wouldn't care. The shows would still be the same. From the first time to the very last, they still exploded my heart. And the friends I made would still be the same. I'm just extremely lucky that by loving a band, I got to also make friends with this awesome boy.. he was super into them as well, and getting to talk to him at shows was always really cool, he really got what they were about. His name happens to be William. Cheesy, maybe, but that's how it always felt when actually talking with him about his own music - like we were two fans of the same thing, analysing it together. But William onstage was still always that firecracker, never some dude I knew a little. That band, right to the last, always had the power to make me scream and cheer and cry and I was never ashamed of that or above it. I was proud.

I keep thinking about all the things... all the memories and anecdotes, ridiculous incidents with my friends, when we went to shows. It was thinking about one of these - rather than thinking about a gig or a song - that made me start to cry, when I heard the news today. I broke down because I remembered a funny incident in a car on an deserted road somewhere in Connecticut in 2007, driving between shows. Being a fan of this band has given me so much. More than I could ever explain, define or remember.

A part of me died today. I will always support all of these boys, and I'm in contact with William and I know I'll see him perform again. But I'll never see him as the frontman of The Academy Is... again. I will never have that beautiful disconnect that allowed me to be the purist, most excited fan, riding off of what they did. Nothing is ever going to replace that. Ever.

I hate that it seems impossible for me to love anything without it eventually being tainted with bitterness or pain. The amount of things that i'm emotionally invested in which make me happy, without a side order of sadness, is now pretty much non-existent.

I've been crying nearly the whole time writing this blog - Butcher's tweet-fest of trauma really did not help. He touched on a lot of what I was trying to say here, particularly when he said "If you were a fan then you know how much TAI committed." This is really what I was trying to express. If you were not lucky enough to be a fan of this band, you missed out on something incredibly special. Because there is no one like them. No one.

Epilogue - I actually saw William a couple of months ago, in July. He was playing an acoustic solo show in Chicago and I attended. It was marvellous. He seemed amused and delighted to see me there and he spent a lot of time talking to the fans afterwards - this was nice to see, as when I'd last seen him, two years ago, he'd talked about being a little tapped out on this aspect. And then I got weirdly overwhelmed - for some reason I get incredibly fucking depressed and start feeling like I'm going to cry. Like really, out of nowhere, hit-by-a-truck emo-ness. I think it hit me that I hadn't seen him in nearly 2 years and that I'd actually missed him and that this was a one-off and I wouldn't see him again anytime soon, and just, everything he's meant to me and how he's always been, right from the first time we really met properly. 

In a move that was nearly completely out of control, I shamefully ended up crying all over him. I prefaced it with "I might cry and if I do I'm really sorry" because I could feel it in my voice and he asked "why would you cry?" and then I kind of let loose on him emotionally. I've never done that before, I've cried in shows and he's seen it but I have never started to cry while talking to him. I was basically going giving my life story and about how I'd lived in UK and now Australia was lonely and missed all of my friends, and how I had such distance restricing me from being around the people I actually wanted to be around, and I how I had trouble making new friends, and how when I saw him I'd realised how much I'd missed him as well, and how in another situation we could have been normal friends. And I was saying emo crap like"do you know what you are to me?" and "You are an amazing human being", and he denies it, of course, and I'm like "shut up, I know you don't think it but you really are" - this is all really disjointed and not a direct transcript of the conversation, but just to give you the vibe that was discussed. And I kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it isn't fair to just put that on you for my own catharsis and be like 'here's a bunch of heavy shit, deal with it.'" He wasn't just standing there like a struck fish listening to me blubber, he started saying some pretty emo things to me as well, but I just can't. I can't even talk about it. At one point I was just blubbering 'I'm so sorry, I've just had a really shit year.' while pretty much crying into his neck, and he was like 'yeah, me too'. He was going on about how everything for him had been bad, but finally music was being okay again and hoping because he'd gotten that to work again it would help make everything else work, and of course in response to that I was all "*sobs* you need to be happy you deserve to be happy *sobs*"

But he spoke about, I don't know, finding the right direction, and he was talking about how good tonight had been, and how he's been online more and getting back in touch with fans, and how that felt and I'm just like.. "you didn't realise people were still there?" And of course at a couple of points he had to destroy my life and start being like 'the way you've always been there' and thanking me and 'you have always, always understood me." And all I could say was "thank you for being every aspect of who you are and what you've given me."

I wasn't sobbing. Not like big wracking sobs. But as soon as I started talking, I started crying, like tears rolling down my face and voice all wobbly, and saying "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm doing this" and I think I managed to pull myself together and be like "I don't think I've ever told you, so I just wanted to tell you" re: me actually thinking he is spectacular.

I think I knew then that something was a bit wrong, but he was so positive about new material and new state of mind. It sounded like things HAD been wrong but had turned a corner. I guess they were too broke to fix.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

To follow up that last post...

How could I forget this and not reference it? How?

As if I needed any more evidence..

Kurt threw Defying Gravity because he cared more about his father than about getting the part.

As I said before: We have seen how love - the kind of love that makes you vulnerable - changes Kurt. Yet Blaine doesn't change him.