My favorite character on “Glee” (8 p.m. Central Tuesdays on Fox) is Brittany. Normally, liking an extreme background character on a show puts you in a class of your own, but when you mention you like Brittany, you’re likely to hear “I know, right? She’s stealing the show.”
Just look on YouTube to check out the fan-made videos devoted to Brittany and the actress who plays her, Heather Morris. “Glee” fans have embraced this stereotypical dumb blonde.
The explanation is twofold, I think. First, there is no other character on TV who purely fits this stereotype, so she’s one of a kind. Second, we are jealous of the dumb blonde, for whom life seems to be so easy; the contrast is especially played up on “Glee,” on which all the other characters are working through various neuroses.
It’s hard to have a dumb blonde on TV. The medium necessitates character growth, so characters become more complex with time, even if they start off simplistic. Joss Whedon’s Buffy flipped the script: She appears to be the standard blonde victim until she stakes the vampire in the first episode, and it all grows from there. Phoebe on “Friends” is more of a weird blonde than a dumb blonde.
Bianca on “10 Things I Hate About You” is the dumb blonde only in comparison to her sister, Kat, who is the book-smart brunette. But Bianca is actually very street-smart. The closest to a dumb blonde on that show is Bianca’s boyfriend, Joey, but even he doesn’t totally fit the bill because we see how focused he is on his career goal of becoming a model.
The best dumb blonde on TV right now is actually Erin from “The Office.” The only problem is that she is a brunette. If Erin gets eliminated on that technicality, then Brittany is in a league of her own.
The second reason we love Brittany is that none of us are anything like her. If we were like her, we wouldn’t be watching “Glee” in the first place because we wouldn’t know how to turn on our TV or computer. I’d wager that most “Glee” viewers find a kinship with Rachel, Finn, Puck, Quinn, Kurt, Mercedes, Will or Emma — the main characters, all of whom have some kind of psychological damage.
But on some level, we all want life to be as simple as Brittany’s. She just does what she likes. In her case, it happens to be cheerleading, dancing and having sex with the whole school, but really it could be anything. And although she is one of the popular kids, that’s only by happenstance. Joining the Glee Club was obviously not a move to solidify her popularity; she did it because she was told to do it, and she went along with it. The decision was made for her by Sue Sylvester — not that Brittany has ever stressed over a decision in her whole life — and it has, of course, worked out.
Brittany is still not used much on the show. Her biggest chunk of screentime came when she went on a date with Kurt. (He was the only guy in school she hadn’t had sex with, so she told him to let her know if he wanted to “tap this” so she could bat 1.000). But even then, she was just a placeholder, a convenient character for the blatantly gay Kurt to use while he was working through his issues.
And when Brittany and Santana dated Finn as a duo, it was Santana who did most of the talking.
Initially, I suspect Brittany was added to the glee club to fill out the background dancer lineup. (Indeed, Morris is a dancer; check her out in a live performance of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” on YouTube.) Later, they started using her for dumb-blonde one-liners, such as:
Will: “Take it away, Brittany.” Brittany: “Take what away?”
“I think my cat’s been reading my diary.”
“Sometimes I forget my middle name.”
And now the writers combine the two Brittany roles. For a recent MC Hammer song, they needed Brittany to fill out the dancing, and they used her dim-wittedness to set up her involvement. She just happened to be sitting in the music room, stoned from overdosing on cold medicine, as Kurt and Mercedes plotted their moves.
Morris is a background dancer (for now), yet she has the charisma of a lead, and I think that’s a third reason for the popularity of the character: We like the actress. Watch Morris in the Beyonce clip, and you’ll quickly forget that you’re supposed to be watching Beyonce. The same thing happens on “Glee.” She’s not necessarily the best-looking girl in the cast (strictly speaking, Quinn is hotter and Rachel is cuter), yet my eye keeps going back to her. Nor does she have much of a personality; although she sometimes delivers pointed (but not mean-spirited) insults in the vein of Anya on “Buffy,” she seems to be a nice person. This is partly because evil requires brainpower, but still, she’s nice.
Because her simplicity is tied in with her lovability, the “Glee” writers are probably a bit scared to give her more of a role. But this has always been a daring show, and they should dare to make Brittany a star. “The Office” has shown with Erin that you can make the “dumb blonde” complex without sacrificing the simplicity that we love about them, and the “Glee” team should challenge themselves to do the same.
Start by doing some Brittany-themed episodes, and — if it makes sense story-wise — maybe even give her a spin-off show at some point.