Thursday, April 14, 2011

Santana Lopez and What Lies Beneath: Part 3


Earlier in this piece, I discussed the notion that Santana has historically been treated in the role of jester, as a supporting character who exists only to crack jokes and cause problems.  It’s because of this trend that it becomes difficult to examine Santana’s onscreen relationships and draw informed conclusions about them. 

As a fringe character, Santana was wielded in accessory to others’ storylines, often making her a romantic obstacle or plot device.  What do we know of her relationships from this time, then?  Hardly any of them were presented from Santana’s point of view, so with the recent exception of Brittany, we know little to nothing about the state of Santana’s feelings about her interactions with several other characters.  Rather, we have to assemble the writers’ somewhat inconsistent evidence, look at Santana’s actions, read between the lines, and try and reach our own wobbly conclusions.

The first person Santana was truly introduced in conjunction with was Puck.  Assumedly, they were dating at the time of “Acafellas,” when Mercedes longingly witnessed them kissing in the hallways.  Santana broke up with Puck over his credit score, but then sexted him while he was babysitting with Quinn.  She got jealous over his dating Mercedes, and insisted they were dating again in Season 2 - even fangirling Puck’s alleged badassness in “Never Been Kissed.”

Santana and Puck as a unit existed originally in periphery only, to serve as contrast to our main characters in their storylines.  But even after the dissolution of their relationship, they were lumped together as ne’er-do-well occasional sex buddies, with Santana firmly demonstrating opposition to Quinn, Mercedes, and now Lauren as Puck’s other romantic interests.  In the case of Mercedes and Lauren, were Santana’s physical tantrums manifestations of actual jealousy over Puck as a person, or is Santana just possessive and operates on the assumption that people belong to her?  (I tend to lean towards the latter interpretation not only because it amuses me when played for comedy, but also because in dramatic purposes it forces the question, “Why, then?” and the potential answers to that are nothing short of fascinating.)

Regardless, there are so many questions to ask about the nature of Santana and Puck’s relationship, questions that are too interesting to chalk up only to the fact that they are non-committing cool kids who occasionally hook up.  Especially now that Puck and Santana are developing into their own actual relationship storylines, it forces us to look back and question what was different with their early romantic interactions as opposed to now.  Will we ever understand what Santana feels, or felt, towards Puck?

It’s unlikely that this will happen, as the show is now moving them away from one another and into less singularly sex-driven relationships.  This only makes Santana and Puck’s early interactions all the more interesting, and mysterious.  Santana and Puck's relationship is essentially an echo, the intangible reverberation of something we never heard in the first place, and the evidence of which is growing fainter - but still repeating.

Perhaps even more nebulous than her relationship with Puck is Santana’s relationship with Quinn, largely because the show originally designed them as friends, but in practice they operate primarily in opposition - and yet we hardly see them interact.  There’s endless debate over the question of Santana’s level of loyalty to Quinn, especially under the duress that Quinn has not shown any loyalty to Santana whatsoever.  Frankly, there is a neverending parade of question marks marching along Quinntana Boulevard in particular, and the show makes no effort to clear up any of the confusion. 

Assumedly, Quinn slept with Puck when he was technically dating Santana.  The writers glossed right over that.  Then, Quinn discovered she was pregnant.  Did Santana keep it a secret, or did she tell Jacob Ben Israel?  Evidence is inconclusive.  (Sure, Santana had something to gain from Quinn’s demotion, but no connection is made that it was she who let the secret slip.  JBI just turned up one day with the scoop - and to those of you who take Santana's loose lips over Brittany's stork-induced pregnancy as evidence, well... I'm unconvinced.  It's really just plot device vs. plot device in that showdown, and I'm more inclined to give weight to the first one.)

After Quinn's pregnancy was out in the open, Santana still sexted Puck and bitched out her erstwhile friend for being naive.  Fast-forward through a wasteland of no interaction, and we land squarely at Quinn’s betrayal in “Audition,” which led nowhere.  We can only assume that Santana purposefully outed Quinn and Finn’s affair in “Silly Love Song” in retaliation to that offense - but with ten episodes spanning the interim and the word “revenge” spilling untethered from Santana’s lips, the connection is anything but clear.

The show has both intentionally and inadvertently constructed Santana as a character who lives in Quinn’s shadow.  She is second in command to Quinn, and can, so far as we’ve seen, only be Head Cheerleader when Quinn isn’t on the squad (and we were witness to none of Santana’s regime).  Each of her male romantic interests has either left her for Quinn, or had Quinn first.  The writers even go so far as to include Quinn in one of Santana’s alcohol-induced hysterics, having Santana weep at Sam about how he  must like Quinn more than her because “she’s blonde and she’s awesome and so smart.”  There’s clearly an interesting dynamic between Quinn and Santana, that speaks heavily to loyalty, power, and envy. 

Consider for a moment, Santana’s assumed silence in the wake of Puck and Quinn’s one night stand.  It stands to reason that she should have had something to say about that, based on her later efforts to protect her “territory” from Mercedes and Lauren.  But the fact that she didn’t begs the question: does this mean that the writers constructed that trait for Santana in later episodes when they had a clearer idea about the character and her purpose, and is therefore writer error?  Or, is there something about Quinn sleeping with Puck that’s different from Mercedes and Lauren dating Puck? 

Conclusions there, based on the constants and the variables, could be interesting: is it that Quinn slept with him and didn’t try and date him?  And what does that say about Santana and any potential issues with commitment and the meaning of dating versus the meaning of sex?  Or, is it because it was Quinn versus Lauren or Mercedes, and what does that say about how Santana views Quinn?  It dances along the line of respect for Quinn, or fear of Quinn, or feeling inferior to Quinn, all of which is frankly rather intriguing, especially in combination.  In general, it’s easy to conclude that Santana buries something of an inferiority complex when it comes to Queen Fabray, and pairing that in conjunction with Santana’s permanent Second-Best status, it fosters a fascinating, and largely unexplored dynamic.

Basically, within the construct of the narrative, Santana is often portrayed to be cut from similar fabric as Quinn - generally manipulative and scheming to meet her needs.  But rarely is the dynamic between the two girls expressed in actual interaction, and when it is they are mostly at odds.  We are therefore left to fill in the blanks and poke at the fairly compelling characteristics of what is unfortunately uncharted territory.

Puck?  Check.  Quinn?  Check.  Okay, now how about Finn?

Santana’s relationship with Finn makes little to no sense based on the fact that the writers wielded her in that plotline mostly to create drama in the Finn-Rachel coupling.  It’s so fitting that Santana’s first solo graced our ears not because of an actual Santana plotline, but rather as a result of her prowling on the main character’s love interest for reasons we didn’t really grasp.  (I can’t take the Madonna-inspired younger-guy-theory seriously because a - it was only weakly used to tie the actions into the theme of the episode, and b - they explicitly stated that Finn is three days younger than Santana, which solidifies it more as a joke than anything else.)

Despite the fact that Santana takes every opportunity to insult Finn (it is exhausting to look at him, after all, even if you can jiggle his man-boobs), the show stubbornly kept Santana floating in Finn’s romantic periphery from “Hell-O” all the way until “Special Education,” when the truth of their tryst finally came out.  (And hey, if you want to talk about Santana, loyalty, and secrets, why did she keep quiet about sleeping with Finn for so long?  Did she just not care?  Was she respecting his wishes?  Was she - gasp - protecting Rachel’s feelings?  Or was she just waiting for the opportune moment to cause destruction with a well-timed truth bomb?  You decide.  The writers didn’t.)

What do the writers want us to understand about Santana’s feelings towards Finn - if anything?  Yes, she brutally insults him, but there’s also the evidence in “Furt” that suggests she feels something towards Finn.  Is it loneliness?  Embarrassed affection?  Self-loathing for being a “temptress?”  Those potential “second choice” feelings bubbling up to the surface?  And then there’s her pointed flirtation with Finn in “Special Education” - was that real, or just to mess with Rachel?  Neither seem to fit entirely, and more than anything the moment reeked of plot device, so that we could feel bad for Rachel and root for Finn to choose her instead.  Conclusions shoot in all directions, and none of them are solidified onscreen because the writers wield Santana as a third party in all storylines, and we hardly know anything from her point of view.

And then there’s Sam.  It’s no coincidence that we perhaps know the most about Santana’s relationship with Sam, since she has been dating him post-Cheerios, in the midst of Glee actually giving some serious screentime to our girl.  But it’s also difficult to deny that the Sam-Santana coupling was borne of Santana meddling in Sam and Quinn’s storyline, under the pretense of making Quinn (and/or Brittany?) jealous. 

Santana strikes up her relationship with Sam in the wake of being single on Valentine’s Day, which perhaps speaks to romantic isolation, but when it comes down to it, the connection is once again left undrawn.  She has stayed with Sam ever since, in exuberant praise (or is it derision?) of his froggy lips, trouty mouth, guppy face, etc.  (Poor Chord Overstreet.)  It’s fairly easy to conclude that Santana doesn’t take Sam very seriously, but it’s also easy to extrapolate that her reasons for dating him could be, and perhaps are, but once again are left unexplored.

There comes a point where Santana has to be at the center of her own universe, and not a guest star or featured player in everyone else’s.  And while we may finally be working towards that goal, there’s still 36 episodes where Santana is an insult machine, an emotional wrecking ball, and a complete and utter mystery when it comes to relationships.




  1. I too figured that Santana claimed ownership over Puck but I never did make that connection that after the news that he was the father, she never competed with Quinn for him. Although, in Hairography she did lay claim when she didn't know he was the father (I assume Mercedes hadn't told them yet). However, if that's the case, that she does have an inferiority complex in her relationship with Quinn, what does that say about her and Rachel? She didn't try to take Puck away from Rachel in Mash-Up, but it looked like her and Matt had something going on at the time, so maybe she didn't feel like making a claim.

    That look in Furt! I refuse to believe that she's hung up on Finn not only because she's in love with Brit but also because I respect her too much to think she had so little taste. I always assumed that look was due to the fact that the episode was all about marriage and Kurt. I agree, Santana wants to be noticed, wants to be loved and she can't be honest with herself about Brit and she and Puck can't trust each other enough to be that open with each other. In the same episode as she claims to be dating Puck, Quinn points out "you're getting naked with Puckerman." She was isolated from everyone else. Wow, I've really gone off on a tangent, sorry about that. I think this whole character analysis is awesome and well thought out.

  2. Santana and Puck's relationship is hard to pin down. One of the probably-unintentional trend is that she's literally the only girl he's been with on the show (unless you count Brit, but that was just a past-tense reference) who he's never sung to (and when he does that, she always has a negative reaction to it, all the way back to "Sweet Caroline", where she and Finn were the only ones who figured out what the song was really about).

    I find it funny that the two character relationships that were the earliest in Santana's character-sketch, as Quinn's best friend and Puck's girlfriend, are two of the show's least-defined. Quinn and Santana really seem like close friends in the first few episodes, but this tapers off pretty quickly as her character starts to take shape and becomes adversarial.

    Regarding Santana's staring at Finn in "Furt", it makes the most sense to me as her being jealous of a real relationship. That's a recurring element from "Duets" to "Sexy", in really small things, that comes to me like rather inadequate foreshadowing.

  3. It's interesting that one of the things Santana listed to Sam about Quinn was the fact that she was blond. It's something Rachel always points out - Quinn's conventional beauty and the perks it gives her. Not only is Santana not blond, she's also not white in a town where brown skin seems to be an extreme rarity. There's probably been an adoration lavished on Quinn from the beginning that Santana knew would never get lavished on her for that reason in particular, in the same way that Rachel did. I think Santana feels like she can be hot but she can't be beautiful because beautiful equals Quinn and she'll never be Quinn. Beautiful girls have boyfriends who'll commit to them and put them first; hot girls get fuck buddies. Beautiful girls get to be loved; hot girls get to be sexy. It's interesting because you could put Rachel's line about girls like her never getting chosen over girls like Quinn in Santana's mouth as well, just for a different reason. I've always sort of been fascinated by the way Santana and Rachel are these foils for each other.

  4. I'm assuming there will be a part specifically about Brittany. I'd dare say that Santana's relationship with Brittany has always been Santana's touchstone.

  5. Santana's relationships have been all over the place because she's more into what the relationships mean in theory than she is in the people involved. Brittany is the only person who she has been honestly drawn to, IMO.

    Underneath her tough exterior, I think Santana is quite insecure and struggles with feeling inadequate. It's why she reacts so violently to being left out and being belittled in front of others. It's why she creates her whole 'wrong side of the tracks' persona, when it's obvious that she comes from money. It's why she feels the need to get a boob job to be 'noticed' more, why started trying to hit on anything with a penis the moment she found herself single and she no longer had Puck to serve as her 'man' whenever she wanted him to.

    Brittany's relationship with Artie probably had her feeling left out and wanting a relationship, no matter who it was with. Also, she couldn't possibly be without a date on Valentine's day because only losers don't have date's on VD, and she can't let herself be that person.

    Her relationship with Puck, which some might consider the 'wild card', the one relationship with a boy that's difficult to figure out, to me was nothing more than their way of highlighting how possessive and vicious Santana could be. There is not once scene when those two seemed to respect the other in the least. Hell, I think she seemed more tender with Finn on Furt when she's helping him with the tie (before they bring up Rachel and her bitchy mask is back on) than she was ever with Puck.

    This season, part of the overall storyline with Santana has been, IMO, her loneliness and isolation now that she's lost her bff/lover/LI to Artie. Now she's longing for a real relationship rather than just being somebody's booty call. I mean, Sam is the first official BF she's had and not only do they not have nothing in common, she seems to barely like him, so she's pretty desperate. No one would suspect that she's gay, she wouldn't need a beard, so I don't think she sees Sam as her beard.

    In the end, it's difficult to understand Santana's relationships when, until now, she's been there to be bitchy and move the main storylines along when needed. I mean, her taking Finn's virginity because of the Sue/Maddona thing was ridiculous and made no sense since neither she nor Finn made it wildly known, and therefore neither her popularity nor status on Sue's eyes were improved. And that's to just give ONE example.

  6. Once again, thanks for the great analysis. Santana is definitely a difficult nut to crack.

    One of the most interesting things about Santana is that she only really seems happy when she is performing with glee club and when she is with Brittany.

    I've always thought Santana's possessiveness over Puck had more to do with the stereotypes that Glee loves to play with than with any actual feelings of jealousy. Santana is the "hot-blooded Latina," a stereotype that usually means a sexually passionate, possessive woman with a bitchy temper. Santana would seem to fit the bill, although, like all Glee characters, she also transcends the stereotype.

    I've also wondered if Santana didn't go after Rachel in "Mash-Up" because she didn't consider "loser" Rachel to be much of a threat.

    In SLS, Santana outed Finn and Quinn as cheaters in revenge for their primary involvement in the entire glee club calling Santana out for being a bitch. Finn started it by calling her out for always tearing other people down and meddling in their business. Just when Santana went on the attack about Puck and Lauren, it was Quinn who redirected the conversation back to Santana's bitchiness, which led to the whole glee club ganging up on Santana.

    During the course of SLS, Santana attempted revenge on everyone who jumped into the fray except Rachel and Tina. She presented Puck with a receipt for jewelry, attempting to make him literally pay. She picked a fight with Lauren, who defeated her. She paid back Finn and Quinn in full with mono and public exposure.

    The problem with Santana's relationships to Finn and Sam is that she doesn't seem to really like them very much. Santana has dealt out two of the most hilariously insulting propositions in the history of sex. At least she thinks Sam is cute; she doesn't even seem to find Finn attractive. That is why the scene at the wedding in "Furt" seemed to be more about getting back at Rachel for excluding her from the "glee girls with boyfriends" meeting than any genuine desire for a relationship with Finn, imo.

    I'm looking forward to reading more about what makes Santana tick.

  7. LOL, I love your analysis...but all it really shows to me is how bad the writers really are. Naya has managed to create the aura of complexity out of nothing, and still it's doubtful whether or not the writers will really capitalize on one of their best actors and one of their best characters. smh.

  8. This is why I choose to mostly ignore all these random relationships Santana had before hand in her "dark ages" of Season 1 and mostly Season 2. Meta-wise, the writers were just using her as a villain whore and a device. She wasn't a person. Her emotions weren't taken into account.

    Story-wise, in hindsight, Santana was probably hooking up to feel straight and suppress her homoerotic feelings - which she probably thought would jeopardize her battle to the top of the Cheerio pyramid. This must have caused her incredible pain, all of which has occurred off-screen. Of course this is all conjecture.

    The writers maybe need to do a whole episode on Santana, maybe with flashbacks and clear all of this up once and for all - that is if Santana is truly important to them as a character and not just their token gay girl.


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