Explaining Brittany Is Hard.
The evolution of Brittany’s character, especially as she is portrayed in the Brittany/Santana romance arc in the latter half of Season 2, supports RIB’s assertion that Brittany isn’t stupid; she merely looks at the world a different way. Prior to this (and especially during certain moments of the Artie/Brittany relationship), Brittany’s intelligence was constantly questioned, and for good reason. When faced with someone who says things like, “I don’t know how to turn on a computer,” forgets her middle name, and is unable to tell her right hand from her left hand — well, of course you would question her mental acuity.
Anyway, various pieces of fanfiction and members of the fandom have attempted to explain Brittany’s apparent vacuousness as it stood for most of Season 1 and 2 until Santana’s arc really hit the ground in ‘Sexy’. Three theories in particular stand at the forefront:
- Brittany has attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Brittany has a learning disability, with dyslexia being the frontrunner in this category. Interestingly, Germano, Gagliano, and Curatolo (2010) reported a high degree of co-morbidity between ADD/ADHD and dyslexia. That is to say, if Brittany had dyslexia, she could possibly also have displayed symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
- Brittany has an actual (unspecified) intellectual/developmental disability (which, as a Brittany/Santana devotee and a strong proponent of Smart Brittany, I find dubious)
1. Brittany has ADHD/ADD
Alluded to in one of the fandom’s seminal works, Influence, when the story mentions early on that Brittany has recieved a prescription for Ritalin (methylphenidate), which is used to treat ADHD. Based on what we see of Brittany in the show, if she had ADHD she would most likely be the “predominantly inattentive” type. Influence suggests early on that she may be combined hyperactive-impulsive inattentive. (Generally, the story is vague on whether Brittany actually has ADHD, but ADHD ends up not being Brittany’s actual problem.)
- Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things (“Sometimes I forget my middle name”)
- Losing things (e.g., the wheelchair)
- Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others (“I just don’t understand anything”)
- Struggle to follow instructions (“I find recipes confusing”)
- Difficulty learning something new or trouble completing or turning in homework assignments
2. Brittany has a learning disability (most likely dyslexia)
Dyslexia actually might explain Brittany’s adorable propensity for malapropisms. It is not an intellectual disability; dyslexia can and does affect people with normal intelligence and higher than normal intelligence. The fact (and yes it’s a fact) that Brittany is actually quite sharp substantiates this.
- Difficulty learning the alphabet (“I stopped at M and N”)
- Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words
- Difficulty telling right from left
- Difficulty distinguishing among homophones such as “their” and “there”. (Duet vs. Duvet)
- Difficulty associating individual words with their correct meanings (“It’s a male duck”)
Dyslexic people are better identified by writing that does not seem to match their level of intelligence. Maybe Brittany actually did write a fabulous essay about heart attacks and she was marked down only because her teacher was a bitch about her writing it in crayon, but then again…if you’re writing a report in crayon, I highly doubt you’re going to have much to say. Which leads us into the third diagnosis…
3. Brittany has an (unspecified) intellectual disability
Intellectual disability is characterized by “significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.”
Intellect is defined as “the ability of the mind to come to correct conclusions about what is true or real, and about how to solve problems”. Supposing that one subscribes to this third theory, it seems more likely that Brittany would have problems with adaptive behavior moreso than with her intellect (based on the definition of intellect, how can you think that the Brittany of ‘Rumours’ has problems with it?). Adaptive behavior tests for:
- Conceptual skills—language and literacy; money, time, and number concepts; and self-direction
- Social skills—interpersonal skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, gullibility, naïveté (i.e., wariness), social problem solving, and the ability to follow rules, obey laws, and avoid being victimized
- Practical skills—activities of daily living (personal care), occupational skills, healthcare, travel/transportation, schedules/routines, safety, use of money, use of the telephone
Taking Season 1 and Artie’s point of view, it would be forgivable if you actually thought Brittany had an intellectual disorder.
It’s surprising to think that Brittany might have weak social skills — it directly contradicts her “interpersonal skills”, e.g., her canon ability to connect and interact with Santana, Kurt, and Rachel. Also, if Brittany can turn on a video camera and make fondue, I’m sure that her practical skills are just fine. The fact that people even believe that Brittany might have an intellectual disorder (which is just a nice way of saying that she’s mentally retarded to some degree), even after her sudden intellectual development in the back half of Season 2, is the fault of RIB’s lazy writing. Damn them.
While I don’t want to imply more than I ought to, I will point out that the author of Sing Me A Song likes both Artie/Brittany and Brittany/Santana, and has also written a brilliantly incisive (even if I don’t agree with all of it) 5-part discussion discussing Santana and trying to reconcile the two different Brittanys RIB has thrown at us. It seems to labor under the assumption that Brittany has an intellectual disorder because that reflects how Brittany was introduced as a character. (As if there were nothing beyond a first impression that could define her…but I’ll save my complaints.)
CONCLUSION: None of this really matters anymore
Heather Morris’ statement to Naya Rivera at Paleyfest (paraphrased): “I don’t think [Brittany]’s smart enough for [Santana]” — illustrates the divide between the Brittany of Season 1/Bartie and the Brittany who is the hero/mentor/driving force of Santana’s story.
Season 1 and Bartie are the reasons why the fandom has come up with the three theories (and variations) I have discussed above to explain Brittany’s apparent vacuousness.
The Point of No Return for Brittany’s character was ‘Sexy’ (although ‘Britney/Brittany’ and ‘Duets’ could also be considered turning points). themostrandomfandom notes that Brittany’s journey from ‘Sexy’ onwards is to “work on herself” (even if she only actually verbalizes this desire in ‘Prom Queen’). Thus, the Brittany we see in and after ‘Sexy’ is no longer a Brittany that can be diagnosed with any of the three possibilities.
Heather said “I don’t think she’s smart enough for you,” before the ‘Born This Way’-‘Rumours’-‘Prom Queen’-‘Funeral’ sequence that (in my opinion) destroys the “Brittany Is Stupid” meme. It’s not a coincidence that the discovery that Brittany is actually very smart (hell, she was smart even before she broke up with Artie despite his lack of confidence in her, see ‘Night of Neglect’) coincides with Santana’s self-discovery.
This reminds us of just how true ‘Landslide’ was for Brittany and Santana; it’s not a fluke that both of them sing the line I built my life around you, not just Santana. The writers have built Brittany and Santana’s lives around each other, even if their paths have not converged. Brittany’s intelligence suddenly bursts into full bloom and we see who she truly is (or at least, more of who she truly is) at the same time that Santana is developing as well. Right when Santana sets out on her long journey towards accepting what Brittany wants for her — love. Love on its terms (with all of the pain and glory that comes with it), not on Santana’s.
Brittany isn’t just part of Santana’s journey, as Brad Falchuk said. themostrandomfandom pointed out that she is taking her own journey.
And it’s side by side with Santana’s.
It’s on, it was always on.
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