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Is Glee's "Kurt" an Offensive Stereotype?
March 15, 2011 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Glee has been massive ratings success for Fox and the character of Kurt has been named one of the "best gay characters" of all time. But others argue Kurt is nothing more than the latest embodiment of a tired cliche -- the 'fabulous' gay man.

[The character of Kurt has been] hailed as a TV breakthrough, a positive role model for the Bieber generation. But with his fondness for makeovers, dance routines and the boy troubles of his girlfriends, I wonder if the character just buys into a sickly Gleeché... The stereotype he embodies does of course exist. But what about the majority of gay men who aren't represented on TV? Gay teenagers must gulp with fear when they see Kurt, as he confuses the closet-door with a piano lid and makes being gay look like a full-time job.
posted by modernnomad (176 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think anyone who watches Glee is surprised (or bothered, for that matter) that the characters are cardboard cutouts.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:43 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The character of Kurt's dad is strong enough to make up for whatever ridiculous thing they have Kurt do.
posted by phunniemee at 2:44 PM on March 15, 2011 [61 favorites]


Aside from some obnoxious Dan Savagean biphobia, I think Kurt is a mostly positive character. The real breakthrough in gay teen representation on that show is his father, Burt Hummel, for the unconditional support and love he shows his son. If just one out of 100 parents of LGBT kids can learn something from that character, then the world is a better place.
posted by elizardbits at 2:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [37 favorites]


It might be difficult to fit high-school-bears into a show that is essentially a one-hour musical. But given how hackneyed the scripts are, I wouldn't put it past the writers to try their best to make a very special hairy episode of Glee.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Everyone on Glee is a stereotype - why leave the gay kid out of that? And yes, the scenes between Kurt and his dad often make me feel weepy.

Given last week's story about Santana and Brittany, I wonder how that will shift things.
posted by rtha at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Stereotypical show about stereotypical high school experiences has stereotypical character and some people feel stereotyped. Does this mean that not all black women are like Mercedes?
posted by Houyhnhnm at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was actually kind of impressed at how they dealt with Brittany and Santana's relationship last week - it was touching and felt surprisingly true.
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The real breakthrough in gay teen representation on that show is his father, Burt Hummel, for the unconditional support and love he shows his son.

His talk with Kurt about sex was a solid bit of heartfelt acting and really well written. I had a tear in my eye at the end. It's just a TV show, but if all parents of gay kids could be more like that, it definitely would make the world a brighter and happier place to live.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters? How often do they deal with gender identity and sex education issues?

He's a bit of a cardboard cut-out, but isn't he the best there is currently?

And what happened between the 1970s and now? Soap was on ABC! It had Jodie Dallas!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's been said before, but maybe people shouldn't look to a cheesy TV musical for any kind of standard bearing of social redemption.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe the issue isn't that Kurt is a hackneyed and weak character but that the show itself is simply hackneyed and weak?
posted by awesomebrad at 2:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [29 favorites]


How stereotypically "gay" that kid appears is the least of your worries if you're trying to associate "Glee" with any semblance of reality. Personally, I think it's witless and deathly slow, without a single believable character; obviously, a whole lot of people feel otherwise. Let's just let them enjoy their cotton candy in peace, shall we?
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 2:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kurt is handled reasonably well, but he never had to figure out who he was. He's known since he was 4.

I'm more interested in what they're going to do with Santana and Britney S. Pearce. Stealth gay(-ish) couples who don't know who they are are better drama.
posted by bonehead at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


> He's a bit of a cardboard cut-out, but isn't he the best there is currently?

Omar Little will be the best example for years to come. Not because he was openly gay. Not because he was a stone-cold killer. But because his gayness was simply just there, and he was also involved in his own game beyond his sexual preferences.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [68 favorites]


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?
Well, there's the gay couple on Modern Family. Not sure what the community's take on them is, though.

Can't say I've watched Glee. Just no appeal for me.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2011


There is no way to win here. He can be made "too gay" and end up a flaming stereotype. Or he can be "not gay enough" and pander to audiences who prefer the safe, nonthreatening version of homosexuality.

Both of those types appear on TV nowadays, sometimes within the same show. Kurt is not the only gay TV character kids are likely to encounter these days. What's the big deal?
posted by hermitosis at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I just wanted to pop in to say what a few others have said: the standout character on "Glee" is Kurt's dad. They've really got something there. Everyone else on the show is irritating.
posted by wabbittwax at 2:56 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

The hands-down best gay character in all of fiction is Dumbledore. I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:59 PM on March 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Out of fairness, if the scriptwriters are reading, I would like to see a very special episode where Kurt has to help his dad fix a flat tire.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


From the last link:

"In series one, Kurt relentlessly pursued his straight classmate Finn, in a dangerous storyline that reinforced to a young audience that gay men are predatory, won't take no for an answer and will do anything to seduce any straight boy in sight."

That is such a weird distortion of the storyline that I actually have gone from thinking that this subject is inane to thinking that it isn't worthy of a MetaFilter post.
posted by hermitosis at 3:01 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


... spoilers? I honestly don't know. I guess spoiler warning.

Well, if they want a bit of balance there is of course the closeted, hockey-and-football-playing, homophobic Karofsky who they will be (supposedly) bringing further into the light by the end of the season.
no I don't watch glee what

I find it kind of strange that he's not even mentioned in the article. He was kind of a huge deal when his plot exploded from nowhere.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.

Gandalf.
posted by bonehead at 3:03 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


(or maybe Magneto)
posted by bonehead at 3:03 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The realization that characters in television comedy are often exaggerated and not fully developed must have come as a very rude awakening. Watching television comedy occasionally would be a good way to be less surprised in the future.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 3:13 PM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Also, the question in the headline asks whether it is offensive. I don't know if you're just trying to stir the pot or what, but that word isn't used even once in the dissenting article.

Are some people concerned? Certainly. Do some people dislike the character, or think he is poorly conceived? Obviously. But why would anyone be offended?
posted by hermitosis at 3:19 PM on March 15, 2011


[Spoilers Ahoy!]

Last week's show was powerful and moving because it wasn't about Kurt. Two young women with complicated feelings for each other was a million times more relevant to my high school experience. I've written before about my complicated feelings for Jennifer Knapp, and my complicated teenage years. I found being confused and scared and alone to be defining, not the out and proud defiant flamboyance of Kurt. I envied kids like him. People who really knew who they were and screw everyone else.

No, it's Santana and Brittany that made me care about the show. Love and desire and rejection. Having a friendship and wanting more. Not being sure how to get there from here and being too scared to try. Oh Santana, I am so so sorry. And I feel like I'm comforting me a decade ago. Damn. Being a teenager is awful and hard.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've long been frustrated by the fact that gays are the other magical negro.

Worse still, that I'm occasionally expected to be the magical fabulous fag.

"What shoes should you wear? How the hell would I know? Which ones are most comfortable? Wear those. Jesus Christ, you know we were supposed to be on the road an hour ago. Why are you crying?"

Because I travel in art circles, I'm expected to know gay stuff, but I think I present a sort of dilemma to gal pals in search of a gay. That said, being a gay who can change a starter motor on the side of the road and who happens to have a one and a half ton jack and two hundred pounds of tools in the trunk is useful, too.

Am I offended that there's an empowered sissy on TV? Not a chance. I love sissies, myself.

Mind you, it wouldn't hurt to have another kind of queer on the box, even if it's just some other superficial stereotype. Heck—there's gotta be two, maybe three types of women on TV. How 'bout two kinds of gayness, for a start?
posted by sonascope at 3:24 PM on March 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


the latest embodiment of a tired cliche -- the 'fabulous' gay man.

Kurt is a fabulous embodiment of a tired cliche.

I would like to see a very special episode where Kurt has to help his dad fix a flat tire.

An episode makes clear that Kurt does sometimes help his dad change tires at his Dad's tire shop. The doing of it wasn't on-screen, though.
posted by Zed at 3:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh Santana, I am so so sorry.

I felt for her, so much. There I was, all those years ago (though I wasn't mean like Santana). And it was, I thought, a great arrangement of Landslide.
posted by rtha at 3:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


re: Two young women with complicated feelings for each other that stoneweaver mentioned reminded me of Allison Bechdel's "The Rule" from Dykes to Watch Out For.
posted by entropone at 3:30 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The doing of it wasn't on-screen, though.

Yes, I want some on-screen, Kurt-based tire rotation, please. Preferably set to an autotuned cover of a Missy Elliot's "One Minute Man".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:32 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't like Kurt (and actually find most of the show's characters to be unambiguously deplorable), but not for this reason.

Yes, in many ways, Kurt is a stereotypical gay character. However, many of these characteristics can be attributed to self-projection, and his character's search for some sort of identity – he doesn't really have any other gay role models to follow prior to meeting Blaine, which is, in itself, even more confusing to Kurt, given that he doesn't quite understand why Blaine is so far removed from the "mold" and seems so much less concerned about labels (and let's fact it – Glee's writers never met a stereotype they didn't love). So, he follows the stereotype, because he doesn't know what else to do..... (And, seriously, it's hard to go wrong with showtunes and Cher – what's not to love..... Where was I again...oh right.)

The most recent episode explores this a bit further. Even though Kurt knows that he's gay, he doesn't really know what it means to be gay. He's absolutely terrified at the prospect of sleeping with another guy. Even Blaine has these sorts of doubts, as his unassailable self-confidence is shattered when his advances toward his older crush are shot down, and he decides to get funky with Rachel during that godawful "Beer Bad" episode.

(I also don't take huge issue with his character's mild biphobia. Apart from Kurt's obvious jealousy angle, a lot of young gay men use bisexuality as a sort of a crutch before fully "coming out." The gay football bully is a great example of this sort of thing. Although there's nothing inherently wrong about this, it's easy to see why Kurt, who made enormous personal sacrifices by coming out of the closet, would view bisexuals as cowardly gay men. Also, don't forget that the show's characters are at least ostensibly supposed to be 16-17 years old, and not philosophers. The writers sometimes forget this, and my personal opinion is that Will (the teacher) is the only character who actually behaves like a high school student)

He's not Jack, and he's not Will. He's Kurt, and he has no idea what to do or who to follow, and is pretty scared about that.

Jesus Christ. That was a lot to write about a show that I don't even particularly like. Can we also talk about how the backup musicians are always there, are never playing the correct instruments to correspond to the song, and never once factor into the plot? Similarly, half of the cast members don't need autotune to sound great.
posted by schmod at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I 2nd the above comments about Kurt and his dad. I think any teen would give anything to have a dad who actually talked to them about sex in a decent way.
The last episode I saw his dad was advising him that sex is great and all... but when you just give it away you give away a piece of your soul/heart/whatever.(I'm paraphrasing of course)
I think that relationship seems very genuine and touching.

Most of the other characters annoy me and seem very thin. But I still watch it...The show isn't like anything I've ever seen.
posted by hot_monster at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

Modern Family's gay couple (Mitch and Cam) are certainly main characters.

How often do they deal with gender identity and sex education issues?

Their sexual preferences didn't seem to be a big deal to the story, but I have only watched a few episodes and may be completely mistaken. The Wikipedia article linked above has some info in "Criticism and controversy" section.
posted by vidur at 3:33 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by Eideteker at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2011


See the problem here has nothing to do with how gays are portrayed at all.

The problem here is that people who know how to write, and do write...should NOT be watching Glee. And then, people who watch Glee...should not be able to write.

Thats how this argument was solved.

It's GLEE, y'all. WTF is going on with amateur sociologists/writers that you have to turn to GLEE to backup your own ideas of what society is. Please go read the boring shit that you have to read, rather than the pop-py shit that everyone is watching. Thats the difference between you and everyone else.

Your profession depends on it.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is offensive because he is gay in a way that is different from the way I am gay. Honestly, walk around in a room full of gay men and there is a touch of Kurt in most of them. Turn on LOGO TV and you will see buttboat loads of much shallower Kurts.

More kinds of gay people would be great. But I am not going to get offended at a pretty typical gay boy.

Still, I have to wonder where the praise is for the most realistic gay couple on TV from the Sarah Silverman Program, of all places.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:35 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


The last episode I saw his dad was advising him that sex is great and all... but when you just give it away you give away a piece of your soul/heart/whatever.(I'm paraphrasing of course)

So the step forward for society is that shows can be just as trite about homosexual as well as heterosexual sexual relations?
posted by biffa at 3:38 PM on March 15, 2011


Equating the two is certainly not a bad step.
posted by maryr at 3:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Their sexual preferences didn't seem to be a big deal to the story, but I have only watched a few episodes

I like to think of Cam and Mitchell as Laurel and Hardy - if they were married. Sometimes the show goes for the cheap screamy-queen laugh but when they go beyond that the show really kicks into gear. Season 1 is pretty fantastic. Season 2 is doing well.
posted by ao4047 at 3:45 PM on March 15, 2011


And it was, I thought, a great arrangement of Landslide.

Ditto. I didn't even mind Paltrow for the length of that song.

Dear Gwynnth,
While I congratulate you on being able to rock the auto-tune, there is no equivalent for dancing.

You're a wooden plank, sweetie. Stick to faux-plucking the guitar before the ghost of Fosse decides to bitch slap you with ectoplasmic *JAZZ HANDS*.

kthxbye

posted by romakimmy at 3:45 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Omar Little will be the best example for years to come.

Puts "Omar comin' yo" in a whole new light.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:51 PM on March 15, 2011


my personal opinion is that Will (the teacher) is the only character who actually behaves like a high school student)

Yes! Thank you!
posted by rtha at 3:58 PM on March 15, 2011


my personal opinion is that Will (the teacher) is the only character who actually behaves like a high school student)

Yes! Thank you!


This is a pretty standard trope, where the children and adults are reversed in their maturity. See Dawson's Creek, et al. Although I dunno where it is on TV Tropes.
posted by GuyZero at 4:00 PM on March 15, 2011


I know this is tangential, but it annoys me so I have to say it. So much is made of how Kurt has no role models about how to be a gay man (except maybe now, with Blaine) but what about Rachel's two dads? A loving couple with an adopted child? And at whose house he stays over periodically? Drives me crazy!
posted by girl scientist at 4:00 PM on March 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Will (the teacher) is the only character who actually behaves like a high school student.

Man I hate that character. Which is too bad, because he's a great dancer.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:01 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV?

Not many and as someone trying to get a show up on Australian TV about gay women, I can tell you there won't be more any time soon. At least not in this country. We've had to turn to the internet to prove to Australian networks that there is an "audience" for shows about gay people because the content commissioners feel that a show about gay people is too "niche".
posted by broohem at 4:05 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mind you, it wouldn't hurt to have another kind of queer on the box, even if it's just some other superficial stereotype.

Oh, there are lots of these too. Some already mentioned in-thread. I'm glad to see them too, because I know some gays can relate to them more, but then i get irritated when I hear straight people praise the characters for not being "defined by their sexuality" or "not rubbing people's faces in it" or even (sort of like above) "his gayness was just sort of there."

I remember the frustration I felt as a fourteen-year-old with the gay character on Melrose Place, Matt. He was just sort of... there. He didn't do anything particularly gay (not that I could tell then, at least). He looked sort of ordinary. He worked in a hospital. Later on they tried to spice him up with a murder subplot, but it wasn't very convincing. I'm sure it was sort of ground-breaking, and lots of homos probably appreciated it, but as someone who was trying to learn about gayness, it was pretty dull.
posted by hermitosis at 4:07 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty standard trope, where the children and adults are reversed in their maturity. See Dawson's Creek, et al. Although I dunno where it is on TV Tropes.

Adults Are Useless [Warning: TV Tropes]
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:10 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

September 29, 2010: Gay Characters on Television at a New High, Study Says.

GLAAD: 'Where We Are On TV Report: 2010 - 2011 Season.'
posted by ericb at 4:11 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah -- the absolute gayest thing Matt did on Melrose Place was yank off Kimberly's wig in front of everyone at the hospital. WERRRRRK!
posted by hermitosis at 4:16 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, I want some on-screen, Kurt-based tire rotation, please.

Oh, please, oh, please let Fred be there to help. Please?
posted by ericb at 4:16 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to think of Cam and Mitchell as Laurel and Hardy - if they were married. Sometimes the show goes for the cheap screamy-queen laugh but when they go beyond that the show really kicks into gear. Season 1 is pretty fantastic. Season 2 is doing well.

That's one of the strengths of the show, I think. Cam and Mitchell's being gay does inform events, but for the most part it does so in the way that a character's heterosexuality does - Cam getting jealous about Mitchell's male secretary, Claire getting jealous about Phil's female facebook friend. And when their homosexuality has unique bearing, it does so in a realistic way - the recent episode about the last name on Lily's adoption certificate, or the episode with Mitchell's ex-girlfriend from when he was closeted.

This is something you can do when you have a well-written show with grounded, human characters. So of course Glee's incapable of it; they're the iTunes music store equivalent of the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Choco-Bot Hour.
posted by kafziel at 4:21 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Okay, so we have five non-straight characters on Glee. Let's analyze, shall we?

* Kurt, on the out, flamboyant side of gay, kn9ws he likes guys Like That but is in no way ready to take on the actual nookie yet.
* Blaine, out but only somewhat flamboyant compared to Kurt. I suspect he's also afraid to go all the way on some levels.
* Karofsky, Armored Closet Gay, butch guy who's terrified to be out in high school, much less to go there physically.
* Brittany, a girl who's comfortable in both directions, thanks.
* Santana, a girl who on the one hand, ain't ashamed to swing both ways. But what she's embarrassed about, as it turns out, is that she might really only like just girls and not guys.

I dunno, that seems like a pretty good mix to me for a TV show. Ranging from all out to closeted to comfortable to confused.

Yeah, Glee's not going for Oscar-level depth. Duh. It's about spectacle, with moments of depth here and there before going back to the dance numbers. But all things considered, I think it does pretty good for what it does.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


I dunno, that seems like a pretty good mix to me for a TV show. Ranging from all out to closeted to comfortable to confused.

Exactly. So why are people picking on Kurt? Why does he make people so uncomfortable?
posted by hermitosis at 4:28 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It had Jodie Dallas!

Wifey and I have been watching Soap on Netflix. We were both pretty young when the show came on -- Wifey was in high school, I was in gradeschool, and neither of us really remember just how earthshaking the presentation of Jodie's gayness was. Maybe the 70s were just that way, I don't know, but the amount of homosexual slurs really makes us cringe sometimes -- however, it's balanced out by some honest reflection on Jodie's gayness while emphasizing he's just a person like anybody else. His gayness is pointed out by other people more than he demonstrates it himself, and that's even when he's with a boyfriend. It seems like half the time, when Jodie points out that he's gay it's just to remind somebody who seems to have forgotten, not to proclaim it to the world. In that sense, his groundedness in his homosexuality is downright modern for a show of the late 1970s. He's a male character who happens to be gay, rather than the Gay Character.

The annoying thing is that when he's given a storyline it seems to be all about "is Jodie really gay?". He's starts spending a lot of time with a woman, who goads him into having sex with her, and they conceive a child. Then, later he talks a lesbian out of suicide and then they break up with their lovers and spend all their time together and omygod maybe there's something more. It tends to head back in the right direction eventually -- particularly when Jodie has to decide between having custody of his daughter and living with his lesbian friend, it's some powerful stuff, but his character's conflict seems to rely too much on whether or not he might become ungay someday.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:29 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I watch Glee despite the awful, awful music, because I just love mentally contrasting it to Lucy and Ricky and their very separate beds. Andsoforth.
posted by everichon at 4:31 PM on March 15, 2011


Okay, so we have five non-straight characters on Glee.

They may not count as "characters", since they're thus-far unseen, but Rachel Barry has two dads.
posted by AzraelBrown at 4:33 PM on March 15, 2011


We've had to turn to the internet to prove to Australian networks that there is an "audience" for shows about gay people because the content commissioners feel that a show about gay people is too "niche"

Mardi Gras? That's pretty mainstream
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:42 PM on March 15, 2011


Mind you, it wouldn't hurt to have another kind of queer on the box, even if it's just some other superficial stereotype. Heck—there's gotta be two, maybe three types of women on TV. How 'bout two kinds of gayness, for a start?

This is where we might have gone backwards, culturally. I remember that both All In The Family and Barney Miller had episodes featuring both affeminate and more traditonally masculine (and I don't mean leatherman stereotypes) characters. And M*A*S*H had an ep dealing with a nonstereotypical gay guy who was decorated soldier who had been gay-bashed. These days it's just femme types (not that there's anything wronbg with that) but it seems to be one dimensional.

/sympathetic straight guy
/may be totally off base
posted by jonmc at 4:51 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

Pretty Little Liars has been handling its lesbian character Emily excellently all season.

Not so excellent, Aria and her English teacher. For the love of god show, stop it with these two. THEY ARE NOT MEANT TO BE. Sorry.
posted by yellowbinder at 4:52 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


(also, I have never watched Glee and never will, but reading MeFi makes me feel like I have)
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on March 15, 2011


Good examples jon, but there's a huge difference between actual gay characters and those who show up for an episode or two, existing solely for the straight people to react to.

And I really disagree that it's just femme types out there now. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Though many people really seem to think there is something wrong with that. They feel threatened by gays on that end of the spectrum -- masculinity (and the rejection or subversion of it) is a very complex issue in the gay world, as much or moreso than in the straight. There is a lot of bias against men acting like queens. Add into the mix that this is a show for kids, and you've got some potent GRARbait right there.

That's what makes Kurt a great character -- he may be cobbled together out of stereotypes, but he is not some caricature trotted out for laughs alone, merely to confirm people's biases. He's a real presence, with actual feelings and surprising revelations.
posted by hermitosis at 5:08 PM on March 15, 2011


Good examples jon, but there's a huge difference between actual gay characters and those who show up for an episode or two, existing solely for the straight people to react to.

I don't disagree, but a (for lack of a better term) 'regular dude,' gay character on TV would be interesting just to see the reaction. Martin Mull as Roseanne's boss was that way at first but devolved into a stereotype.
posted by jonmc at 5:13 PM on March 15, 2011


(also, I have never watched Glee and never will, but reading MeFi makes me feel like I have)

My kids (14, 17) love it, so I begrudgingly started watching with them, seeing as it had some pretty adult themes at times. I found it had enough redeeming features to make me not hate it as much as I thought I would. They pull off one good song about every 2 or 3 episodes. The Mercedes character has awesome pipes for Soul/R&B covers, and the mohawked dude did a good version of "Fat Bottomed Girls" a couple of weeks back. The showtunes I could do without, though.
posted by rocket88 at 5:21 PM on March 15, 2011


They may not count as "characters", since they're thus-far unseen, but Rachel Barry has two dads.

Didn't they have actual screen time during one of those episodes where Rachel is dating Puck? Why do I remember this.


Also I would like to formally register my discontent that Glee has not yet done a cover of a George Michael song.
posted by elizardbits at 5:21 PM on March 15, 2011


They are out there, jon -- you may just not watching the right shows. If you look at the roundup linked above, you'll know where to look.
posted by hermitosis at 5:25 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

There's a main character in the Showtime show Shameless (suprisingly decent remake of the British show of the same name) that's gay, plus a couple other recurring characters. None really fit the same mold.
posted by inigo2 at 5:27 PM on March 15, 2011


One of the young "creatives" on Mad Men was openly gay and non-flamboyant, but he was a pretty minor character and seems to have disappeared from the show.
posted by rocket88 at 5:30 PM on March 15, 2011


'Flamboyant' or 'defined by his sexuality' just means non-normatively-masculine. Every single other male character on TV is flamboyantly masculine and has no personality outside their stereotypical heterosexuality, by that standard. Which may well be the case.
posted by emmtee at 5:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


They are out there, jon -- you may just not watching the right shows.

Herm, my man, you forget, I mainly use my TV to watch old shows like MASH , Barney Miller and Kojak as a tranquilizer. But I'm glad they're out there anyway.
posted by jonmc at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2011


being a gay who.... happens to have a one and a half ton jack... is useful, too

That's what he said.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:46 PM on March 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm so ashamed
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is this very ..unsettling to me hostility toward femmes, especially online, usually manifesting in this kind of weird defensive " I'm not a sissy, I'm a professional!" posture which just conflates so many class issues it makes my head spin, and a " Not like you see on TV" when really, there haven't been that many really femmy guys in mainstream media so it always feels like you're being given a speical tour of This Person's head and it's always icky.

Not that me and my Viking frame and tendency to fall down are going to be called sissy any time soon, but I have noticed that femmy guys are Okay To Slam online and it's usually other gays doing it and I just don't get it, it's " I hate female hysterical fmales of either gender" all over again and I say to fuck with it.
posted by The Whelk at 5:54 PM on March 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


Or yeah, I just don't know what guys mean when they put up ads on dating/ hookup sites that describe themselves as " professional" which I think is supposed to mean " passing" or is it code for " middle class" I don't get it and it annoys me. I just want to have a teenage dance party or something.
posted by The Whelk at 5:57 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


I have seen "no femmes" or "I act like a man, and so should you" on so many gay dating profiles, and while everyone is the best judge of what they're attracted to, it seems like many of them are trying to shove themselves and others into a whole different closet. And I've MET some of the guys that say those things, and very few of them have been remarkable in their own flagrant displays of masculinity, so I think there is a sort of Emperor's New Clothes effect going on.
posted by hermitosis at 6:03 PM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, I'm not the world's biggest Dan Savage fan for a lot of reasons, but I do like the " it takes more balls to be me a sissy then to blend in" stance.
posted by The Whelk at 6:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just want to have a teenage dance party or something.

idk why I am now picturing the Rapper's Delight video but there you go.
posted by elizardbits at 6:06 PM on March 15, 2011


New clothes effect going on

Yeah, none of them can ever seem to point to a living real example of the kind of sissy they ain't, but he's totally out there, fer reals, sissying it up all the time.

Which makes me think it's a class thing.
posted by The Whelk at 6:09 PM on March 15, 2011


Exactly. So why are people picking on Kurt? Why does he make people so uncomfortable?

The problem I have with Kurt is that he keeps making arguments that frustrate me. When Blaine spent the night (in that awful drinking episode) and his father confronted him, Kurt went immediately to "Is this because I'm gay?!" which is goddamn ridiculous.

And his whole anti-bi stance in that episode, though that could be chalked up to jealousy more than anything.
posted by graventy at 6:15 PM on March 15, 2011


Let's remember that TV does not promote "breakthroughs", so much as normalize and promote existing tropes.

The fab gay man is new to TV even though it is old, fabulous hat for the rest of us.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:18 PM on March 15, 2011


I think thebstereotyping is that fabulous characters are necessarily gay.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:33 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


This gem is the entire final paragraph of the Guardian article:

How about a new series called Gloom, set in Southend-on-Sea, in which the gay protagonist is a kleptomaniac BMX biker who meets his teenage boyfriend in a young offenders home after being jailed for conning tourists? Episode one features the song Don't Stop Deceiving, a heavy-metal cover that isn't available on iTunes.

damn, I'd totally watch THAT show!!
posted by kuppajava at 6:40 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would also watch that programme.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:49 PM on March 15, 2011


It seems like many of them are trying to shove themselves and others into a whole different closet.

Absolutely. I've known a fair few aggressively masculine gay guys myself, and there's always this sense of desperation about them - like, you're trying so damn hard to conform to the masculine mould, but you'll always be committing the biggest possible gender transgression in fucking men. And however perfectly you perform the rest of it, they'll never count you as one of them because of that, so why spend so much time policing your every thought and action for some arbitrary standard of manliness?

On preview: Amen, Astro Zombie. Or that on the vanishingly rare occasion a non-gay fabulous guy appears, it's inevitably that he's secretly (of course!) naturally masculine and acting up to expectations because he's a hairdresser or fashion reporter or whatev, or he's doing it as an unbelievably creepy way of getting closer to a girl without her realising he only wants her cooch.
posted by emmtee at 6:50 PM on March 15, 2011


I'm compelled to pop in to say that being gay is a full time job. Most of us just don't get paid for it.
posted by crataegus at 6:52 PM on March 15, 2011


That's 'cause most gays aren't allowed to unionize. Yet.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:58 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was going to come in here and try to discuss gay men in television and the fact that we don't see gay women as well in prime time television. And then I saw it was about Glee.

Buh bye.
posted by Splunge at 7:02 PM on March 15, 2011


Lemme explain the whole "straight-acting" thing for y'all.

It's not an act. We're just like that. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

(Hypermasculinity, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. "I've known a fair few aggressively masculine gay guys myself, and there's always this sense of desperation about them"--take out the word "gay" from that statement, and it's every bit as true. Funny how that works, huh?)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:04 PM on March 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


"And however perfectly you perform the rest of it, they'll never count you as one of them because of that"

So, straight guys are unavoidably homophobic who will without exception reject gay men as peers?

Seriously? I hope that's not what you meant to say.
posted by oddman at 7:09 PM on March 15, 2011


Guys who act like guys can like guys who act like guys.

Gimme a pool-playing, baseball-watching rock-n-roller who drinks beer and smokes pot, and I'll write you a thank you card for your generosity!
posted by hippybear at 7:10 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's basically that if a television show of any kind portrayed the average gay or bi person, it would be boring. TV wants flamboyant for gay to work. I honestly can't think of any man portrayed as gay that didn't have some "GAY" tick of some kind. And while that can work sometime, if the person is supposed to be that way...

Well let's face it, the only way that a flamboyant gay man would really work is that the rest of the cast was also gay and there was a straight female who adored them. You'd need a totally homosexual TV show with a few flamboyantly strange people who were part of the clique. The regulars would have normal lives. Normal loves and issues. Occasionally the fag hag would pop in for comic effect. There would be the two silly heteroexuals talking about having a baby or something.

I dunno. That's why I'm not writing for TV. But think about the Jeffersons. They had a white neighbor who was a bit flamboyant.

Nah, forget that. It's stereotypes all the way down.
posted by Splunge at 7:18 PM on March 15, 2011


I'm not sure he's so much of an offensive stereotype as he represents a fairly reliable trope in the media. Not a media critic but it almost seems the magical fabulous gay man is something that something that is currently relatively safe and definable even if you are heterosexual male. You might not be friends with him and he might make you uncomfortable in his fabulousness but you know where he stands.

I wonder if TV execs feel that throwing a completely "straight acting" gay guy into a sitcom with other straight guys is too threatening for the average viewer. The idea that one of their bros might be gay might've crossed their minds once or twice but it simply generates too much doubt for the sitcom's jokes to come off as funny. Or maybe fully realized characters simply don't generate the laughs or audience identification that timeworn stereotypes do.

I think it would be great if one of the high profile tv writers decided to steer away from the classic fabulous gay man tropes but it just seems like just about anything innovative seems to be nuked during focus group testing these days.
posted by vuron at 7:22 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A show I remember enjoying on cable was on Showtime. The L Word.
posted by Splunge at 7:27 PM on March 15, 2011


Kurt's being stereotypically fabulous sometimes bugs me, but when I think about the gay kids that I knew were out in high school, they were pretty stereotypical, too. Defiantly so, in some cases, and maybe they had to be. At the time (early 1980s), they definitely didn't have a lot of non-stereotypical gay characters in mainstream culture to emulate, so maybe they were following the only examples they knew.

The character of Kurt's dad is strong enough to make up for whatever ridiculous thing they have Kurt do.

I love Burt because he always does (and usually says) the right thing, even though sometimes it's clearly outside his comfort zone. He recognizes the limitations he has due to his own background and upbringing and works to overcome them because he love his son. If I were a father I'd consider him an excellent role model. Props to Mike O'Malley for his excellent work as Burt.

Plus, Kurt and Burt? Awesome.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:30 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nevermind, that wasn't what I was looking for. now I'm confused.
posted by Splunge at 7:30 PM on March 15, 2011


My favorite fabulous gay man trope ever is Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen.

He's my favorite because he's not gay! But boy, he's really fuckin' fabulous!
posted by hippybear at 7:30 PM on March 15, 2011


I kinda liked the L word initially but after season 2 or so the plotlines took a distinct dive into crazy town. I understand that in dramas you want to keep giving something new for the characters to do and explore new creative ground but I felt like the show kept drifting farther and farther from depicting young chic LA lesbians as fundamentally normal and having normal emotions, feelings, problems into a place where it was all drama all the time which seems like it was undermining the core message: We are the same as you.
posted by vuron at 7:32 PM on March 15, 2011


What was the gay variety show that I used to watch? Sort of a gay SNL? My Googles have failed me.
posted by Splunge at 7:32 PM on March 15, 2011


Gimme a pool-playing, baseball-watching rock-n-roller who drinks beer and smokes pot, and I'll write you a thank you card for your generosity!

Dude, I'm married and straight and my wife could kick your ass. ;>
posted by jonmc at 7:34 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean the Big Gay Sketch Show on logo splunge? I only caught that a few times but the quality of the writing and acting seemed remarkably amateur. Maybe it got better later but yikes I was not impressed.
posted by vuron at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2011


Omar packed a big gun.
posted by bwg at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2011


I dunno, the Rachel-Blaine-Kurt subplot was resolved way too quickly, and there are in fact bi men out there, writers, and it wouldn't kill you to maybe explore that, but for the most part I have been pretty pleased with all five of our queer kids on Glee. They sing! They dance! They are athletes! One of them has a blazer! The subplot I like best is the connection between Karofsky and Santana. I feel like we have seen the homophobic closet case boy dozens of times, but a self-loathing closet case girl? Not so much.

I also have a totally unfounded theory that our bi boy is going to be Sam. Wait, come back! I have evidence and I don't read fan fiction, if such a thing exists of-course-it-does-who-am-I-kidding?
posted by jenlovesponies at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, vuron, that was it. And it did get better. And let's face it, what else was there?
posted by Splunge at 7:38 PM on March 15, 2011


Best Gay Friend trope on InfoMania.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:39 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Exactly. So why are people picking on Kurt? Why does he make people so uncomfortable?

Because he's being promoted as, to quote the FPP, "one of the "best gay characters" of all time", and yet the mindset that produced him seems to be that of Homer Simpson. "I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals fa-laming" is insulting, not affirming.
posted by kafziel at 7:42 PM on March 15, 2011


Actually, the mindset that produced him is more "Baby, I was born this way." I mean, the part wasn't even originally part of the show's concept, it was actually written for Chris Colfer to play after he auditioned.

That's partly why he gets the love he does -- he wasn't engineered in some lab to satisfy gay or straight appetites. He grew out of the show, and out of Chris Colfer's performance and natural attributes. He's the embodiment of someone who can't blend in, played by someone who can't blend in.
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't believe that a gay character has to be affirming anymore than I believe that sports figures are role models. They are what they are.

If you need someone that plays a game to tell you how you or your children should act you are giving control to strangers.

If you give your personal integrity to someone who has a certain sexual or personal lifestyle, you are lazy.
posted by Splunge at 7:50 PM on March 15, 2011


How many gay characters are there on TV? How many are main characters?

There's Ian Gallagher on Shameless. He could easily beat Kurt up.
posted by mike3k at 8:06 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's Ian Gallagher on Shameless. He could easily beat Kurt up.

Oh, I like where this is going... :P
posted by hermitosis at 8:17 PM on March 15, 2011


The hands-down best gay character in all of fiction is Dumbledore. I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.

I'd say he's tied with Felix Gaeta.
posted by lunasol at 8:25 PM on March 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


To me, Keith Charles and David Fisher win hands down. They showed me that the "flamboyant gay man" stereotype can be true and utterly false at the same time.
posted by grammar corrections at 8:38 PM on March 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Because he's being promoted as, to quote the FPP, "one of the "best gay characters" of all time", and yet the mindset that produced him seems to be that of Homer Simpson. "I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals fa-laming" is insulting, not affirming.

Just as a personal note. I was a lot like Kurt in school: a flaming, singing, dancing fag. And do you know what happened to out fags? Well, Matthew Shepard happened one year and I couldn't think of any other fags near my age. Had Glee been on that would have been very affirming to me. Just as I am sure it is affirming to thousands of sissy queers in school.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:42 PM on March 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'd say he's tied with Felix Gaeta.

Oh. Are we counting Season 4.5 as non-canon again? If not, then Hoshi definitely gets that award over Gaeta. Hands down. Also, for chrissakes, why didn't the BSG writers advance that plotline sooner, given that the "Gaeta is gay" meme originated among the cast very early on in the series?

Of course, I don't think there would have been very many complaints if they took Apollo or Starbuck (or even Tyrol's) character in that direction instead. Hell. That might have even guaranteed the show an audience.

And, also -- were we seriously supposed to believe that Simon Tam was straight?

posted by schmod at 9:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Who would ever think that the FOX network would mislead us about gay people and replay a Jim Crowe stereotype but apply it to the homosexual community? No! Not you, Fox!
posted by AndrewShortComedy at 9:47 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the Dumbledore, Gaeta suggestions are people poking fun at really closeted (by the text) gay characters who are apparently supposed to be significant in this kind of conversation. They aren't and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.
posted by crossoverman at 9:59 PM on March 15, 2011


Not really poking fun - if we're talking best all-around characters in fiction who happen to be gay, I stand by my statement: Dumbledore one of my favorites. He's also one of my all-time favorite characters, period. Plus it's been a while since I read the books, but I don't think he's necessarily closeted in the text; his sexuality just doesn't come up. Also, this thing I said at the time on mefi.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:31 PM on March 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus it's been a while since I read the books, but I don't think he's necessarily closeted in the text; his sexuality just doesn't come up. Also, this thing I said at the time on mefi.

Well, I specifically said he was closeted by the text, since the text doesn't refer to it at all - you need extra-textual information to actually know he's gay. (This is almost true of Gaeta from BSG, as well. If you watch the series, you wouldn't know. If you watched the webisodes, it's made explicit... but since those aren't even available now, it's almost like it's not there.)

Yes, I said one or two things in that Dumbledore thread, too. Yes, he just "happens" to be gay. Yes, it might not be important to the story Rowling was telling. But if it actually was a part of his character, it should have been worth mentioning. You know, somewhere in seven novels.
posted by crossoverman at 10:59 PM on March 15, 2011


Yeah, I'll grant you that - I wish it had been explicitly mentioned in the text.

On a sort-of-unrelated unrelated but Glee-related note, Brittany's "I don't even remember putting that in there!" made my night.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:10 PM on March 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm so tired of the "cliche" argument. Some gays are camp and like show tunes; deal with it. It's just a convenient shield for a certain type of insidious gay bashing by other queers. How are we supposed to beat homophobia when a large part of our community joins in?
posted by londonmark at 1:01 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, I said one or two things in that Dumbledore thread, too. Yes, he just "happens" to be gay. Yes, it might not be important to the story Rowling was telling. But if it actually was a part of his character, it should have been worth mentioning. You know, somewhere in seven novels.

If you were trying to get him removed as head master, combining "gay" with "unhealthy interest in/mentoring of Harry Potter", and the good ol' "gay = kiddie fiddler" would seem a good bet for the bad guys in the novels. More odd that it wouldn't be used.
posted by rodgerd at 2:13 AM on March 16, 2011


oddman: So, straight guys are unavoidably homophobic who will without exception reject gay men as peers?

Seriously? I hope that's not what you meant to say.


Are all straight guys 'aggressively masculine' now? Must be something in the water.

Sorry, 'aggressively masculine' honestly probably wasn't the clear shorthand I thought it was at sometime past midnight. Of course I'm not talking about straight guys as a whole; just the similarly masculinity-policing ones as our hypothetical gay example. I see people using 'hypermasculine', and that's a much better way to put it.

But yes, I think hypermasculine straight guys will never look at a gay man as a true peer, however much he meets the standard in other ways, because he's breaking from the gendered ideal in a way he can't change.

Sys Rq, if your personality is naturally masculine, you don't have to try to conform to an ideal. And obviously, you don't. That's awesome, but you're not who I'm talking about. You're also likely not the guy constantly on about real men and the need to act like one, or objecting to feminine guys in the spotlight because you're afraid you'll be tarred with the same brush, because you don't need to be insecure about it. I never said 'straight acting' because that'd be massively insulting to the huge number of masculine gay men who aren't acting anything. But hypermasculine, gender-policing guys are all over the place, and form the loudest, angriest voices in the gay community whenever some 'stereotype' (read: feminine gay man) is perceived as misrepresenting them through their shared sexuality. As with Kurt. And as a feminine queer guy, it's something I've encountered a million times myself.

(Hypermasculinity, on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. "I've known a fair few aggressively masculine gay guys myself, and there's always this sense of desperation about them"--take out the word "gay" from that statement, and it's every bit as true. Funny how that works, huh?)

Do you really think the two are exactly the same, though? The way I see it, the hypermasculine model tells all guys that where their own personality diverges from it, they're wrong and should change. Google 'be a man' or 'real men'. Gay and bi men have one unchangeable thing about ourselves that definitely doesn't fit the ideal. Both groups are caused tension by it, and both get desperate, but I think there's something to be said about the distinction.
posted by emmtee at 3:02 AM on March 16, 2011


If you were trying to get him removed as head master, combining "gay" with "unhealthy interest in/mentoring of Harry Potter", and the good ol' "gay = kiddie fiddler" would seem a good bet for the bad guys in the novels. More odd that it wouldn't be used.

Dumbledore turns out to be the bad guy, anyway. He was using Harry all along to defeat Voldemort. Another reason why the whole Dumbledore-is-queer revelation annoys me - he was duplicitous on nearly every level.
posted by crossoverman at 5:05 AM on March 16, 2011


re: Dumbledore, I think some of the best reasons I've heard for why his queerness wasn't a focus in the books is because the books are from Harry's POV. And since Dumbledore is notorious from keeping a lot secret from Harry, it seems highly unlikely that a conversation about his sexuality would have come up.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:15 AM on March 16, 2011


(i.e. not that it's a problem, just that it's not something Harry would be likely to know.)
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:16 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think what bothers me about the kind of stock portrayals you see in the mainstream media isn't that there's not some truth to them. It's not that there aren't Kurts and Carson Kressleys and closeted football players out there. There are, they're fine, and the world needs people like them. They just feel like characters, as opposed to people. People are nuanced and unpredictable. Characters stay true to their scripts. People can be butch archetypes who hunt and fish and shout at the TV during March madness and still love shibuya kei music and baked brie. Characters have carefully laid-out eccentricities that writers think make them interesting, where People have fetishes, oddities, and fixations based on a lifetime of history. With a deft touch, a writer can make a Character into a Person, but it's rare when it comes to a Gay™ Character.

When David Sedaris first started to appear in the periphery of the NPRniverse, one of the reasons I absolutely loved him was that he was one of the first Characters I'd heard who read like a Person—a nuanced, evolved voice where the queerness of his self-voiced Character was completely natural and incidental to his existence. We'd had so many breast-beating coming out stories, or AIDS stories, or tragic victim turned triumphant Character stories, where the whole essence of the tale turned on the constant invocation of gayness. "I have this big thing to tell you," they'd solemnly intone to their stunned parents, friends, about-to-be-rejected girlfriends, and the gayness would burst into the room like a balloon sculpture of a dolphin leaping out of the dark, dark sea.

It's probably still important to have some form of the magical homo out there, for the kids who haven't quite mastered the internet well enough to understand that their friends, families, neighbors, classmates, pastors, and pundits are well and truly completely full of shit when it comes to the essence of being queer. It's just, well, I've only got thirty-three years left to live, if life expectancy stats apply to me, and I don't want to watch Glee playing out angsty coming out stories in the voice of what seems to my admittedly not fully involved eye to be a composite Character in those precious remaining years. I want to see Characters turn into People, the kind that tell me things about being alive in the world and being a human Person, with challenges, issues, and realism.

It's the story they don't tell that's the loss here, not the tale of the brave sissy. Sissies are wonderful and amazing. It was sissies who finally snapped at Stonewall, not bourgeois architects with coffee klatsch lives, tut-tutting over the extremes. Sissies are the soldiers on the front lines, standing up while "masculine" men hide in the shadows, waiting for the appropriate time to step forward (and often hanging back there way, way too long). I'm not offended by Kurt, but he's just a sliver of what could be a resource for truly amazing storytelling.

The citation of the guys from the Sarah Silverman Show was interesting, because I've often felt that those guys represent more of the gay guys I know than almost anything on TV. They're desexualized, of course, because even on cable, American TV is American TV, and there's a curious construction to their intimacy that I don't always buy, but they're pigs. They dress badly, their home is filthy, badly decorated, and trashy, and they listen to bad music and have bad habits, and they're fat, but they're not Divine fat, or fabulous, Drag Race, I'm-fat-and-I'm-powerful fat—they're fat like most of us fat people are fat, with schlumpy normal human bodies. There's a lot of contention with some of my friends as to their realism, but I get these guys.

That's the thing. I feel like I live an odd variant on a gay life. I live in a small apartment building where my two primary exes live in other apartments in the building, and my sister's ex-husband lives there, too. I've been in my apartment for 23 years, and my place varies from sort of casually sloppy to verging on an homage to the Collyer brothers, where I'll be found buried under stacks of science fiction paperbacks, fancy art books, vintage tomes on carpentry, and collected works of great literature in musty hardback form. I've got a closet completely filled with manual typewriters, a nun's habit hanging next to my greasy mechanic's coveralls, and a small, but treasured, collection of porn from the Civilian Conservation Corps work camps from the thirties.

I feel like an oddball, but pretty much all the gay guys I know are oddballs. My riding buddy is a cranky 59 year-old with a set of vintage BMW R-bikes that he rides 12 months a year as his primary transport, an enormous collection of George Ohr ceramics, genitals like an Army mule, and the fussy precision of a Black Forest clockmaker. The regular percussionist I play with lives in a 300 year-old house, drives a Citroen SM, rebuilt his home by hand with his long-term lover, and has some sort of dungeon in the basement that I've never had the nerve to visit. I know gay church organists, gay auto mechanics, tranny facility managers, bisexual soldiers serving in Iraq, lesbian cupcake freaks, teenaged art sissies, firemen on the down-low, a wealthy, highly educated black man who has his fun playing thug at Mandingo parties in the suburbs, actual asexuals who just have better things to do, and so on and so on and so on, but I don't see people like that.

Maybe I'm just a freak, and it's possible I avoid the lesser characters because they bore me. That's my character flaw, and I readily cop to it, but, again, I've got a 33 year death sentence hanging over my head. Time's short, and there are a lot of people to meet, play with, argue with over New York Dolls records, take on my rambling road trips, and otherwise enjoy as friends, lovers, companions, and antagonists.

I think writers in the more mainstream media take the Lewis Carroll rule too seriously and strenuously avoid putting curious people into curious adventures, but we're all fucking curious. Every single one of us has some sexual fetish so weird, juvenile, and embarrassing that we'd almost die of shock if it ever got out there, from the straightest straight man to the kinkiest pierced-up electrically wired semi-boi in the world, but we're all just played by dull actors playing out dull scripts as if the whole goddamn country was written as a piece of national-scale dinner theater, with breaks to let the actors serve us chicken parmesan. If they're not playing us down, they're playing us up, turning up the color control until we're psychedelic and bleeding chartreuse around the edges, but there's so little middle ground.

I don't watch Glee, with the exception of a few times here or there, so I might be getting it all wrong, but I don't want us to be dull or fabulous—I want us to be dull AND fabulous AND difficult AND complicated AND surprising AND real, right down to the core of these imaginary People. I ask a lot, but we're a talented country, so I can't believe that it's not possible to do better.
posted by sonascope at 6:20 AM on March 16, 2011 [17 favorites]


What a great comment, sonascope. The gay experience completely overlaps the human experience, that's the point. And sometimes, that experience is fabulous, which is A-OK.
posted by Mister_A at 6:27 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


And it was, I thought, a great arrangement of Landslide.

Ditto. I didn't even mind Paltrow for the length of that song.


It was essentially the Dixie Chick's version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4_wXPZ1Bnk
posted by schleppo at 6:31 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, schleppo - didn't know about the Dixie Chicks version.

This interview with Chris Colfer in the Advocate (from 2009) is pretty interesting. He grew up in a small town outside Fresno, and in high school, he was in or in charge of the drama, speech, and debate clubs, and ran the literary magazine. He wrote, directed, and starred in a gender-reverse spoof of Sweeney Todd (called Shirley Todd).

When the interviewer asks if he was out in high school, he says, "Oh, no. People are killed in my hometown for that."

I think about whether he was as closeted as he thought he was. I think about the kids who bullied him and were hateful to him, and wonder if they try to pretend now that Oh yeah, I totally knew Chris in high school! We were really good friends!

Last night's episode made me almost cry, twice. Just a little. As incredibly dumb as the show is, it manages to hit some emotional truths every once in a while in a way that makes me viscerally remember how it was to be that age.
posted by rtha at 6:42 AM on March 16, 2011


schmod - you gave me a good laugh this morning!

The very few out gay guys I knew in high school were very flamboyant and one was also beaten up several times quite badly. They have grown up to be not so flamboyant.

So as far as kurt goes, he could be like that. Lots of high school kids go through their own flamboyant stage as they figure out who they are and it has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. And of course has to be extra fabulous for tv.
posted by sio42 at 7:15 AM on March 16, 2011


Brittany's "I don't even remember putting that in there!" made my night

I used to defend my watching of Glee with "Hey, look: Pretty blond girl who can dance really well.", I've subsequently amended it to "Hey look, Pretty blond dancer who gets all the best one liners and is the second funniest character on the show after Jane Lynch."

That description seems to satisfy anyone who asks.
posted by quin at 8:46 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Omar
Yes!

Also with Kima Greggs, we got to see the pressures of balancing being "a Police" and struggling to have a classical American Dream family life. Also she happens to be gay. [Spoiler Alert] The family life actually ends up not exactly working out. But not because she's gay! Because she's a Police.

The most amazing thing I think about the series is that, for better or worse, the people around her and Omar react the way actual real people react. Here, we have two major characters that happen to be gay, without it being "An Extra Special episode of The Wire" every time the camera is on them. And these characters, who happen to be gay, have character flaws just like every other person in their fictional world. Character flaws that are human traits, rather than them being some extra-special-unique-Politically-Correct gay characters.

It is great and all that there's another gay character on TV, but cartoonish people I can never relate to. I can relate to Kima, and I wish I could relate to being a stone cold, yet not infallible badass like Omar, and I'm not gay. Because people (and good characters on the Teevee) are, and should be, more than what they do with their genitals.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


you're a kitty!: The hands-down best gay character in all of fiction is Dumbledore. I will fight anyone who disagrees with me.

I disagree with you. On the basis that the whole Harry Potter thing is an over-blown bag of shite. YMMV. ;)
posted by Lleyam at 9:50 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Guys who act like guys can like guys who act like guys.

Gimme a pool-playing, baseball-watching rock-n-roller who drinks beer and smokes pot, and I'll write you a thank you card for your generosity!"


I know no one watches the show, but this comment reminded me of the recent episode of The Cleveland Show where they discover the Matthew McConaghey-inspired ladies man Terry was really [also] into dudes; enough to get married to one. Just dudes watching sports and drinking, and maybe wrasslin' a little bit, which leads to making out...

"'Flamboyant' or 'defined by his sexuality' just means non-normatively-masculine."

Maybe you're only talking about in the context of (current) TV, but I disagree. I'm a big dude who has no problems with skipping through Grand Central Station at closing time (2AM) singing Madonna at the top of his lungs while on a date with a female (who, of course, said: "There's no way you're straight.") and I am totally not into guys. And, I mean, I'm open-minded. I believe most people aren't gay or straight but that love wears many genders. I'm the straightest dude I know (or maybe I haven't met a guy I was into?). Whatevs. Fact of the matter is I'm not "gay" but I'm pretty non-normatively masculine. I will out-sing you, out-dance you, and then I will fix your car. I just am.

But still, I can't help but feel that acceptance through stereotypes isn't really a good road. Which is why I linked to the thread and comment that I did in my previous comment; I liken it to getting white folks to accept coloreds by way of minstrel shows, yes-suh no-suh, and softshoe. It's not about being accepted on the majority's terms, or getting them to like you. They SHOULD like you until proven otherwise, and judgements should be made individually, not based on your characteristic similarity. I mean, I'm half-black, and therefore "Black," but I know very little about hip-hop. I fit very few of the stereotypes that folks assign to me based on race OR gender, but that's ok. I'm me. I'm not the one who has the problem of perception. But I speak up because frequently people try to make their problem mine by imposing their views and stereotypes on me. So, let's not talk about Kurt in terms of "gays," or gays in terms of Kurt. Let's talk about Kurt in terms of Kurt, and me in terms of me, and you in terms of you. Let's change the conversation. That's how we change the world.
posted by Eideteker at 9:55 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's the thing. I feel like I live an odd variant on a gay life. I live in a small apartment building where my two primary exes live in other apartments in the building, and my sister's ex-husband lives there, too.


So my first boyfriend ever got turned into just a friend, but a real close one, after a very intense 3-month thing. Fine. Time goes on. I then briefly screw around with another guy who ends up the close friend camp. Both of them, for whatever reason, leave the NYC area at the same time. They both move to Chicago.

Two days later I get phone calls from them at nearly the exact same time : JOHN I MET THIS REALLY AWESOME GUY LAST NIGHT!

They are now married.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on March 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Oh and the most fabulous guy I know is straight and has a reputation as a lady's man)
posted by The Whelk at 10:01 AM on March 16, 2011


"And, also -- were we seriously supposed to believe that Simon Tam was straight?"

No, you're not supposed to care.

That's the one-liner answer. Since I'm in a personal-anecdote, meandering-but-meaningful comment-mood today instead of the usual quips (these are the main two methods of commenting on MeFi, amirite), I'll expand. As I alluded to above, depending on their initial contact with me, folks have formed opinions on whether I'm gay or straight (or possibly closeted, in some cases; usually observed by gay men in the cases where I've found out about it). These opinions color their subsequent interactions with me, and you get confirmation bias and so on. I mean, I knew one girl who, after knowing me for 3+ years of college, said: "Wait, I thought you had a girlfriend squirreled away somewhere," despite my frequent talk about my dating woes (or lack thereof) just because I refused to fawn over her like the other men in her life (though she denies this is the reason, I'm not sure what else it could be). It makes you see what you want to see, rather than seeing me. I mean, c'mon. Most of my dating/relationships have looked like the "courtship" between Simon and Kaylee. Not knowing how to approach women != gay.
posted by Eideteker at 10:07 AM on March 16, 2011


MetaFilter: I will out-sing you, out-dance you, and then I will fix your car.
posted by hippybear at 10:10 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


> They may not count as "characters", since they're thus-far unseen, but Rachel Barry has two dads.

> Didn't they have actual screen time during one of those episodes where Rachel is dating Puck? Why do I remember this.

It's been a while since I've seen Glee, it's true, but I did watch the hell out of its first season. I definitely remember that in an early episode [it might have even been the pilot] there's a series of photobooth pictures in Rachel's locker, featuring her and her fathers.
posted by ego at 10:40 AM on March 16, 2011


Yeah, Glee's not going for Oscar-level depth. Duh. It's about spectacle, with moments of depth here and there before going back to the dance numbers. But all things considered, I think it does pretty good for what it does.

I agree with you in most of this, jenfullmoon. The only thing I'm going to argue about how good Glee is on handling GLBT issues is the Rocky Horror episode, which didn't do so well by the T in GLBT. Female Frank Furter, singing a song that was weirdly sanitized ("sensational Transylvania?" WTF?), AFTER the male character who was originally supposed to play Frank said that he couldn't let his parents see him "dressed like a tranny?" According to my transgender husband, "tranny" is like "nigger" to the transgender community, and THAT made it on the air.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:41 AM on March 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, hey. "rachel berry photo booth fathers" pointed me here.
posted by ego at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2011


But still, I can't help but feel that acceptance through stereotypes isn't really a good road.

It's certainly a very bumpy road. As a not-out-yet-exactly-even-to-myself lesbian teenager, I was profoundly grateful for the appearance of a lesbian character in TV or movies or books - it gave me a sense of not being the only one (I knew that intellectually, but in my gut I still felt very alone). But I still encounter people occasionally who think that one lesbian in the couple has to be "the man," and because I have short hair and don't wear dresses, that must be me. Shit like that. It's tiresome and sometimes downright dangerous, but it's not all negative.
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on March 16, 2011


I don't think anyone who watches Glee is surprised (or bothered, for that matter) that the characters are cardboard cutouts.

Hey, hey, hey now ... some of us watch it against our will, and it does bother us. IT BOTHERS US A LOT!

Can we also talk about how the backup musicians are always there, are never playing the correct instruments to correspond to the song, and never once factor into the plot?

AAAAAAAARGH!

I think the stereotyping is that fabulous characters are necessarily gay.

Hey, yeah, this. Where are all the fabulous straights?! Where's my representation!
posted by mrgrimm at 11:12 AM on March 16, 2011


I keep seeing Kurt described as a stereotype, a Jim Crowe Stereotype no less.

And since I was and so many gay men that I know are a lot like Kurt, can we really call him a stereotype? He certainly exists in a universe with several other queer characters, so he isn't the token gay standing in for every other queer. The show isn't Birth of a Nation with a throng of Kurt's mincing about
posted by munchingzombie at 11:29 AM on March 16, 2011


"I will ... out-dance you"
posted by Eideteker at 5:55 PM on March 16

you think? BRING. IT. ON! i move like liquid silk, even now i am old.
posted by marienbad at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


(i cant comment on Glee as i don't watch it. just to add: we have had some very camp presenters/entertainers in the UK for a long time: Julian and Sandy, Mr Humphries, and oooh, shut that door.

Julian and Sandy are hilarious to listen to, and are from a time when the BBC was not supposed to be promoting homosexuality. awesome.
posted by marienbad at 11:40 AM on March 16, 2011


The hands-down best gay character in all of fiction is Dumbledore.

Sherlock Holmes.

Why Glee‘s Kurt Is The Best Gay Character On TV

Let's not forget Rickie. He put the "bi" in gayboy teen. (Only 15 years ago, "bi" was more respectable than "gay." That may explain some of the Savage-esque backlash now.)

Gay Kids on TV; Or, Why Rickie Vasquez Could’ve Changed My Life But Didn’t
posted by mrgrimm at 11:45 AM on March 16, 2011


Sherlock Holmes.

So while it's not crazy to argue that Holmes is gay, the canon doesn't really support it and he's more of an astete and junkie than anything. He's vaguely asexual.
posted by GuyZero at 12:31 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sherlock Holmes.

There's only one man that Sherlock Holmes loves, and that man is Sherlock Holmes.
posted by phunniemee at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's only one man that Sherlock Holmes loves, and that man is Sherlock Holmes.

So, does Sue Sylvester count as gay or not?
posted by bonehead at 1:06 PM on March 16, 2011


Sue doesn't have any personal relationships at all, much less sexual ones, so the answer is "mu".
posted by GuyZero at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2011


Now, if we wanted to talk about Artie, I could link you to one of my own blog posts, which is barely tolerable in a comment section on MeFi.
posted by joeclark at 1:27 PM on March 16, 2011


(I can't believe I'm about to type this)

We actually have evidence that Sue has attraction to men at least some of the time. Remember her failed relationship with the news anchor. I remember this because of her awesome zoot suit. Yes, she did ultimately have a wedding with herself, but it was sparked by rejection from a man.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2011


I now recall some dumb ensemble movie that came out last year around Valentine's Day. One of the characters was an NFL quarterback who held a press conference to announce that he was gay and was going to continue playing, and he exhorted the reporters present to be nice or he would "kick their asses". He was not effeminate.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:39 PM on March 16, 2011


joeclark, self-linking in comments is totally okay as long as it's relevant and disclosed as a thing you're connected to, is my understanding. Unless you're snarking, in which case, whatever.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2011


We actually have evidence that Sue has attraction to men at least some of the time.

True. If I were more of a fan of the show, I could also mention the time that she thought Shuster was coming on to her. Fortunately, I've blotted such memories from my cerebellum.
posted by bonehead at 1:52 PM on March 16, 2011


OMG Gaeta is gay?

I'm gonna have to pick BSG up again.
posted by NoraReed at 2:43 PM on March 16, 2011


I've subsequently amended it to "Hey look, Pretty blond dancer who gets all the best one liners and is the second funniest character on the show after Jane Lynch."

Appropos of that character and this thread, did you know that dolphins are just gay sharks?
posted by Sparx at 3:00 PM on March 16, 2011


God that Gaeta - Hoshi thing annoyed me so much cause it fucking wrote itself. Gate, cynical and calculating and wanting revenge ends up with a completely enraptures Hoshi who Just Happens to have a position on the ship that makes him a key asset during a mutinty.

The reasons I can see not doing it? Well it's very very similar to Adm. Cain's romance with a Six and the take away message could be " homosexuals are either spies or security risks"

If Apoolo, say, was queer I don't thi anyone would have bat an eye. He's a member of a Space Canada and part of the military elite AND he doesn't have any romantic subplot for the whole series - and don't say Starbuck that was a sibling relationship if I ever saw one.
posted by The Whelk at 4:09 PM on March 16, 2011


He's a member of a Space Canada and part of the military elite AND he doesn't have any romantic subplot for the whole series - and don't say Starbuck that was a sibling relationship if I ever saw one.

Are you saying Dee, whom he stole from Billy and then married and then got dumped by (adultery - pshaw, who cares, but becoming a lawyer is unforgiveable), doesn't count as a romantic sub-plot? It's a whole, ill-advised, nigh-on craptacular romantic arc, man!
posted by Sparx at 4:32 PM on March 16, 2011


I was trying to forget that happened. You could just see the actors trying to sell that relationship and man it was not happening.
posted by The Whelk at 4:33 PM on March 16, 2011


Although I did enjoy the writing team decision to just make Callie an epic bitch forever. She is like literally the worst human being ever.

Actually there's another crypto queer character in the show, Tom Zarek.
posted by The Whelk at 4:36 PM on March 16, 2011


Being that I'm from a part of the world that has many Crypto Jews (people who weren't even aware themselves of their Jewishness), "crypto queer" makes me think the character wasn't even aware of his own queerness. On the one hand, I think that might be a marvelous world to live in. On the other hand it makes me think he was in a coma.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:43 PM on March 16, 2011


He just blacks out every time he fucks his husband.

Who, I swear is established as show canon. They met in prison!
posted by The Whelk at 4:45 PM on March 16, 2011


He just blacks out every time he fucks his husband.

So he's a Republican, then?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:47 PM on March 16, 2011


My guffaw just startled my dog out of a nap. I have never seen this show, but if what you tell me is true, I NEED IT. (On the other hand, I'm pretty sure you're lying to me.)
posted by stoneweaver at 4:48 PM on March 16, 2011


Oh yes, Zarek's beau gets a few lines before Dying Heroicly. Tom's romantic life is never alluded to again.

Although wouldn't it suck ( ha ) to be of non normative sexuality on the fleet? Your dating pool is limited to whatever few thousand people aren't dead yet. It's like the small town you can't leave plus food shortages and the occasional air locking.

Your best bet would be e Cylons, who seem pretty functionally bisexual and free with their affection. Although from what we've seen of the Cylons males, that might not be a good thing.
posted by The Whelk at 4:56 PM on March 16, 2011


Okay, so I'm like, a third of the way into Season 3, and I do not have a very good memory for the earlier seasons. I'm right at the part where Lee magically loses a bunch of weight and Sakura Starbuck has a dramatic haircut. So mostly I'm pretending that the version of BSG discussed here is the real version.

Would it be offensive to adopt "cryptoqueer" as a term for people who are questioning their sexual orientation/gender identity/wevz but will eventually end up queer? Because that term is awesome. It could also be a term for queer people who are good with cryptography. Alice is sending Bob a message saying that she really can't have a relationship with him right now, and she has to make sure that her own diary stays encrypted because it contains her confusion about her feelings for Carol.

Mallory and Eve have been attempting to intercept these communications because they suspect something is up with Alice and they are homophobes and want to make sure she is locked in the brig while she gives birth to a child. This scene will be set to "Bohemian Rhapsody".
posted by NoraReed at 7:48 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because that term is awesome.

No, it is pretty horrible. Crypto Jews are crypto because of the Spanish Inquisition.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:07 PM on March 16, 2011


Oh God Lee's Metaphoric Weight. Having him get kinda chubby just undercut a shit ton of drama about their situation. You see puffy cheeks and go "Well I guess they DO they enough calories to survive and all that running-out-of-supplies drama is just moot now". Like setting up the still - well I guess we never have to have Tigh freaking out cause he's an alcoholic with literally the last bottle of scotch in the universe anymore.

And the fact that Lee had a scary skinny face full of sharp angles and looked closer to human and approachable with a little filling in those big hollow cheeks of his.


Not even getting into the Weight As Metaphor thing cause..UGH.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on March 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing about metaphors is that they just feel... contrived when you smack people over the head with them. Repeatedly. For like five episodes.
posted by NoraReed at 11:43 PM on March 16, 2011


We've had to turn to the internet to prove to Australian networks that there is an "audience" for shows about gay people because the content commissioners feel that a show about gay people is too "niche"

Are you serious? The country who put Kylie Minogue on a giant flip flop for the centre piece of the Olympic closing show? The land of Baz Luhrman, Muriel's Wedding and Priscilla Queen of the Desert?

Or are you saying that Australians love camp, but don't want any actual gayness?
posted by Summer at 5:17 AM on March 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"How many gay characters are there on TV?"

In addition to the others already mentioned, there's Oscar on The Office. He's not a main character, but he is portrayed as one of the few sane/normal people on the show.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:32 AM on March 17, 2011


Would it be offensive to adopt "cryptoqueer" as a term for people who are questioning their sexual orientation/gender identity/wevz but will eventually end up queer?

Adopting a term *for* people is pretty much always offensive. If people want to start applying it to themselves, they can do whatever the heck they want. But people get to pick their own labels. And if we're talking strictly fictional characters, I'm not sure that the distancing it puts between character and audience is a good thing. I'm pretty sure that I'm a fairly out queer at this point, and that just gut punches me as putting someone back in the closet. I hear what you're saying about it being for people who aren't something yet, and aren't in the closet because they're not even sure themselves... But that's just my initial reaction to it. And I'm getting way too involved in not having a new term for "closeted" at this point, so I'm gonna stop.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:22 AM on March 17, 2011


NoraReed: "Would it be offensive to adopt "cryptoqueer" as a term for people who are questioning their sexual orientation/gender identity/wevz but will eventually end up queer? "

Yes, it's offensive because you don't know that they will "eventually end up queer."
posted by grammar corrections at 10:01 PM on March 21, 2011


Aight, sorry. I was joking but I suppose I was in poor taste.
posted by NoraReed at 1:37 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


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