Glee And Women: Quinn Fabray:
When it comes to the character of Quinn I have to ask: Is it worse to simply be shoved into the background with no development, or to have your character development stilted/regressed – Or is it worse to have some of the best character development the show has ever produced, simply so that it can constantly be stripped away for the convenience of the plot?
Quinn Fabray has had some very touching and well thought out character development, she’s grown, learned from her mistakes and she’s proven to both herself and others that she’s not simply a one-dimensional waste of screen time – Unfortunately she’s had to do this four separate times over the course of the past three seasons, because as it turns out, Quinn’s the show’s main human prop and punching bag.
When we were introduced to her in season 1, Quinn was one of Glee’s three main villains, alongside Santana and Sue. She was presented as being a bully, mean spirited, self-absorbed, and with her pregnancy, a deceitful and cruel cheater. Quinn wasn’t meant to be a sympathetic character, she was meant to be an antagonist, someone the glee clubbers had to overcome, and were it not for the writers’ desperate attempts to draw in viewers I doubt her pregnancy would have ever been put to screen. But it was, and as a result Quinn became more than just an antagonist – She became a three dimensional character, who was forced to grow and mature because of her mistakes, and unlike most of the characters on the show, she was forced to suffer through punishments for her mistakes: For cheating she became pregnant, and for becoming pregnant she got kicked out of her home and she lost her reputation, and so on.
As time went on Quinn learned what it was like to be one of the glee clubbers she used to bully, and as a result she grew – For example: She extended her compassion, and advice learned from her own personal experiences, to Mercedes, in order to help her out of a situation she knew all too well. She stood up to Sue and ensured that the glee club got a photo in the school’s yearbook, she learned to not care about what others thought about her, and that popularity and reputation, especially in high school, wasn’t all that important.
This was somewhat regressed at the beginning of season 2, with Quinn suddenly once again caring about popularity and reputation, but to be fair it was to a lesser extent, and the rest of her development stayed in place. We even touched upon her unwillingness to open herself up emotionally to others, because of her past experiences with relationships, romantic and otherwise, something which would be carried and built upon throughout the rest of the season. Sadly this development didn’t stay in place for long, as the writers decided to sacrifice Quinn’s development simply for a temporary contrived roadblock for Finn and Rachel’s relationship.
And here is where Quinn’s character really fell apart for good, and why so many viewers now jokingly state that Quinn has Schizophrenia. All of Quinn’s development was happily thrown out of the window, and this new version of her was a very warped interpretation of who she was at the beginning of season 1: Suddenly she was seemingly obsessed with being the most popular person, alongside Finn, at school, she relished being head cheerleader and wanted the title of Prom Queen to go along with it. In addition all her previous friendships were cut off, leaving her only with Finn and Rachel to interact with, the latter making the least sense, as the writers flip-flopped about whether the two were meant to be friends or enemies, often changing the tone of their relationship within the same episode.
Come season’s end Quinn was dumped for Rachel, none of her former friendships had been mended, and she seemed in no better a place than she had been before, and with none of the growth she had in season 1 and the beginning of season 2 intact, making her regression and character assassination even more difficult to understand or justify.
By the beginning of season 3 Quinn had gotten so far away from who she originally was and who she developed into that the writers might as well of named her something else, afterall she was a completely different character now. Suddenly Quinn suffered some sort of breakdown, leading to her cutting off ties with her former friends, joining a gang, taking up smoking and dating a forty year old skateboarder – This could be explained by the fact she lost her popularity by quitting the Cheerios, lost Finn to Rachel, and because she lost all her former friendships and development because the writers apparently didn’t care anymore, but later on this breakdown seems to be tied into Beth re-entering her life, which makes her ‘breakdown’ and ‘reform’ muddled and unclear as far as motivations go. In addition we also had Quinn reveal she had been granted acceptance into Yale, which seemed fairly contrived seeing as how only a few weeks prior she was a mental and emotional mess, willing to throw her life away and rot in Lima, while also under the delusion she could steal her child back from Shelby, one must wonder when she found the time to fully get her act together, enough to get over her previous declarations that her life was meaningless and that she’d be stuck in Lima the rest of her life, so that she could apply to Yale and consider it a serious option.
But all seemed like it might finally be right with Quinn, yet again she was growing as a character, learning from her mistakes and attempting to get back to the person she once was, though which version is anyone’s guess – But of course, no such luck. Instead Quinn was mowed down by a truck and promptly placed into a wheelchair, the setup seemingly so that she could continue to grow as a character, but seeing as how this plot thread was almost never focused on and since the message was simply whittled down to ‘I’m going to dance at Nationals and then go to Yale!’, the entire plotline just becomes yet another contrivance that didn’t need to happen. In the grand scheme of things the plotline amounted to nothing, in fact it once again hurt Quinn’s character growth by regressing her back to a popularity obsessed, manipulator, and it yet again only served to demonise Quinn so that she could be punished by gaining nothing, and to ultimately create backlash against the character in the hopes of turning her back into a hated character, rather than one people sympathised with – This tactic didn’t work, there was backlash alright, but it was aimed solely at the writers, not Quinn’s character.
And finally, when all was said and done, Quinn suddenly became best friends with Santana and Brittany again, despite there being no real build up and the fact that two seasons worth of poor treatment leaves you wondering why Quinn would wish to be friends with them, she was also sadly paired as best friends with Rachel, while her friendships with Mercedes, Kurt, Lauren, Artie and Joe were left abandoned and untouched upon, for some inexplicable reason the writers also dragged her relationship with Puck back for one kiss, despite three seasons worth of making it clear in all respects that the two didn’t truly have feelings for each other and that they weren’t getting together – And this is where the character of Quinn was left, half-baked friendships at the ready, while those built up were abandoned, a possible reunion with Puck set up for the future, off to Yale and seemingly stuck being Rachel’s punching bag and human prop for seasons to come.
Quinn’s character is a mess, she’s been gifted with some of the show’s best development, only to then have it sacrificed for the convenience of the plot, as the writers seemingly have no idea what to do with her or her development. It’s always a bit of a depressing venture to discuss the character of Quinn, where she started, how she grew and finally how her character went downhill in some of the most moronic and pointless ways possible – The character of Quinn has several different versions, and depending on which one you choose to acknowledge your perception of her will change drastically, but sadly it’s the only way to look at her character, because the different versions of her character do not work together, it is impossible to look at Quinn as every version of her because every version of her is at odds with the rest, there will never be one way of looking at or accepting Quinn, because there are too many contradicting versions of her to work as one whole.
I think of all the wasted potential on Glee, Quinn’s was the worst. Not just for what we saw on screen, but for what we didn’t. Especially in regards to her backstory.
Quinn came from an oppressively religious household that stressed perfection. Her parents saw no problems with allowing their preteen daughter to get plastic surgery (2x18). To lose weight she went on a “crazy diet” (2x18) that caused her to hallucinate and pass out (1x16). Her parents were oblivious to her probable eating disorder and when she quit the Cheerios her mother chided her for gaining weight (1x10), giving us a hint to what their interactions were like before she lost all that weight. In middle school she hated herself so much she literally became a different person by changing her name (2x18). When her father found out she was pregnant he kicked her out of the house while her mother did nothing. When Mrs. Fabray finally did take her daughter in, it was not because she felt that kicking your pregnant sixteen year old daughter out of the house is wrong. No, it’s because her husband was cheating on her. That gives us an idea of how self involved Mrs. Fabray is.
In some ways, the weird choices the writers made with Quinn’s character in season three made sense, as did her relentless pursuit for prom queen. She came from a material based background where she constantly struggled to be the perfect daughter. As such, she assumed that if she just had that one thing, it’d make everything all better- be that thing a tiara or a beautiful daughter. Of course, the execution of the Beth plot was god awful.
Her rebellion made sense too. All her life, Quinn has followed the rules and the one time she broke them by sleeping with Puck, her entire life was ruined by it- she lost Finn, her popularity, her moral ground and her home. Cheating on Sam with Finn produced similarly bad results, although to a lesser degree- Sam dumped her for her rival and Finn eventually dumped her for Rachel. I understood her acting out because clearly following the rules just set her up for failure. So she’d break them all, but this time it’d be deliberate. She was sick of being who everyone expected her to be, so she decided to screw them all and become who everyone feared she’d be.
The problem is, the writers create these plots and then forget all about them, instead deciding to create a new one which they’d soon forget about as well. Quinn guarding herself in early season two gave way to giving her a romance with Sam. That was soon discarded so she could be a pawn in the Finchel game. Then we had her quest for prom queen, but one episode after she loses that’s forgotten and we have her scheming to get Glee Club disqualified from Nationals.
In season three we have her rebel, only for her to pretend to drop her rebellion in order to get Beth back. We never see how or why her pretending to be who she used to be became her just plain becoming who she used to be.
So now we have her going psycho trying to get Beth back. But one quick talk with Sam in 3x08 and she’s all better and applying to Yale.
In 3x11 we learn that she wants to leave for New Haven without any romantic attachments. That is totally forgotten when they need to give a plot to The Glee Project winner. However, despite dating Shoeless Joe, she makes out with Puck so he can pass a test. The fact that she has once again cheated on her boyfriend is never mentioned.
She gets into a car accident and must learn to accept that she may never walk again- only for her to quickly get better to the point that she can dance at Nationals with no issues. We see a building of a relationship with her and Artie, which had an interesting dynamic where Artie seemed to be angry when she started to get better. Again, totally discarded.
Not to mention the ignoring of Quinn’s rivalry with Santana and friendship with Mercedes and Kurt.
The Glee writers are like puppies with shiny objects when it comes to Quinn story lines.