“You’re my best friend”: On Brittana and the Significance of Pinky-Linking
This rant comes to you in response to a question from the lovely Snorty, who Asks:
"Hey JJ!!! I was looking at a graphic someone created earlier this morning and I noticed that Santana was always the one that initiated the pinky-linking. Do you recall if it’s always like this on the show? And, has anyone discussed the significance of it?”
Of course, like most Brittana shippers, I have a lot of pinky-linking feelings.
We first see Brittana link pinky fingers in episode 1x14 “Hell-O,” and subsequent to that we see them repeat the behavior in episodes 1x15 “The Power of Madonna,” 1x16 “Home,” 1x21 “Funk,” 1x22 “Journey,” 2x04 “Duets,” 2x05 “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” and 2x22 “New York.” In all of the aforementioned instances, whenever we actually see the pinky-linking initiated, Santana is the one to do so, while Brittany acts receptive to it.
As I’ve stated elsewhere, the Brittana pinky-link is a gesture for which only Brittana know the context; we don’t know when Brittany and Santana started doing it, what it means to them beyond the obvious cue, or if they do it anywhere outside of school. Accordingly, until RIB give us the Brittana backstory, we may never know the full significance of the pinky-link.
Nevertheless, as Brittanalysts, the pinky-link is of the utmost interest to us, as it is one of those “little Brittana things” that make our OTP what it is.
Translation? “Oh dear Cheesus! They’re pinky-linking! How do I even? A;SFKDSJF;DSKFJ!”
Thankfully, though we have yet to learn the origins of the gesture, I think there’s still plenty we can derive about its meaning from textual evidence on the show.
In this analysis, I intend to examine the overall significance of the pinky-linking gesture and its basic modes, then investigate possible reasons why Santana always seems to be the one to initiate it, and finally do an in-depth reading of the pinky-link from the Heart Locker scene of episode 2x22.
Feelings come after the cut.
"You’re my best friend": On Pinky-Linking and the Brittana Bond
It is perhaps important to note that for all the times we’ve seen Brittana link pinkies on the show, we have never once heard them discuss the gesture aloud. Santana never verbally asks Brittany to link pinkies—she simply extends her hand, pinky finger out, and Brittany quietly accepts it.
And why is this important?
Because this lack of discussion surrounding the behavior may suggest that the pinky-linking, like so many Brittana gestures, acts as a unit of expression which stands in place for something else (see here).
Indeed, I would postulate that, just as Brittany continually telling Santana variations of “I’m so proud of you” and “I believe in you” during the Back Six of Season Two actually means “I love you,” the pinky-link means much more than just “Let’s go, BrittBritt” when Santana initiates it.
The question is, what does it mean?
The fact that Brittana never explicitly reveal the meaning of the pinky-linking through dialogue may insinuate that the gesture carries a meaning that a) is preestablished or historical between Brittana; and/or b) extends beyond what Brittana can or would willingly say to one another in public; and/or c) essentially goes without saying, because it is inherently obvious.
It is perhaps significant, then, that the pinky-linking gesture disappears not only during the so-called “Brittana Drought” between 2x08 and 2x14, which coincides directly with the heyday of Bartie, but also between episodes 2x15 and 2x21, following the Hurt Locker confession, only reappearing within the Brittana gestural lexicon at the very moment when the girls reaffirm their best friendship, as this timeline may point towards a subtextual meaning behind the gesture.
Of course, it is important to note that not all linked-pinky moments are created equally with Brittana; the linked pinkies during Mr. Schue’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” performance in 1x22 could well mean something very different than the Heart Locker linked pinkies of 2x22—and I would argue that they do.
According to my observations, the Brittana pinky-linking behavior occurs within two primary contexts, or in two primary modes, and it is important that we delineate between these modes before we continue our discussion. The modes manifest as follows:
1. as mobile pinky-linking, per when the girls link fingers as they walk somewhere, as, for example, we observe twice during “Hell-O” and once at the end of “Duets,”
2. as stationary pinky-linking, per when the girls link fingers when they’re sitting somewhere together, usually in the choir room during a performance, as, for example, we observe during “Home.”
I would argue that these two different modes of gestural behavior carry two different connotations within the Brittana lexicon, if you will.
In terms of the mobile pinky-linking, Santana often initiates the behavior prior to Brittana doing something in tandem or as a unit, as is the case during “Hell-O,” when Brittana seduce Finn Hudson as a team. Santana also tends to initiate this version of the behavior following glee club rehearsals or team meetings, when she and Brittany exit the choir room together, as is the case in “The Power of Madonna.”
In terms of the stationary pinky-linking, Santana tends to initiate the behavior during affecting glee club performances, as we see in “Home” and “Journey.” Other forms of physical affection, such as snuggling, often accompany stationary Brittana pinky-linking behavior.
Now let us return to the fact that we don’t see any instances of pinky-linking, mobile or stationary, between episode 2x08 and episode 2x22.
This drought period of pinky-linking, of course, coincides with two overreaching periods of Brittana disequilibrium, as we might call them, the first occurring between the episodes “Furt” and “Silly Love Songs,” during which time Brittana appear distant from one another and Brittany dates Artie, and the second between that same period and the season finale, “New York,” during which time Brittana exist in an undefined relational state, particularly in the wake of Santana’s Hurt Locker confession and Brittany’s subsequent rejection of Santana’s original offer to her (i.e., to have a secret, though monogamous, relationship; see here).
Interestingly, the pattern that these two pinky-linking drought periods follow on a larger scale mirrors a smaller Brittana pinky-linking drought, one that occurs within the context of a single episode—i.e., “Duets.”
Of course, there are many Glee episodes throughout all of Season One and early Season Two that don’t feature any Brittana pinky-linking in which Brittana nevertheless exist “on good terms,” so to speak, so it’s not as though we can say that any time Brittana don’t link pinkies when they could, it indicates tension in their relationship.
Indeed, it would be foolish to do so, considering that a majority of Glee episodes lack pinky-linking, but all the same feature happy, friendly, best friendly, soulmates Brittana.
Nevertheless, in the case of “Duets,” which does feature tension in the Brittana relationship, the lack of pinky-linking throughout the first two-thirds of the episode seems significant, and particularly when we consider that the pinky-linking behavior reemerges just as Brittana “mend their relationship” following the initial Bartie break up near the end of the episode.
Elsewhere, I have discussed the fact that Brittana’s primary “love language” is that of physical touch. In that same analysis, I established that Santana will only allow persons with whom she feels comfortable to physically touch her—i.e., that she reserves the privilege of physical touch for Brittany prior to the events of the Hurt Locker.
It is therefore important to note that, after their disagreement during the Sweet Lady Kisses scene, not only does Brittany retract “Santana’s touching privileges, if only momentarily, when Santana rejects her attempts to establish a deeper level of intimacy” between them, but that Santana honors that retraction and does not attempt to initiate any physical touch between herself and Brittany, instead resorting to relationally aggressive tactics to break up Brittany and Artie until she restores the old Brittana status quo.
Only after the Bartie relationship fails do we see Brittana link pinkies again as they exit the choir room.
It is also important to note that we see Santana mimic Brittany’s behavior during “Duets”—i.e., disallowing physical touch in the wake of a rejection—following the events of the Hurt Locker scene in “Sexy,” as this indicates to us that the act of revoking touch privileges carries a common meaning between the two girls (i.e., something like, “You rejected my attempts at intimacy and now it hurts me to be around you. We express our love and trust through touch, and right now I don’t feel safe doing expressing my feelings that way anymore. Stay away from me until I feel like we can be good to one another again”).
It is undoubtedly significant that, following this one “tense” episode, Brittana resume their best friendship not only as usual, but perhaps even with more enthusiasm than usual, if we can take the increase in their public displays of affection—i.e., their twitterpated dancing during “Hot Patootie,” the adorable spying trip during “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me,” the candy sharing in “Never Been Kissed,” their flirty interaction during “Forget You,” etc.—to mean anything.
Because this return to and improvement upon form indicates that Brittana have in every sense “kissed and made up” (i.e., that whatever distance they felt from each other following the Sweet Lady Kisses debacle is over and forgotten and that, accordingly, they have resumed their physical relationship), at least until Brittany starts dating Artie again in 2x08.
From this series of events, we can derive the following pattern in terms of pinky-linking, namely: Brittana will link pinkies when their relationship is stable, but when their relationship exists in a state of disequilibrium, and particularly when that disequilibrium stems from one of the girls rejecting the other on some level, the pinky-linking behavior dissipates. The behavior will only resume when and if Brittana repair their relationship, restoring equilibrium, when both girls feel comfortable with the status quo.
So what does this tell us about the meaning of the pinky-linking behavior?
Basically, that it ties in very closely with trust and commitment in the Brittana relationship, and particularly that it relates to how Brittany and Santana communicate their level of comfort with one another to each other.
And what about the two “modes” we derived for this behavior, then?
Above, I mentioned that I think the two modes carry separate, though undoubtedly related, connotations within the Brittana gestural lexicon. Through further examining the behaviors surrounding these two divergent types of pinky-linking, I think we can perhaps isolate the respective meanings behind these differing modes.
First, let us look at where we observe each mode in action.
Examples of mobile pinky-linking:
* The first-ever instance of pinky-linking we see from Brittana occurs in “Hell-O,” when we see Brittana stand up, in unison, and walk over to Finn Hudson to ask him on a date to BreadStiX, as part of their mission from Sue Sylvester. It is worth noting that Brittana do everything as a unit in this scene, including talking to Finn in “stereo,” as it were.
* Later in that same episode, we see Brittana approach Finn at his locker, fingers still intwined. Once again, Brittana work as a single unit, though, in this case, Brittany allows Santana to do all the talking.
* In “The Power of Madonna,” we see Brittana link pinkies following the glee girls’ conversation with Rachel concerning the topic of sex. Again, perhaps significantly, throughout the “girl talk” in the scene, Brittana act as a single entity, responding to Rachel with mirror answers, in addition to exhibiting equivalent levels of spite and relational aggression towards Rachel.
* In “Home,” Brittana link pinkies as the exit the choir room following Will’s announcement that the club will have to find another practice space.
* In “Funk,” we see Brittana link pinkies after Mr. Schue extends New Directions their funk assignment for the week.
* We also see Brittana walking with pinkies linked later in that episode, when they arrive at Mr. Schue’s apartment as part of Sue’s entourage.
* In “Duets,” Brittana slip out of the choir room following Quam’s win in the duets competition, pinky-in-pinky and wearing matching backpacks.
* Of course, in “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” we see what is perhaps the most famous instance of Brittana pinky-linking of all, namely the hallway romp during “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me,” when the gesture actually becomes part of their choreography for the song.
* Finally, in “New York,” we witness our first instance of pinky-linking, mobile or otherwise, in seventeen episodes, when Santana extends her pinky to Brittany following their Heart Locker conversation and Brittany accepts the gesture before the two girls walk off to the choir room together, fingers interlaced.
Significance of mobile pinky-linking:
One common denominator between all the aforementioned instances of mobile pinky-linking seems to be that Brittana tend to initiate the gesture at times when they are “in sync” or working as a unit, as is the case when they tag-team seduce Finn Hudson, spy on Mr. Schue and Emma during “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” and even when they finally get on the same page about the nature of their commitment to one another during their friendship-affirming conversation at the Heart Locker.
Nevertheless, I would argue that “teamwork” or “Brittana solidarity” aren’t the only things that the mobile pinky-linking behavior signifies.
Though perhaps not obvious at first glance, I note an underlying or hidden denominator with all of these aforementioned situations: namely, stress to either Santana and Brittany as individuals or—more especially—stress on the Brittana relationship.
And here’s how I figure:
[Forgive me a long digression here; I assure you I do have a point to make with it!]
In a previous analysis, I noted a discrepancy between the two instances in which Santana attempts to seduce Finn Hudson, the first during “Hell-O,” where she works in tandem with Brittany and fails in her objective, and the second during “The Power of Madonna,” where she acts on advice from Brittany, but nevertheless works alone and succeeds in her objective,
if the travesty that happens in that cheap motel room can indeed count as “success” by any measure.
In that analysis, I attributed the discrepancy to a difference in desire, essentially boiling it down to the fact that, in the first case, Santana didn’t really want to succeed in seducing Finn, outside of feeling obligated to comply with Sue’s orders, whereas in the second case, Santana actually had a personal stake in her success, and therefore worked harder, using her highly honed people-reading skills, in order to get Finn into bed.
Previously, I attributed this difference mostly to the fact that, in “The Power of Madonna,” Santana stands to make positive personal gains from sleeping with Finn—i.e., she will get to keep her spot on the squad and become Head Cheerio in Quinn’s absence—whereas in “Hell-O,” she stands only to avoid negative consequences for her failure—i.e., if she successfully breaks up Finchel, Sue won’t yell at her. And since Jesse’s transfer to McKinley effectively functions as a deus ex machina solution to the whole situation anyway, Santana ultimately doesn’t really have to worry about incurring Sue’s wrath.
While I would say that my previous reading of the situation still stands, I think we nevertheless have reason to take a deeper look at Santana’s behavior and motivations here in order to better understand their significance.
Since I first analyzed this series of events (i.e., the two disparate seduction attempts in “Hell-O” and “The Power of Madonna,” respectively), both Roch and I have described a phenomenon in which Brittany essentially “plays stupid” in order to deflect criticism against herself, particularly when she missteps or has reason to believe that someone will find fault with her actions (see here and here).
We see this behavior at play during “Sectionals,” when Brittany fesses up to her teammates about slipping the set list to Sue, but insists that she didn’t understand the implications of doing so, and also, more prominently, during the Blurt Locker scene, when Brittany insinuates that she doesn’t understand the concept of cheating in order to quell Artie’s anger, only to have her tactic backfire and Artie deride her for “not knowing better” than to carry on a relationship with Santana behind his back.
In this second instance especially, we can feel reasonably certain that, as Brittany does indeed understand the concept of cheating (see here), she is in fact intentionally—whether subconsciously or consciously—“playing dumb” in order to deflect Artie’s anger at her.
And why do I bring this up this Brittany behavior in the midst of talking about Santana’s seduction attempts of 1x14 and 1x15?
Frankly, because I think Santana not only knows that Brittany is capable of exhibiting this behavior—as her steamed reaction to Brittany trying to “play dumb” with her in “Rumours” would suggest (see Roch’s rant here)—but also that Santana, to some extent, relies upon or expects Brittany to behave this way when Brittana as a unit go up against Sue Sylvester, to the point where Santana actually banks on Brittany behaving this way in order to save their asses.
Essentially, in this case, Santana knows that if Brittana fail to seduce Finn in “Hell-O,” they can blame their failure on incompetence, and, even though Sue won’t be happy with them for failing in their objective, Sue nevertheless won’t take revenge against Brittana for failing because she doesn’t respect them, and particularly Brittany, enough to truly believe that Brittana could have potentially succeeded in fulfilling her orders in the first place.
And if it is the case that Santana thinks this way?
Then she is exactly right.
When Brittana fail to seduce Finn, Sue berates the girls for their failure, questioning their intelligence as she does so (“You may be two of the stupidest teens I’ve ever encountered, and that’s saying something; I once taught a cheerleading seminar to a young Sarah Palin”), but ultimately doesn’t go too hard on them, letting Brittana off the hook after Brittany very sweetly—and in her most childlike voice—reveals to Sue that Jesse St. James succeeded where Brittana failed.
Of course, Santana cannot bank on Brittany saving her ass in the same way during “The Power of Madonna” as she does in “Hell-O,” being that in “The Power of Madonna,” Sue gives each Cheerio an individual assignment to find a boyfriend, as opposed to Brittana a tandem assignment to break up Finchel. Consequently, Santana feels motivated to succeed in 1x15 in a way that she doesn’t in 1x14 because she knows she doesn’t have a “safety net,” so to speak; moreover, Santana stands to gain comparatively more in succeeding here than she does in “Hell-O,” as I previously described.
So what the hell does all this have to do with pinky-linking?
Santana’s willingness to allow herself and Brittany to fail in seducing Finn in 1x14 points to the fact that Santana doesn’t actually want to succeed at all—i.e., she really has no desire to participate in any sort of sexual experience that involves Finn Hudson.
I mean, that would only make sense, right? Santana is a lesbian. Moreover, she finds Finn, of all popular boys, one of the most inherently unattractive.
But I would say there’s more to it than that.
In “Hell-O,” Brittana accept an assignment from Sue Sylvester to seduce Finn Hudson. While both girls act glib about their plot and, indeed, the act of sleeping with random guys fits well within their typical modus operandi (see here), I would nevertheless argue that the prospect of tandem seduction itself makes Brittana uncomfortable.
I mean, just look at their damn faces when Sue deputizes them; they’re clearly unnerved, to say the very least, if not downright distraught.
[Note: Of course, while Sue never discourages Brittana from using sex to get to Finn, she also doesn’t expressly tell Brittana that they have to pander to him in that way, either, as such coercion would be a majorly problematic thing to depict on the show in terms of ethics and I don’t think even RIB would touch that kind of weirdness with a twenty foot stick.
Nevertheless, due to Brittana’s reputations and the fact that they have nothing to offer Finn that Rachel cannot also offer him except for their bodies, either Santana, Brittany, or both of the girls as a unit seem to expect that, if they go on a date with Finn, the date will culminate with some sort of sexual favor, whether it be Brittana making out in front of Finn or a full-on threesome.
Obviously, being that Sue enlists both Brittany and Santana to this task, there is no question that they both have to involve themselves in bringing it to fruition. Neither one of them can excuse herself from the date, for fear that Sue will notice the uneven participation.
I will return to this point later in the analysis, but, suffice it to say that, due to Brittana’s own “rules of operation,” seducing Finn in tandem is “the only thing for them” in this situation.]
The thing is that Santana not only doesn’t want to do anything sexual with Finn herself, but she doesn’t want Brittany to have to do anything sexual with Finn, either, and she especially doesn’t want Brittana have to do something sexual with Finn together.
Specifically, I think Santana doesn’t want to seduce Finn in tandem with Brittany because, for as much as Brittana talk the talk about making out in public in order to titillate boys, when it comes down to it, neither one of them feels good about pandering their relationship out like that—which is perhaps why they ultimately send Finn away from the table at BreadStiX.
[Note: This is not to say that Brittana have never made out in public or had a threesome in order to titillate a boy or various boys. Honestly? As much as fanfiction loves to speculate about Brittana’s willingness to “perform at parties,” outside of Brittana’s implied threesome with Puck during “Never Been Kissed,” we don’t know how often the girls “get it on” in any capacity with men present.
My point above is only that, regardless of how often Brittana do use their sexual relationship to appeal to boys, they don’t ever feel good about doing so, as they realize the devaluing function that such actions have on their relationship. Consequently, I would argue that Brittana likely avoid “selling their relationship” in that way if ever they feel they can afford doing so, as is the case when they realize that they intimidate Finn enough to boot him from the restaurant, Sue’s consequences be damned.]
If it is the case that Brittana’s sexual relationship prior to 2x15 is the primary means through which they express their love for one another, and it is in fact the only truly intimate relationship—remember, not all sex is necessarily intimate—in either one of their lives (see here), then I would argue that Brittana probably feel somewhat protective of their sexual relationship with one another, as it is something sacred and special between them.
So, again, what about the pinky-linking?
Well, I think in this case, we can definitely count Sue’s mandate that Brittana seduce Finn Hudson as a stress on Brittana’s relationship, being that, if Brittana succeed in their designs, they will sully their relationship by treating it as cheap, and, if they fail, they risk punishment and personal ruin at the hands of Sue.
Of course, at this point, Santana is not yet willing to admit that Brittana’s sexual relationship counts for anything. Nevertheless, I think she is nevertheless very much aware that their sexual relationship actually does count for everything.
And what does that mean?
Frankly, that Santana has plenty of cause to panic in this situation, because Sue essentially calls Santana’s “Sex is not dating” and “I’m not making out with you because I’m in love with you” bluffs, putting Santana in a position where she must either
a) devalue her sexual relationship with Brittany, which is of course secretly something Santana feels very loath to do,
b) in some way admit that she actually gives a damn about her sexual relationship with Brittany when she refuses to comply with Sue’s orders… which is of course something Santana feels equally loath to do at this early stage in her development.
And Santana isn’t the only one with cause to panic in this situation.
Being that she is highly empathetic to Santana’s moods, Brittany undoubtedly picks up on Santana’s nervousness, and so has reason to worry here on Santana’s behalf and about what this stress will cause Santana to do in terms of their relationship.
Moreover, being that Brittany has secretly anguished over the fact that Santana won’t acknowledge the value of their sexual relationship all along, it undoubtedly causes Brittany to feel a little heartsick to think that, once again, she and Santana are in a position where they have to act like what they do doesn’t matter, not only because Brittany herself knows that their relationship does matter, but also because she realizes that Santana knows this too, and every time Santana feigns ignorance concerning this fact, Brittany can’t help but hate it that Santana continually lies to both herself and Brittany in this way (see here).
Note: As an aside, it is telling that while Santana values her relationship with Brittany enough to sabotage Brittana’s joint efforts to seduce Finn, she doesn’t love herself enough to do the same in “The Power of Madonna,” when Sue’s mandate faces her with the prospect of seducing Finn solo (see here). Whereas Brittany uses her best defense mechanisms (i.e., sneaky!Brittany wiliness and the fact that people, including and perhaps especially Sue Sylvester, think she’s too stupid to understand basic instructions to do something) in order to sidestep the assignment (“Guess who I’m dating? Wes Brody. He’s super cute. He plays soccer with my sister… He’s seven”), Santana finds herself stuck with no similar recourse in this situation. Either Santana goes through with seducing Finn or she loses everything for which she’s worked over the last few months. While Santana would rather disappoint Sue than desecrate her Sweet Lady Kisses with Brittany in “Hell-O,” Santana feels no such loyalty to herself or her own body in “The Power of Madonna;” basically, Santana would rather sleep with Finn and feel terrible about herself for doing so than she would pass up a chance for social advancement (see here). Simply put, Santana doesn’t think she matters enough to fight for her own integrity. My eternal creys. Somebody give that girl a goddamn hug! End rant.
So, um… pinky-linking?
I would argue that, in this case, the pinky-linking acts as a gesture of assurance: it represents Santana reaching out to Brittany, making a nonverbal promise to her that she will make this mess okay, and Brittany trusting Santana to do so, vowing to stick with Santana through the thick of it.
Santana sending Finn away from the table is her way of fulfilling that promise—her “fuck it” moment, if you will, wherein she makes the executive decision to protect her relationship with Brittany rather than comply with Sue’s wishes.
As she does so, her face bespeaks both trepidation, because she expects to take heat from Sue as consequence of her decision, and resignation, being that she knows things have to be this way, the situation being what it is, and her own personal rules of conduct being what they are. Perhaps significantly, Brittany seems to pick up on Santana’s discomfort here and so cracks a joke (“Did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?”), true to Brittany form, in order to ease the tension (see here).
The above claim might seem like a bit much if we only had one instance of evidence to support it, but the fact is that there’s more where this came from:
In “The Power of Madonna,” the “girl talk” scene with the glee girls may seem innocuous enough, and particularly given that both Brittany and Santana enthusiastically tell Rachel about their promiscuous habits during it, but the fact is that that conversation by its very nature broaches the same sensitive topic for Brittana that Sue’s orders to seduce Finn do: namely, the fact that, due to Santana’s “Sex is not dating” rule, Brittana exist in a constant state of devaluing their relationship with each other, even though, on an unspoken level, they both know that it is wrong for them to do so, particularly since they both secretly value their relationship above all others.
This message seems especially poignant in light of the fact that, once again, due to Sue’s insistence that the Cheerios date younger men, Brittana find themselves faced with a situation in which they must act as though sex means nothing to them.
Consequently, I would argue that, as in “Hell-O,” the pinky-linking gesture here occurs in response to stress—that, basically, both Brittany and Santana feel nervous about what’s about to happen with them, so they reach out to each other for comfort, reassurance, and to affirm their trust in one another and the value of their relationship, all without saying anything about it at all.
With that in mind, I would argue that we can parse the mobile pinky-linking behavior to mean some variation on this sentiment:
S: “It’ll be okay.” B: “Okay.” S: “Are you with me?” B: “I’m with you.”
We see this message at play in “Home,” when Brittana not only have cause to worry that they are in danger of losing their “safe haven” for public affection—i.e., glee club, and particularly the auditorium, where they’re free to dance with each other and sing like goons without threat of social repercussions—but when they also undoubtedly feel uncomfortable because, as Cheerios, they stand partially “responsible” for the auditorium ban, by the fact of the very existence of their squad, and they fear that their peers resent them for it.
Check out Brittana’s faces while Will explains the problem to the rest of the club; they both appear guilty, worried, and nervous about the vitriol their classmates spew towards their squad (Puck: “Let’s torch the place!” Santana: *cringe*).
S: “It’ll be okay; we’ll find some other place and then they won’t be mad anymore.” B: “Okay.” S: “Are you with me?” B: “I’m with you.”
Ditto for “Funk,” when Vocal Adrenaline deals New Directions a blow via their “funkification” tactics. In this case in particular, Santana realizes that she stands in jeopardy of losing the best part of her day—the only part of her day during which she feels free to express herself with Brittany and allow some of her “awesomeness” to shine through—should the team fail to place at Regionals and actually lose out to Vocal Adrenaline, so she reaches out to Brittany after Mr. Schue proposes a plan that might save them.
S: “It’ll be okay, right?” B: “Yeah. You okay, San?” S: “Yeah. You’re with me.” B: “I’m with you.”
And later in the episode, we see Brittana express yet another variation on this sentiment when the girls have to accompany Sue to Will’s apartment on her intimidation campaign, because they know that Sue is on the warpath now and they feel uncomfortable imposing on Will, whom they secretly like, in this way.
S: “Somehow, this will be okay.” B: “Yeah, it will.” S: “Are you with me?” B: “I’m with you.”
This same “call and response” pattern crops up again in “Duets,” after Brittana have what well may be their very first real fight over a boy, and subsequently their first real make up in the wake of said fight.
S: “It’s okay now. You’re not mad at me anymore?” B: “Yeah, it’s okay. I’m not mad anymore.” S: “You’re with me.” B: “I’m with you.” S: “I’ll make it up to you, Britt.”
Admittedly, my interpretation of this behavior breaks down somewhat when it comes to “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” and “New York” instances of mobile linking, being that the former instance in particular does not occur in a situation of duress. Consequently, I would argue that these two instances, and the one from 2x05 especially, represent a slightly different breed of gesture altogether.
In “The Rocky Horror Glee Show”?
S: “Everything is perfect!” B: “Perfect!” S: “You’re with me!” B: “I’m with you!”
And “New York”?
S: “Are we okay?” B: “Way okay, San.” S: “Are you really going to wait for me?” B: “Of course I am! It’s always been you.”
I’ll talk about the Heart Locker instance of linkage later in this analysis, but suffice it to say for right now that we can express the general significance of the Brittana mobile pinky-linking behavior as this: an assurance that Brittana are together, a commitment.
In some cases, the gesture carries a certain undertone of comfort, but mostly it signifies the strength of the Brittana bond, which is why we don’t see it when things “aren’t okay” or when Brittana exist in a state of prolonged disequilibrium, and why we do see it in situations wherein the girls feel the need to reach out to one another—i.e., in which each girl feels the need to know that her soulmate is there for her.
Examples of stationary pinky-linking:
* In “Home,” during Kurt’s performance of “A House is Not a Home,” Santana extends a pinky to Brittany, then leans over and, as content and happy as we’ve ever seen her, lays her head on Brittany’s shoulder, both girls smiling blissfully as she does so.
* In “Journey,” we observe similar behavior; as Will and Puck sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Santana beams and holds out her finger to Brittany, who happily accepts it. At the end of the song, Brittany leans over and rests her head on Santana’s shoulder; Santana smiles contentedly.
Significance of stationary pinky-linking:
Of course, we have less evidence to work with concerning this stationary linking behavior than we do with its mobile counterpart, as we’ve only seen two instances of it to date. Nevertheless, since both instances manifest in an extremely similar manner, it is perhaps easier for us to discern the patterns at play within them than it is to do so with the myriad examples of mobile pinky-linking above.
In both cases of stationary pinky-linking, Brittana sit through musical numbers in the choir room—and not just any musical numbers, but ones featuring songs with lyrics that speak to Brittana’s situation.
In the first case, the song is all about “home” being a person instead of a place and being in love with someone. In the second case, the song speaks of longing for a place where things are simpler, more innocent, and better. Just as “Somewhere Only We Know” may pique Santana’s sense of nostalgia for when things were easier between her and Brittany (see here)—i.e., for the days of their early, [childhood] history together—the same may hold true concerning “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
I find it significant that in both of these instances, the pinky-linking behavior goes hand-in-hand with Brittana snuggling with one another in public, as this brave public display of affection perhaps hints at the underlying connotation of the linking behavior itself. (It is also perhaps noteworthy that in both of these cases, Brittana sit at the back of the choir room, somewhat “hidden” from the majority of their peers, who sit in front of them.)
Due to the context of these instances, I would argue that this stationary pinky-linking stems from a groundswell of emotion—and, specifically, that the music in question causes Santana to feel a surge of affection towards Brittany.
And now I’m going to show my cards:
I think that in these cases, the pinky-linking stands in for kissing.
And here’s why:
As I discuss above, this stationary pinking-linking gesture carries a submerged connotation, a phenomenon which implies to us that the true meaning of the behavior either must be inherently obvious to Brittana and therefore beyond discussion and/or that it must be something that Brittana are either unwilling or unable to discuss in public.
While one cannot say so for certain, one would nevertheless imagine that Brittana’s first pinky-link predates the start of the show, being that it is a “childhood gesture” (see here). Accordingly, if one subscribes to the “young friendship” model for Brittana, as I do, then one can infer that pinky-linking is most likely a vestigal gesture with origins that predate the start of Glee proper.
One can therefore suppose that the gesture itself carries historical meaning for Brittany and Santana—i.e., that Brittana remember how they started doing it in childhood, the circumstances surrounding their first pinky-link at a young age, various times when they have linked pinkies in the past, etc.—and that this historical meaning informs their pinky-linking habits now.
Be that as it may, one must also suppose that the gesture means something beyond “Hey, we’ve been best friends for a long time now,” particularly in the case of the stationary pinky-link, being that it occurs under very specific circumstances which tend to carry romantic, as opposed to platonic friendly, overtones.
… which brings us back to the idea that the stationary pinky-link stands in for something which Brittana, and Santana especially as the initiator of the gesture, either will not or cannot say in public.
While one can argue that the atmosphere in “Journey” surrounding the stationary pinky-link is “friendly” based on the fact that the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is not expressly a love song, I would suggest that because that song touches on many of the same themes as “Landslide”—i.e., a longing for simplicity, the idea of finding one’s true self, etc.—it carries an expressly romantic connotation for Brittana, and Santana, in particular.
Suffice it to say that I think that song gives Santana feelings… feelings about Brittany. And ditto for “A House is Not a Home.”
And the fact that those feelings are strong enough to make Santana reach out to make affectionate contact with Brittany—both via linked pinkies and prolonged cuddling—suggests to me that those feelings are of the warm, fuzzy, “Oh my god, I love this girl but I can’t say it out loud” sort.
Based on the events of “Duets” and the implications of Brittana’s cheating behavior throughout the latter half of Season Two, I would argue that, prior to 2x15, Santana primarily expresses her unspoken love for Brittany through sex (see here), which is part of why she will maintain their sexual relationship at all costs—i.e., because she craves that sort of closeness with Brittany above all.
Consequently, I would argue that Santana has essentially trained herself to express her warm, fuzzy “Oh my god, I love this girl but I can’t say it out loud” feelings through the medium of physical affection when Brittana are alone together, as we see in the Sweet Lady Kisses scene prior to Santana’s gay panic.
I mean, just look at how tender and even generous her interaction with Brittany is in that scene prior to when Brittany suggests the song; let “us not forget that it is Santana who presses butterfly kisses to Brittany’ s neck and not vice-versa, [and that] had Santana only desired her own pleasure, we probably would have seen the situation reversed” (see here). When Santana feels lovey, she shows it with her body.
So because of the music, because they are “safe” in the back of their glee club haven, because they finally won out and the danger is gone, because they’re together and in love even though they can’t say it, because Santana has “all these feelings… feelings for [Britt],” in these quiet romantic moments, I would argue that Santana comes close to just leaning over and kissing Brittany, because that’s what she would do if she and Brittany were alone.
Unfortunately, Brittana aren’t alone—not in the choir room, not with Mr. Schue and all their teammates watching. Accordingly, Santana cannot resort to her typical means of expressing her feelings for Brittany, being that she can’t get her Sweet Lady Kisses on with Brittany in the middle of the choir room.
So in the end? Santana doesn’t go through with it. Later on, in Season Two, we’ll see Tike do it about a million times, and ditto for Bartie. But in Season One, with Brittana? No. Not on Santana’s life.
She’ll save that for Season Three.
She wouldn’t do that in public… not yet.
Santana couldn’t bring herself to kiss Brittany at school, not even in the relative shelter that is the back of the choir room, not with people around, and especially because Santana cannot bring herself to admit that she’s actually in love with Brittany, even if she realizes that she is, at least on a certain level (“I’m not making out with you because I’m in love with you,” see this analysis from kairos27). So, ultimately, Santana quashes the impulse to kiss Brittany in public, reigning herself in; she doesn’t kiss Brittany, no matter how much she might want that, at least not until later in the day, when she and Brittany can enjoy the privacy of a locked bedroom.
Nevertheless, as is so often the case with Santana, “though Santana successfully keeps certain emotions in check, such as her love for Brittany and fear of social repercussions of that love, prior to 2x15, her repressed feelings often manifest in other forms… It’s like dropping a stack of papers on a windy day: each time Santana stomps down on one sheet, another one blows away from her in the opposite direction…” (see here).
And in this case, even though Santana successfully suppresses the urge to kiss Brittany in front of the glee club, her impulse still manages to manifest, in this case as a pinky-link.
As thejollyape discusses here, pinky-linking is a subtle, innocuous form of physical affection that is nevertheless incredibly intimate and sweet. Those smiles on Santana’s face before she holds out her finger to Brittany? That’s her feeling giddy and in love without fully cognizing it. And the snuggling? That’s a nod to the fact that the intimacy inherent with this sort of pinky-linking derives from a context outside of the choir room: namely, that of Brittana’s sexual-romantic relationship.
Stationary pinky-linking essentially stands in as a “bedroom gesture,” because it signifies the type of deep, meaningful connection that Santana typically only allows Brittana to express through sex (see here).
So what does the stationary pinky-linking “represent” in short, then?
Really, a need to feel close to one another and an acknowledgment of Brittana’s feelings for each other; consequently, stationary pinking-linking, in addition to Sweet Lady Kisses, may well be the closest Santana gets to saying “I love you” to Brittany prior to the Hurt Locker.
"What about you and I?": On Santana as the Initiator of Pinky-Linking
Getting back to Snorty’s original question, we have to wonder why it is that, in all the instances of pinky-linking we see on Glee between Brittana, Santana always tends to initiate the behavior, as far as we observe it.
I think there are a couple of reasons why Santana tends to initiate the pinky-linking rather than Brittany, most of which have to do with the nature of Brittana’s relationship at the time of the linkage:
a) Because, particularly prior to 2x15, Santana is the one who controls Brittana’s public image.
Based on the fact that Brittany has no problem with the idea of singing “songs about making lady babies” with Santana in public, can’t understand why Santana would want to hide the fact that she is the “awesomest girl at this school,” herself dances with a girl at the prom, generally doesn’t care what people think about her, etc., I think it’s fairly safe to say that Brittany doesn’t fret about public perception for her own sake.
Santana, on the other hand, does nothing but worry about public perception, to the point where she will go to ridiculous lengths—such as bearding with Karofsky—in order to hide her own sexuality and the nature of her relationship with Brittany.
Because Brittany respects Santana and values her feelings, Brittany acquiesces to Santana’s stipulations about how much Brittana can reveal concerning the true nature of their relationship to their peers—except on the rare occasions when Brittany “slips up” and reveals confidential information about Brittana’s relationship to the public, as she does in “Sectionals” and “Rumours”—even if Brittany herself doesn’t agree with or fully understand Santana’s compulsion towards obfuscation.
As this is the case, Brittany allows Santana to be the one who decides what their relationship looks like in public. Accordingly, Brittany lets Santana be the one to initiate their public displays of affection, and especially outside the “safe haven” that is glee club.
(In the choir room, Brittany will sometimes set her head on Santana’s shoulder or initiate back rubs, but I would argue that she only does so because Santana “preapproves” this behavior within the glee club setting by herself being more openly affectionate with Brittany in the presence of their New Directions “family.”)
Pinky-linking constitutes an act of laying public claim, and Brittany allows Santana to “claim her” as she will, but does not herself initiate the behavior because, prior to “Sexy,” Santana is the one who moderates the nature of the Brittana relationship, as we observe during the Sweet Lady Kisses scene of 2x04, when Santana essentially “puts a spin” on the true nature of the Brittana relationship to suit her own proclivities concerning it.
b) Because, likewise, prior to 2x15, Santana controls the destiny of the Brittana relationship.
As I discuss above, the majority of Brittana’s mobile pinky-linking behavior occurs in situations of duress, wherein some outside factor places stress on the Brittana relationship. The fact is that, six times out of nine, Santana’s rather arbitrary “rules” concerning the Brittana relationship—i.e., “Sex is not dating,” no expressing feelings or making eye contact during sex, no acknowledging the depth of their relationship in public by labeling it beyond “best friendship,” etc.—contribute to the existence or at least the intensity of the stress in question.
For instance, even in “Funk,” where the actual stress itself exists independent to anything Brittana do—i.e., Vocal Adrenaline intimidate the hell out of New Directions and New Directions panics because they know that if they lose to Vocal Adrenaline at their competition, Figgins will disband their club—part of the reason why Brittana feel so helpless in the face of the stress is because, for them, glee club is their only “safe place,” so they stand to lose comparatively more than just a fun extracurricular activity should New Directions fail to place at Regionals. Of course, the fact that Brittana need a “safe place” is largely due, at this point, to Santana’s rules for their contact, which, presumably, prevent Brittana from expressing overt romantic affection outside of the choir room and auditorium.
With this in mind, I would argue that Santana initiates the pinky-linking gesture because she realizes, whether subconsciously or consciously, that she is the one running the show, and, consequently, feels the need to simultaneously seek assurance from and reassure Brittany about the nature of their relationship and how it affects their interaction.
In every sense, Brittana “built their lives” around each other, and the mobile pinky-linking behavior in particular attests to that.
… which brings us back to the Heart Locker scene.
I would argue that, even though initiates the pinky-linking behavior during the Heart Locker scene, just as she does all the other instances of Brittana pinky-linking we’ve ever seen, this instance of pinky-linking is not only fundamentally different from other mobile pinky-links we’ve seen, but different from all other forms of pinky-linking in general.
Because, frankly, the Heart Locker pinky-link occurs after a significant shift in power in the Brittana relationship; essentially, it represents the first time when Brittana link pinkies as total equals.
Of course, those of us who watch carefully know that Santana has always been whipped when it comes to Brittany, probably from before the start of the show. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that, prior to 2x15, Santana is the one in charge when it comes to the public Brittana relationship—if only because Brittany in many ways consents to it—in terms of deciding how much, under what circumstances, when, in front of whom, and with what labels Brittana show the true extent of their bond in public.
We see Santana’s dominance on full display in “Duets,” where she not only kiboshes Brittany’s suggestion that Brittana sing a love song to one another in front of their peers, but also brings something of the “public Brittana” into their private sphere, as Santana insists to Brittany that she—Santana—is totally into Puck and that what she and Brittany do is about warm bodies, nothing more, essentially promulgating the same lies Brittana put out to the WMHS student body, who passively accept them, to Brittany, who absolutely knows better than to believe that kind of bullshit.
As I argue elsewhere, I think the Sweet Lady Kisses scene of 2x04 may well represent the first time that Santana overtly tries to sell Brittany the same lies that they tell to their peers—i.e., that it may well be the meanest Santana has ever been to Brittany to date—which is perhaps why, for seemingly the first time, Brittany acts out, pushing back against Santana’s lies by essentially “calling Santana’s bluff”—i.e., by dating Artie, in order to force Santana’s hand when it comes to “laying claim” on Brittany, which Santana eventually does, when she schemes to break up Bartie and eventually succeeds.
Of course, this is not to say that Brittany necessarily wants Santana to break up her relationship with Artie, but rather that Brittany subconsciously feels like, “Okay, well you keep telling me you don’t want me, Santana, so I guess if that’s really true, I’ll find someone else.” Obviously, Brittany’s first choice in this situation would be for Santana to admit that of course she really does want Brittany, apologize for being a jerk, and acknowledge their relationship, but, given Brittana’s history to that point, I doubt that Brittany thinks that that’s likely to happen any time soon. Hence why Brittany seeks out someone who will willingly and freely give her the companionship for which she so longs, without making her fight for it.
Accordingly, I would argue that these new developments in Santana and Brittany’s behaviors represent the first stages of a shift in power that doesn’t fully culminate until 2x22 at the Heart Locker.
The thing is that, once Brittany starts dating Artie, Santana loses a lot of her power over the Brittana relationship, because, for the first time, Santana must respond to Brittany in public not according to her own whims, but according to what’s “appropriate” given the existence of Brittany’s commitment to Artie. It should not surprise us, then, that Brittana’s public displays of affection, including the pinky-link, all but disappear, even within the “safe haven” of glee club, between episode 2x08 “Furt,” when Brittany starts properly dating Artie, and episode 2x12 “Silly Love Songs,” when we see our first instance of physical interaction between the two girls since Brittany got a boyfriend.
Elsewhere, I’ve discussed at length how Santana flounders during this period, unsure of what to do or how to act now that her relationship with Brittany has changed. It is no coincidence that Santana’s aggressive behavior escalates during the same period when her level of affectionate interaction with Brittany decreases; simply put, once Santana loses control over the Brittana relationship, she basically loses control over everything, including her bearding arrangement with Puck, her position on the Cheerios, her balance of power with Quinn Fabray, her role within the glee club, etc.
As an aside, I would be fascinated to know if her grades also suffer during this period. My guess is that they probably do.
Of course, things do not stay in this state of flux for Brittana indefinitely; eventually, Brittany and Santana resume their sexual relationship, though, this time, Brittany’s relationship with Artie dictates their level of disclosure, as opposed to Santana’s gay panic. As I discuss elsewhere, some sort of external stimuli—whether it be the cumulative stress of their newly illicit relationship, the events of the Flirt Locker, or some unknown outlying factor—prompt yet another mutation in the Brittana relationship: namely, Brittany asking Santana, seemingly for the first time, to acknowledge the depth of their relationship by turning to an adult for advice.
And the second Santana agrees to do that, everything changes for Brittana yet again (see here). From this point forward, Santana gives up more and more of her power over the terms of Brittana’s relationship, first consenting to let Holly Holliday in on some of Brittana’s biggest secrets, then singing her feelings to Brittany in front of an audience of their peers—just like Brittany wanted all those months ago—and finally putting her heart on her sleeve and confessing everything she has worked so hard to suppress between them for years during the Hurt Locker scene: “I want to be with you… I have to accept that I love you. Please say you love me back. Please.”
Of course, when Brittany rejects Santana’s offer for an exclusive but secret relationship, Santana reacts by trying to get back some of her power; during the Dirt Locker scene, Santana pretends that she didn’t just make the most devastating love confession of the last century in a high school hallway to Brittany and that she doesn’t need Brittany more than she needs air… and fails miserably at it. Just like Santana can’t “remember [her] locker combo” with Brittany staring at her, she also cannot remember how to lock away all her feelings now that she’s finally expressed them to Brittany. Everything is out in the open, as plain as the dirt that Sue spills on their faces, and Santana is beside herself when it comes to what to do about it.
Thus begins a period of vacillation, in which Santana tries several times to reset the terms of the Brittana relationship, only to repeatedly fail, not because Brittany or anyone else thwarts her efforts, but because she just loves Brittany too damn much to go back to the way things were.
Hence, we see Santana concoct her ridiculous prom queen scheme (see Roch’s rant here), attempt to obfuscate her sexuality by bearding with Karofsky, make herself a “Bitch” shirt even though she knows from the moment Emma announces the assignment what her shirt should actually say, promote rumors about her sex life via would-be anonymous internet comments, lie to Jacob ben Israel about who her soulmate is, panic at the prom, etc.
In the meanwhile, of course, Brittany doesn’t sit idle; she becomes increasingly assertive, not only with Santana (“I do love you! Clearly you don’t love you as much as I do or you would put this shirt on and you would dance with me”), but in all aspects of her life (“Artie, that was lovely, but I’m not gonna go to prom with you. You called me stupid and I really didn’t like that,” “Yeah, I know how to turn it off”).
During the Back Six of Season Two especially, Brittany begins to define herself in terms of her emotional and mental identity, as opposed to purely on a physical level (see here), and this development is extremely important when it comes to the Brittana power dynamic because it means that, for the first time, Brittany becomes an active agent in her own relationships, as opposed to a passive element.
Simply put, just as Santana could never go back to being the same closed-off, emotionally repressed, and sometimes cruel version of herself that she was prior to the events of the Hurt Locker, Brittany could never go back to being Santana’s dirty little secret following the events of the Hurt Locker, either—mainly, because she respects both herself and Santana too much to allow it.
For a brief period, the pendulum swings all the way over; whereas prior to 2x15, Santana controls Brittana’s destiny, between 2x18 and 2x20, Brittany does, with Santana basically submissive to what Brittany instructs her to do, in all aspects of their relationship except for one (i.e., the issue of Santana coming out).
Of course, Brittany never lords her power over Santana the way Santana once did to her. Rather, she actually guides Santana towards Santana gaining a measure of her own power—i.e., towards Brittana evening out their relationship, to where they are equal partners.
As others have noted, everything Brittany asks of Santana during this period, Santana eventually does, albeit at a delayed pace.
Brittany tells Santana to “put on this shirt and… dance with me” and Santana complies, even though she only fulfills one part of the direction at a time; in 2x18, Santana dons her “Lebanese” shirt, even though she won’t perform while wearing it, and in 2x22, Santana gets up on stage at Show Choir Nationals and sings a song with heavy Brittana overtones, dancing alongside Brittany.
In 2x20, Brittany tells Santana to “embrace all the awesomeness that [she is]” and to go back to prom and support Kurt; within that same episode, Santana returns to the party and sings “Dancing Queen” for Klaine. Later, in 2x21, Santana auditions to sing a solo at Nationals, because, damn it, her voice and her enthusiasm for glee club are some of the “awesomest” things about her.
Perhaps paradoxically, then, every time Santana does what Brittany tells her to do, Santana gains back a little bit of the power in their relationship, to the point where by 2x22, Brittana, likely for the first time since the start of their sexual relationship, exist as equal partners, with neither Santana nor Brittany at a disadvantage to one another in any way.
So what the hell does this have to do with pinky-linking?
The Heart Locker scene represents the first time that Santana extends a pinky to Brittany not as the boss in their relationship, reminding Brittany of the love they share but cannot acknowledge beyond just a touch of their fingers, but as someone who knows she loves her best friend and that her best friend loves her, and who looks forward to a day—someday soon—when they will be together.
It also represents the first time that Brittany accepts that pinky not as the submissive element in the Brittana relationship, denying her own longing for something more in order to “dance in the dark” around Santana’s fears, but as a strong, confidant, intelligent woman who just told her soulmate how much she loves her, and who believes that anything is possible between them because she knows just how awesome she and Santana are both separately and together.
As thejollyape says, this scene and this pinky-link above all others mark a change for Brittana, because: “Instead of the gay panic that usually follows whenever Brittany sparks deep passion in her, this time [Santana] actually offers up her pinkie to [Brittany, now] not just a sign of their secret love or friendship, but also a promise—a pinkie promise that if Brittany just holds on, Santana will get there in the end. An unspoken pact Brittany with a smile on her lips agree to” (see here).
In this last case, then, Brittana link pinkies not because of everything they can’t say to one another, but because of everything they have said and want to keep saying for the rest of their lives.
So the moral of this story?
1. “… and because of that, I think anything is possible.”
2. Keep calm and pinky promise, because Brittana is on.
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- iamsnortythevampyr said: JJ, you totally killed this pinky-linking analysis. I LOVED IT :) I am sorry, however, that it was such a feat! But, you totally did it and you gave me sooooo many brittana feelings during it too. You definitely deserve all the awards right now! <3
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- theinfernaldesiremachine said: I think this may be my favorite brittanalysis ever :) :) :)
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- obstinate-questionings said: I love, love, love your translation of the pinky links: “it’ll be okay,” “okay,” “are you with me?”, “yes,” etc. Breathtaking!
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