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Continuity vs. Change

Glee attracts a fair amount of censure for continuity failures. Some is deserved but much isn’t and crying “Inconsistency!” has become a lazy criticism adopted without reference to context. A couple of gifs of late have led me to consider some examples where “inconsistency” is not a mistake, it’s a tool.

Finn and Coffee

I doubt my experience of coffee (or alcohol actually) is uncommon. As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to have coffee except on very rare occasions where it was very milky and sweetened. Coffee was for grown ups. I yearned for the time when I could drink coffee whenever I wanted. The first time I had coffee, I found it bitter and I could easily have decided then and there that it would be my last, at least without lots of milk and sugar. I persevered because not to would mean I’d failed in an important rite of passage in the rush to do grown up things. So, watching Finn, we see he has his first coffee in the staff room. It’s black. He hates it the first time and spits it out. A few episodes later, he is drinking black coffee again. He’s still not really enjoying it, but he doesn’t spit it out. He perseveres because it’s symbolic of his rightful place in the staff room, in the world of grown ups. I thought it was subtle and beautifully done.

Rachel and Nudity

At 14/15, Rachel declared she would never do nudity. We don’t yet know the full context of why, according to the previews, she has changed her mind. I’ve seen comments and gifs implying that this is another case of the writers being forgetful. It’s possible but I seriously doubt it for a number of reasons. Firstly, Rachel’s whole story this season is how she is trying to rush headlong into adulthood and her destiny. This is Bravado Rachel, a creation of her own making that she is using to cope with change. Her decisions are tempered less by consideration or wisdom than by urgency to be what she is currently imagining she needs to be to be “New York.” This turnabout is evidence of this. Secondly, like Finn and the coffee, appearing nude is one of those taboos of childhood. Doing nudity is Rachel proving to herself that she is not just mature enough to make the judgement, but that she is embracing what it is to be in the position to make it, to be an adult. Finally, life decisions made at 14 are rarely immutable. Rachel already reneged on the sex schedule she planned for herself at that age by sleeping with Finn. She did it because her original plan did not cater for either the value of understanding sex for a role (her first reason) or falling in love (her ultimate reason). In other words, life enforces change on the pristine but tiny world view of the adolescent.

Finn’s Grades at Graduation

I’ve seen some comment on Finn’s shifting grades. It comes, if I recall correctly, from two contrary references this season. Finn told Ryder that being in the Glee Club helped him with his schoolwork to the extent that he graduated with a B+ average, having been a C- student in his sophomore year. Later, Sue alleges that Finn barely graduated. Superficially, an error. However, Sue exaggerates and her purpose is to stop Finn taking over the Glee Club for Will. Sue, it is well established, does not speak the truth when trying to get her own way. She’s particularly bad at details. She often speaks greater truths instead. On Finn’s grades, which Finn is in a better place to know than she is, notice Finn’s face when Sue declares he barely graduated. He has that momentary confused look he gets when something is said that’s wrong but he gets no chance to process it because Sue barrels on. By the time Sue gets to calling him “Bloaty the Gravy Clown,” he’s gone from confused to gesturing at Figgens, “she’s full of shit,” which, of course, she is. This isn’t a continuity error. This is Sue refusing to mark the change that Finn has undergone and the good the Glee Club has done. Sue is holding Finn to the C- student he was. Even more interesting is that Sue’s attitude to Finn this year seems to reflect the psyche of Finn-haters in fandom. Whether that’s intentional or not, I don’t know.

NB: Showthemwhat, proof positive of how valuable it is to play close attention to this show, has pointed out that the error isn’t with Sue. It’s that in the break-up scene Finn himself declared to Rachel that he  barely graduated high school so that as against what he told Ryder makes it either an honest to God cock up or evidence that he lied to Ryder to get him to join the Glee Club. Hmm. Of course, that would reflect how Schue got Finn into Glee Club…

I’m sure somewhere there’s a list of all of Glee’s continuity errors and I’d be interested to see one. I’m curious to know if other infamous errors are truly errors or can be seen in a different light by writers who do actually, by and large, know what they are doing.