Monday, May 31, 2010

Something to be GLEEful about

OK, so this is about a week late, but I was waiting for someone to upload the clip to youtube.


transcript (by linnycorn on feministing.com):
Kurt: It’s just a room, Finn! We can redecorate it if you want to!

Finn: Okay. Good. Well then the first thing that needs to go is that faggy lamp. And then, we need to get rid of this faggy couch blanket.

Burt: Hey! What did you just call him?

Finn: Oh, no no. I didn’t call him anything, I was just talking to the blanket.

Burt: When you use that word, you’re talking about him.

Kurt: Relax, Dad. I didn’t take it that way.

Burt: Yeah that’s because you’re sixteen and you still assume the best in people. You live a few years, you start seeing the hate in people’s hearts. Even the best people. D’you use the n-word?

Finn: Of course not.

Burt: Yeah how ‘bout retard? You call that nice girl in Cheerios with Kurt, you call her a retard?

Finn: Becky? No, she’s my friend. She’s got Down Syndrome. I’d never call her that. That’s cruel.

Burt: But you think it’s okay to come into my house and say “faggy”?

Finn: But that’s not what I meant

Burt: I know that’s not what you meant! What, you think I didn’t use that word when I was your age? You know, some kid gets clocked in practice and we tell him, “Stop being such a fag. Shake it off.” We meant it exactly the way you meant it. That being gay is wrong, that it’s some kind of punishable offense. I really thought you were different, Finn. You know, I thought that being in Glee Club and being raised by your mom meant that you were some new generation of dude, who saw things differently, who just kinda came into the world, knowing what it’s taken me years of struggling to figure out. I guess I was wrong. I’m sorry, Finn, but you can’t, you can't stay here.

Kurt: Dad . . .

Burt [To Finn]: I love your mom and maybe this is going to cost me her, but my family comes first. I can’t have that kind of poison around. [To Kurt] This is our home, Kurt. [To Finn] He is my son. Out in the world, you do what you want, but not under my roof.

[Finn leaves the basement room that he shares with Kurt]

Burt [to Kurt]: The place looks great.


This clip represents what I have come to love about Glee. It is entertaining, but at the same time has a liberal edge. This clip in particular, I think, is one of the best mainstream declarations in favor of tolerance of LGBT teens.

Ok... so you might be wondering, this is a feminist blog, why is stuff about gay guys on here?
Well, as feminists, we believe that women and men should be equal. Shouldn't this hope and fight and positive energy for equality extend to all people? (The answer is yes.)

And the issues facing gay male teens, or gay men, are not all that different than those facing lesbian teens and women, transgendered people, and bisexuals. It is only very recently that LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,) people have begun to have a significant presence in popular culture, and more recently that that presence has been a positive and constructive one.

In general, we live in a heterosexist culture. (Heterosexist culture: meaning that everything about our culture enforces heterosexual norms... which set up homosexuality as the not-norm.) TV shows predominantly portray straight couples, and it's generally assumed that people are straight (like a "innocent until proven guilty"-thing).

How hard has that got to be for people who don't identify with that, right? Most shows aimed at teens do not have LGBT characters. (The Disney Channel certainly doesn't... although anyone with a shred of knowledge knows that despite Disney's attempt to make Ryan from High School Musical "straight" by giving him a girlfriend, the boy is too fabulous.) I don't watch a lot of TV (OK, well, I watch a lot of it, but I watch a lot of specific shows, not a huge range.), so I don't know if there is anything else out there for LGBT kids to watch if they want to see an honest portrayal of someone kind of-sort of like themselves. For teens, there is Kurt Hummel on Glee, and there is also Calvin from Greek (another one of my favorite shows...). Calvin is a college student, a jock, and a fraternity member. To the audience, he is gay from the beginning, but the audience does get a pretty good portrayal of his experience coming out to his brothers. (Which is, thankfully, on the whole, a positive experience.) (Oh, there's also Eric from Gossip Girl, a largely inconsequential character on a show becoming less and less relevant for every minute it's on air. Degrassi has dealt with gay and lesbian characters over the years, but currently there is only one and he doesn't always get airtime.)

Kurt, on Glee, deals with some real homophobia, and in a pretty realistic way. Not everyone's minds get changed about him. The writers are realistic: the show is set in Lima, Ohio. There probably won't be any Pride events for Kurt to attend. But at the same time, the plot lines concerning Kurt's issues with homophobia do have a clear point: homophobia is wrong. The football players and anonymous phone calls are definitely portrayed as negative. Even to someone watching who doesn't know any (out) gay people, they should be able to understand the show's message. Being gay is okay, and homophobes are morons.

Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, has been open about his experiences in high school with homophobia. In acting as Kurt, it's likely that he is drawing on some very personal and true emotions from high school. And he seems to be a very well-adjusted person. This is his first role, straight out of high school, and he seems like a natural star. (And adorable!) Yay, Chris! I'm happy that his stardom experiences are so positive so far.

One thing television is lacking, is portrayals of lesbians. (And transgender people... and bisexuals... and ...) Especially for teenagers. South of Nowhere, which lasted for one season on the-N, is the only show I can think of with lesbian characters. (And shows with the ratings-booster lesbian kisses do not count... I guess the OC barely counts with the Alex-Marissa relationship in season 2.)

My theory as to why gay men have a bigger presence on TV than gay women is that gay men are in fashion. I don't mean "in fashion" like, "in the fasion industry" (although many are), but that people see gay men as being en vogue. There is a market for the "sassy gay friend," who loves fashion and sass and a whole lot of drama. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (which I loved), Will & Grace, and Sex & the City (etc) all portrayed the fun "girlfriend" gay guys that women are taught are FUN and FAB and the ultimate friend. (Side note: there is nothing wrong with that... except that this is the predominant portrayal. Sure, some gay guys are like that, but a lot of them are not, and they do not get as much air time.) Lesbians... still have a higher degree of stigma to them. When people hear "lesbian," they think flannel and hairy armpits, bitter man-haters, and humorless feminazis.

Well... why? I have a good amount of lesbian friends (not as many as the gay men I know... my friend Jimmy dubbed me "fairy gaymother" this year because of the large number of gay men I am friends with), and I certainly couldn't pigeonhole them into any of these stereotypes. Because lesbian characters lack a presence in popular media, these stereotypes about the un-fun lesbian continue because she is invisible. I have often ended up defending this invisible lesbian when friends of mine, even liberal ones, make grand, sweeping statements about the un-fun, invisible lesbian. My first (annoyed) question is always, "Well, do you know any lesbians?"

It's hard for my human-rightsy self to believe that we can still live in such an insular, discriminatory world. But we do. And it scares me to think that if I did not happen to be friends with lesbians, that I might harbor discriminatory ideas about them as well. Is that what it takes? Do we have to have personal experience to be able to shut out the harmful messages that are ingrained in us by our culture?

Hopefully not. (And at the same time, yes. Personal experience is great! But waiting around for that personal experience can take... time.) I am hopeful that LGBT-positive messages in pop culture, most recently with Glee, will help some people (since we feminists already know) realize the importance of empathy, understanding, and tolerance for everyone.

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