Monday, January 31, 2011

Finn Hudson and the Case of the Missing Original Intent: Part Two


Oh, Finn and Kurt.  Their dynamic has covered so many manifestations, it’s somewhat difficult to sort out.  Early in the show, their relationship was rather simple and darling - it was the Football Player and the Theatre Kid, defying all stereotypes and having an actual friendship.  Kurt, and also Rachel, are character embodiments of what the Glee club represents in Finn’s original worldview.  If Finn stays true to his original intent and opens up to Glee, he should therefore also open up to both Rachel and Kurt. 

And in the early episodes, when Finn’s character arc is on track, this holds true.  Finn and Kurt’s interactions in “Ballad” show a real depth of emotion and shared mutual experience.  Kurt helps Finn express himself emotionally, and together they connect on the commonality of being raised by a single parent.  That scene where the two are retrieving Finn’s dad’s jacket to wear to the Fabrays?  Oh, it kills me.  It’s real, and it’s touching, and it warms/breaks my heart every time.

At the very least, Glee does keep returning to the construct that Finn and Kurt were designed to be brothers.  My issues with their relationship largely take place in the interim, during the Back 9 through to the official step-brothering in “Furt.”  (Yes, I just made “step-brother” a verb.  It’s how I roll.)

Let’s pause for a moment to consider this quote that Cory Monteith gave about his character to GQ magazine:
“I think the stasis of Finn gives characters like Rachel and Kurt room to maneuver.”
In general, I would say that Cory is accurate in this assessment.  I interpret things in a slightly different way, though.  My biggest complaint about Finn’s character in the Back 9 is the sudden collapse of his relationship with Kurt due to a not-quite-there-before homophobia.  Personally, I find it to be out-of-character that Finn suddenly had issues with Kurt’s sexuality, even though it’s true that Kurt was being a touch overbearing in the manifestation of his crush. 

For the sake of argument: it’s also true that Finn hadn’t always been comfortable with doing things that could be interpreted as gay - note his initial lashing out at Kurt in “Ballad” about singing to a dude.  But what happens in the episode?  He listens to Kurt, takes his advice, confides in him, and treats him with respect.  His actions speak louder than his initial hesitations.  It was designed as character progress, and it was lovely.  As far as I’m concerned, after “Ballad,” there should not be any going back to this issue - at least nothing directly related to Kurt.  Forward, writers!  Forward!

But what should have been a touching new friendship between the Football Player and the Theatre Kid turned into a PSA about tolerance and homophobia.  So to me, it’s not necessarily that Finn is in a stasis that allows Kurt room to maneuver, but more so that he is wielded by the writers to make a statement.

And that, I truly abhor.  I cannot sit through that scene in “Theatricality” where Finn calls Kurt’s decorations “faggy” and then Burt yells at him for what feels like forever.  I just can’t.  Burt’s speech is wonderful and lovely, and I 100% agree with what he is saying, but the conspiring events that led to that speech?  I just can’t get on board.  To me, it’s character assassination.  It feels like Ryan Murphy really wanted to write that speech, and then worked backwards in order to achieve the scenario, sacrificing Finn’s - and perhaps even some of Kurt’s - characterization along the way. 

Because Finn?  HE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO FIGHT THE FEELING.  Why, oh why, is Finn still fighting the feeling?!  Yes to Kurt!  Yes to Glee!  We’ve already done this!

But no, the situation and the characters were manipulated in order to make a point, and this is where Finn, and not necessarily his “stasis,” is being abused so the show can hoist a Very Special Message onto its shoulders.  And again, I want to make it clear that I don’t disagree at all with the Very Special Message, I just dislike that storytelling sacrifices were made in order to raise the banner.

After the unfortunate “Theatricality” incident, Finn and Kurt’s dynamic is somewhat tenuous, understandably.  Finn does his best to apologize, in a classic scenario of “Finn-does-something-douchey-and-out-of-character-and-then-eats-humble-pie-until-the-next-time-he-does-something-douchey-and-out-of-character.”  (More about this later.) 

I was impressed that the show handled their relationship from Finn’s side of things in “Audition,” with Finn telling Kurt that he came on too strong, but frankly it irked me that that storyline even happened in the first place.  However, I'm not going to complain about the writers actually following through on such a large conflict they insisted on putting in the show.  Consistency is always good.

But rarely is Finn and Kurt’s relationship consistent within the narrative.  I wish it were.  How great would it be if they continued to interact much like they did in “Ballad?”  But instead, we get Finn praying to touch Rachel’s boobs when Kurt’s dad is in the hospital, and Finn doing little to nothing to stand up to Karofsky, and Kurt refusing Finn’s awkwardly adorable pat on the back in “Grilled Cheesus.”  This should not be, writers!  These two characters created a wonderful little trust bubble friendship for themselves in the First 13 episodes, and it’s unfortunately no longer there. 

But what’s even more unfortunate is that the writers believe it still is.  Suddenly, they tried to pay off the wisps of this faded friendship by writing Kurt into Finn’s best man speech at the wedding.  This is not how good storytelling works!  The relationship wasn’t properly set up in order for Finn’s speech to be a good payoff.  The sad and unfortunate truth is that the “Kinn” dynamic suffered a roller coaster of negative actions, character assassination, and plain old lack of screentime, and hadn’t yet recovered enough to bring the trust bubble back in time for “Furt.”  Sloppy handling, writers.

All things considered, I am hopeful for the future of Finn and Kurt, because at least the writers seem committed to the Finn/Kurt brotherly dynamic.  The ultimate goal in all of this is to return Finn to his original intent, and right his character arc.  If that happens, that inherently includes a patching up of the Finn/Kurt relationship.  So if we can start cultivating a little renaissance of their early interactions, like we saw in “Ballad,” I’ll be a happy camper.



  1. I love the dedication with which you are examining the Glee characters. You really believe in them and you articulate well both the archetypes they represent (cheerleader, athlete, etc.) and their capabilities to become so much more than those stereotypes. I think the character development you describe is something the writers are trying to accomplish but haven't gotten quite right. Kudos to you for understanding how these characters should be evolving and expressing it so clearly.

  2. This is exactly how I feel! I keep wishing the writers would sit down, develop a "master plan" for each character and STICK WITH IT already. I get that they want to be all "socially relevant" and in tune with what fans want, but the "whim factor" is driving me to distraction! Oh, for the days before Glee was driven by the media and popular (?) opinion.

    I feel like Finn's moral character has been unfairly diminished this season, almost to the point that his value within his own family is tied to how he treats Kurt. The wedding speech actually made me unbearably sad, because it felt like he was trying to regain some traction with the parents after they BOTH essentially recited their vows to Kurt. The thing is, Finn is a nice, generally tolerant guy who made one (heated, but at least partially provoked) mistake, and now he just spins his wheels trying to make up lost ground. For the record, I don't think Finn's behavior either before or after "the incident" is a result of actual homophobia. He's a teenager who cares about his reputation, but keeps being put in situations he's ill-equipped to deal with. His actions do not stem from a desire to harm Kurt but rather from the urge to protect himself.

    Ack! Sorry to go off there. I'm just glad to know I'm not the only one who feels strongly about the character abuse running rampant of late. Thank you for writing this--excited for more!

  3. I'm so glad you decided to tackle Finn Hudson in your Glee analysis. Finn is my favorite character only because I fell in love with Cory's awesome portrayal of this character in the First 13. I don't know whether I would have liked him so much if he had been played by a less talented actor.

    Most of the Finn fans are justifiably angry at the writers for "shoving his character under the bus" at the expense of the PSA plot. I'm not disparaging the talents of Chris Colfer but I have a lot of unresolved feelings on how they completely stripped Finn of his character development (several times in fact) to propel a certain plot forward.

    Sometimes I feel he is the most deviled character in Glee among the various love-line shippers and other character-invested fans. You should read some of the unreasonable abuse that is heaped upon him on the Glee boards. I shake my head as a Finn-centric fan, and hope against hope that things will get better for him although I'm not laying any bets on this.

    I believe Cory is the most underrated actor in this cast. He's so intelligent and mature (at least that's the impression I got from watching and reading his media interviews) and completely different from Finn. He makes playing Finn so easy but actually it's not. I hope you'll share your thought on his ability to play Finn in such a believable way.

  4. Sarah - thank you! It's so frustrating when the writers created something so fantastic to work with and then somehow can't figure out how to make it work. All the characters on the show have the capacity to be great, but we're just not seeing it.

    KurtLocker - It dawned on me the other day that most characters who got developed in the First 13 are on a completely different path now. It's such a shame see great characters fall the wayside so more emphasis on musical numbers and staying socially relevant. Good characters are the basis of any good TV show - social relevance is just icing on the cake. And after awhile, eating icing without the cake just puts you in a sugar coma. ;)

    Katy C - Thank you! Truthfully, I wouldn't consider myself a "Finn-centric" fan, but I really wanted to objectively explore the reasons why I've been feeling frustrated with him lately. And it's not that he's a bad person or a bad character - it's that the writers don't know how to write him anymore. I definitely see a lot of Finn hate out there, and I think that a lot of it should be redirected from the character to the writers themselves. I, for one, want all the characters to be likeable and relatable and well-written, and it bugs me when RIB can't seem to deliver on that - especially on a character like Finn, who gets a lot of screentime and is a main character.

    Cory definitely doesn't get as much credit as he deserves in terms of acting, and I'm ready for the writers to challenge him with something other than what he's currently getting. Stay tuned the rest of this week for more analysis on Finn! I think you'll enjoy reading it. :)


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