"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
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.
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.
Monday, 3 October 2011
First of all - I’m really noticing how the writers are lightening the workload for the actors, this season. This was a promise apparently made after the cast experienced a lot of burn-out – their previous hours were INSANE – and it really seems like the writers and producers have come through. The lack of scenes requiring the whole cast to be on set is notable, more interaction happens outside of the choir room – scenes containing only a couple of characters – less group numbers to learn choreography for, and if the cast’s Twitter feeds are any indication, they are welcoming the change of having two, three, four days off in a row.
Now, the standout thing about Brittany’s role in this episode, for me, was that they did a brilliant job of showing that she’s not actually mentally disabled, or a child – something people have questioned a lot. In season 2, they used her stupidness as comic relief, but at times made her SO dumb, childlike, or naïve that it made you wonder about her sexual life and some writers in the press even questioned if she was mentally capable of consent with Santana, Artie or anyone else. This episode did a good job at repairing some of that – it didn’t make her smarter, exactly, but it painted a picture of someone whose mind just works differently, makes different leaps and connections, and she has trouble expressing those ideas in ways that “normal people” understand. I’ve known a few people like that – they’ll come out with bizarre things and at first you think it’s something they’ve put together in some weird, creative and planned out way, that they have an explanation for, and then you realise “no, your mind just really makes those connections, doesn’t it?” And Santana, she gets those mind-leaps of Brittany’s, and that moment between them was just so gorgeous and showed true understanding and friendship.
I also cannot believe that they got away with “Kurt Hummel’s Bulging Pink Funsack”, but I’m glad they did. When Ian Brennan pitched this show, the idea was that it’d be like Reese Witherspoon’s Election – an adult-themed show about a high school. (I mean, Tracy and Paul practically ARE Rachel and Finn.) One of season 2’s faults was that they tried to cater to the market they accidentally gained – the family market – rather than sticking with their original vision. Glee may be about kids, and about singing and dancing, but it is not FOR kids, it is not the Disney channel, and many little things this season show that they they’re really trying to get back to that adult vision. I could not be happier about this.
I made a prediction to myself when I found out some spoilers about season three – I said to myself, “Natalie, I bet that the first time you cry in this season is when they deal with Puck and Beth” – and I was right. When Shelby got that knock at her door, I held my breath, and when it revealed Puck I actually shouted “yeah!” out loud. Puck’s development has been one of the best and least-backpedalled on the show – he never wanted to give Beth up, and he’s become loyal and defensive of all his friends in Glee. He is so fucking noble and I adore him. So this storyline is so fulfilling for me. Quinn’s is less so – it kind of doesn’t currently make sense, but I understand she may be having emotional reactions and repercussions that SHE doesn’t really understand, and that, in itself, is very real and very teenage. I hope they explain it a bit, though, and I hope that her current insanity does not jeopardize Puck’s relationship with Beth. Long live ClownPig.
The dialogue in general is a lot more natural now than it ever was – I noticed this right from the start when Rachel is waxing lyrical about Barbra Streisand and Brittany goes “I hate you” In this really fond, conversational tone. This basically continued all the way through the episode and I loved it. SO many funny, funny, natural sounding lines with perfect delivery. "Finn, you look like you're stepping on bees" was a particular winner.
By the way, please stop putting Blaine in bow ties. It seems forced. He isn't Kurt-Lite and this style doesn't suit his personality at all.
Also, is it just me or did Mike and Artie both make some super gay quips? Between Mike calling Kurt’s sashaying “super distracting” and Artie calling Dustin Goolsby “so handsome” and ALSO being melted into a puddle by Blaine’s audition… I raised an eyebrow. (Oh wait; apparently I was not the only one to notice this.) LOL, Glee, what even.
Well, it looks like my Glee Chat prediction was right – Kurt’s storyline and point of view that Chris mentioned, that never gets told, was about stereotyping and typecasting and masculinity, and boiled down to that one phrase, “Could he pass?” I felt bad for him, I truly did, and I loved that scene with Burt – I mean, who doesn't love every minute of Burt screen time? I love that he calls him “dude” and “man” and how frank he is. He handles that kid spectacularly well. I also have a theory – based on some spoilers of further episodes – that this masculinity thing is going to be tied into more issues than just the musical role – and I also have a feeling about how he’s going to make peace with it. That story does deserve to be told, and done well. However, as sorry as I felt for him:
Dear Kurt Hummel,
You are an incredibly terrible boyfriend. You have always been a selfish and manipulative person. Whether this is conscious and crafty, or something you aren’t aware of, I don’t know, but either way, you do it. You are ruthless. However, I really didn’t think you’d carry this quality over to a relationship, when you were in love. But damn, boy. You are fucked up. Like it wasn’t enough that you asked that boy to change to your school – a school you got bullied out of – you asked him to change for YOUR final year, knowing that he would have one more year to go – either staying there alone without you, or changing back to Dalton, causing a ridiculous and unnecessary disruption to HIS schooling. At the end of the day, on paper, yeah, it was Blaine’s choice to transfer. But you didn’t even have the right, in the first place, to ask him to. That scene in season 3's first episode, where you said to him “you told me by the first day of school, you would have made a decision, yet there you are still in Dalton uniform” – honey, that would imply that he DID make a decision. He just didn’t make the decision that you wanted. And yet you pushed, and jokingly and sweetly threatened a break-up, but you are made of cold steel inside and I cannot help suspecting that if you had met any real resistance you would have turned stern and started throwing up ultimatums. It was the same with prom, I’ve said this before, but I am coming to see that this is how you operate and that little piece of work in the Booty Camp rehearsal was yet another example. That scene was evidence that you have perfected the His Dark Materials Mrs Coulter-esqe “oh you’ll do this favour for me won’t you, aren’t you sweet for being considerate of me” passive twisted manipulation and it makes me fear what you'd do if someone actually stood up to you. Blaine was completely chill and normal about it, and you pretty much told him not to try out. How dare you? How dare you drag him into this school and then cut him down when he wants to get involved and find his place? That little 'awwww' you gave Blaine when he said he'd be happy playing second fiddle to you? That was your moment to step in and be a decent human being. And yet. I. wanted. to. cause. you. physical. pain.
I’m sure next episode that you will tell Blaine about how you are jealous, and you'll apologise, and encourage him to take the role even if he tries to turn it down, but you won’t be doing it for him. You’ll be doing it for you, because you’ve accepted your unicorn-ness or individuality or what the fuck ever, and have realised that you aren’t right for the role, or you're above it, or something. At the end of the day, if you had actually been in direct competition - something you both had an equal chance at - you would have never given it to him, and if he'd ever hinted or asked you not to do something, for his sake, you would tell him to take a hike, if that was something that you wanted.
Are you doing this on purpose? Is this fucked up dynamic actually a plot point? More than just in relation to the West Side Story casting? Is “there are two people in this relationship in love with Kurt Hummel” actually something that is going to be addressed, or are we meant to think that Kurt is fine and Blaine is sweet for not applying for Tony, and that this is, like, cute? Because it is not fucking cute. That conversation in the dance rehearsal was not cute. It was evil. I think it’s very realistic, and very in-character, and you said their relationship would be flawed, but right now, are you intending for what I’m seeing as flaws to actually be Kurt’s flaws? Or do you think this is currently healthy and adorable aside from Kurt’s upcoming jealousy about Blaine being offered the role? Are you going to bring Kurt's manipulation into it? Blaine's happiness being an afterthought is becoming too much of a theme. Usually when you’re trying to show that someone’s behaviour is wrong, you have another character call it out. But so far, this seems normal and fine. Have you actually learnt subtlety and how to do a long-game story arc?
The musical stuff was all quite nicely done – I like the director trio a lot and how over-the-top and analytical their discussion was. Also, their reactions to watching all the auditions (except for them laughing at Kurt’s Romeo, but I still am unsure why they all laughed that much? Was it meant to be at his voice? Because it wasn’t that bad. The situation was ridiculously awkward, and I know why I laughed, but it was because Kurt said “post-coitus” and it made me think of Jim Povolo’s Firenze from A Very Potter Sequel. But somehow I don’t think that’s why Beiste was laughing.
I am loving Finchel at the moment. Ew. But that scene in the workshop was so natural and gorgeous and I like that Rachel is self-aware and comfortable enough to know how difficult she is and to be matter of fact about it. I also liked that Finn and Will dance bit – Will’s strongest moments, where he’s been the best person he ever manages to be, are always with Finn. If Will did not disgust me as a general human being, I’d probably ship it.
Rachel’s audition was lovely and I loved her goofy, pleased laugh at the end. I am not looking forward to her apparent shitty behaviour next episode (based on Kurt telling her off in the trailer) because her development into a likable person has been so gorgeous.
Kurt’s audition was, of course, both ridiculously awesome and completely inappropriate for Tony. Was Chris actually ever a gymnast? Because I know he did that whole scaffolding stunt himself with no double and no wires. And it took a lot of upper body strength and going upside down. He isn't going to get the role, he should have realized he wasn't right for it in the first place or auditioned differently, but this episode reminded me that Kurt has a truly eccentric mind and has zero self-awareness. He's never ironic. He actually thinks these things are good ideas. It actually took me a long time to realize this about Kurt - that he's not terribly smart, he's not cuttingly sharp and ironic, that he's a fairly unusual but uneducated gay kid in small-town Ohio building a persona for himself that he legitimately thinks is sophisticated. He, a little like Brittany, his mind-leaps are really his and his alone, and he isn't adaptable. His attitude is "this is me, and what I do, and because it's fabulous, I should get what I want" which is a pretty great attitude for someone with ambition, but not so great an attitude when that ambition is acting. Chris Colfer could play Tony, if they transposed the songs for his range. He could do that role. Because he is a great actor. Kurt Hummel, however, could not, because he only really knows how to be Kurt Hummel. So, as Burt says, he must change the rules. Or, you know, just learn to act.
Blaine’s audition was perfection and it broke my heart. The classic little Blaine Anderson "pulling myself together" moment before starting, and his exuberance, hope, and his eyes - no one, not even Chris Colfer, no one on this show (or in fact, currently on television) can use their eyes to project as tangibly as the way Darren Criss does. It was Blaine's first actual solo - him and him alone - on Glee, and also his first Broadway number and he just killed it. And that outfit? THAT is Blaine Anderson. That is exactly him. But even after Kurt's little game in the choir room, when Blaine came on and sung Tony's song, I did not see it coming that he had specifically requested not to be considered for Tony. I assumed he was just trying his luck with whatever they'd give him and that he legitimately didn't expect to get Tony due to not being a senior, and that would be fine with him. Blaine's not competitive, but I NEVER expected him to be so swayed by Kurt that he did not put his name down for it and the way his voice broke nervously when they asked him about the roles he'd put down just ripped me open and made me want to, again, smack Kurt Hummel very hard. I don't even want to get into Kurt's reaction while watching it - I really wanted him to be looking even a little proud, but I know that character and based on how he reacts that's his frozen, fixed smile "oh shit" grimace. And then obviously his true emotions winning through at the end, and him walking out.
This relationship, to me, is currently a tragedy. I said before the season started that I worried about Blaine becoming a doormat because he is deeply in love with Kurt. And that is happening. Kurt - consciously or not - is happy to use that. Blaine does need to become aware of this and man up, but Kurt also needs to stop taking advantage of his devotion. I had hoped we'd start to see some equality, something of Kurt giving back, but... no. Because Kurt isn't in love with Blaine. He thinks he is, but he isn't. He's maybe in love with the idea of it all... but, really. As I wrote before, I thought that when Kurt fell in love, he would be changed by it - not all around changed, but changed in relation to that person. He's not, but Blaine is, and that's unhealthy and Kurt isn't in the position to be in a relationship, at least with someone like Blaine. There either needs to be two people putting themselves first - which, in my opinion, isn't all that loving, but it works for some people's casual relationships - or there needs to be two people putting EACH OTHER first. And at the moment we have two people putting Kurt first. The fact that Kurt doesn't automatically feel to do for Blaine what Blaine feels to do for him, tells me that Kurt will never really love Blaine. It doesn't matter if he realises afterwards that it was wrong or unfair - the fact it isn't his automatic go-to, but it IS Blaine's automatic go-to, which is what makes them unhealthy and unequal. Kurt needs a boyfriend who won't put up with his bullshit, who will tell him no when he needs it or just say "whatever, babe" at him when he's ridiculous. Blaine needs someone who won't let him not take care of his own needs, and who sees through his desperate need to please. They both need people who can call them on their crap, and those people are not each other.
People can change, but at the moment, I feel like no matter if Kurt realises he's wrong in retrospect, or if someone reads him the riot act about his horrid behaviour, the fact that he just doesn't automatically prioritise Blaine the way Blaine prioritises him means that Kurt will never love Blaine the way Blaine loves him. That dynamic, between two particular people, very rarely changes. You can't teach that. I know. I've been there. You can't say "hey, you should act this way" - if you aren't compelled to do it, then you aren't compelled to do it, and that represents something. And Blaine's behaviour isn't healthy either, if he was with someone who truly loved him he'd stop him from that, he'd take care of Blaine when Blaine won't take care of himself. Each person would put the other first; encourage each other, rather than two people putting Kurt first.
Fix it up. I don't know how, but fix it up. Because right now I want them to break up. People who are emotionally manipulative and selfish - even if it's not calculated - still aren't healthy in relationships, particularly relationships with someone like Blaine. You don't deserve him, Kurt, and at this point I can't imagine anything that would make me believe you love him.