Glee Guilty of 'Dangerous Stereotyping'? Don't Make Me Laugh!

Glee has gone all out to ensure that as many minorities as possible are represented. I admit that it is not a perfect show, but it is doing a lot for young people. It is incredibly popular, and if that popularity can be harnessed into doing some good for the LGBT community, I am all for it.

A couple of months ago I came across a blog in the Guardian, titled 'The gay one in Glee - positive role model or dangerous cliché?'

Let me begin by accepting that the post was published in March, and there have been significant developments in Glee's story arcs since then. Yet even in March, identifying Kurt Hummel as the 'gay one' was surprisingly reductive, given that Glee has always had sexually ambiguous characters. By the end of the second season, we had one closeted lesbian, one closeted, homophobic football player, one bisexual cheerleader and two happy young men in a relationship. 'The gay one' could now apply to a whole host of characters. Kurt is no longer the only gay in the village.

The Guardian's argument is that Kurt, who is flamboyant and feminine, embodies the common stereotype that gay men are all camp and effeminate. And seeing Kurt's antics week in week out is reinforcing this stereotype to all the impressionable young people that watch Glee. People will believe that only one type of homosexuality exists! There will be mass panic and total rejection of anything other than what we've been taught to expect: that gay men are all hilarious, pouting drama queens. And yes, I agree that having only one version of 'gayness' on television is in itself a failure to homosexuality. But isn't that a failure that is faced by every subsection of humanity? In the same way that blondes with big boobs are stupid and Irish people are drunks, surely we are all victim to stereotyping?

And just because something is a stereotype, doesn't mean it isn't a reality for a lot of people. Yes, Kurt is a camp gay man with a fondness for show tunes and Pippa Middleton, but is it damaging to have him on television? No, it's not. Because there are teenage boys out there who can relate to him. There are kids out there who are coming out to their friends and families because of Kurt. Kurt might be a camp stereotype, but he's real to a lot of people. He's young and gay, and brave enough to be out and proud. He's an inspiration.

He could have been just a token gay character - always a safe bet for a comedy - but instead, he developed. We followed him out of the closet and into the spotlight, watched him bullied and threatened, watched him pine for people he couldn't have, and then saw him find love with Blaine. He's not just some puppet that Ryan Murphy can use for all the gay jokes. He's got a journey. We're invested in him.

But I do understand the Guardian's point - Kurt on his own isn't enough. So it was brilliant when Murphy introduced the character of Blaine at the beginning of the second season. Blaine gave us a much calmer version of the young gay man. There was less squealing, less prancing and fewer questionable fashion bids with Blaine. A gay man, but not in the cookie cutter mould of the typical Hollywood gay. How did we react? Did we reject him on the grounds that he clearly wasn't gay enough? No, we didn't. We fell in love with him immediately, and started rooting for them to get together.

And then later in the season, lo and behold, it is revealed that Karofsky, the character who had bullied Kurt to the point of transferring, is a closeted gay man. Another brand new version of homosexuality! A jock! Who knew there was such a thing? It would be an insult to the intelligence of millions of we didn't point out that the Karofsky twist wasn't a little obvious. The subtext pointed to the fact that Karofsky's homophobic bullying might conceal something a little more complicated. And Karofsky's struggle to come to terms with his sexuality has been as important as Kurt's journey.

Karofsky, Blaine and Kurt represent three completely different visions of male homosexuality. Things weren't quite so developed back in March when the Guardian published its blog, but the arguments remain the same. Male homosexuality has a thorough representation on Glee now - a show which is doing more for its exposure of different sexualities than any other - and none of the depictions are damaging. On the contrary, they provide young people with a chance to experience and understand different sexualities. They offer people the chance to discuss their own feelings about sexual orientation - a chance to see gay relationships in the same way they view straight ones.

All this, and I haven't even mentioned Santana yet. Oh Santana, you beautiful creature. Her story has taken a completely different direction this last season, which has seen her confess her love for her best friend, Brittany. Brittany and Santana (nicknamed Brittana) have always had little innuendos and hints about their relationship, but this season turned a running joke into a full blown confrontation of Santana's sexuality. The scene in which she tells Brittany she loves her (nicknamed the 'hurt locker' by lesbians the world over) has to be one of this year's most emotive scenes.

So, while I accept that the Guardian's blog was published before some of the story lines evolved, I still dispute its central argument, that having a stereotypical gay character on television is damaging. At least there is a gay character at all! Homosexuality needs exposure if we are ever going to destroy homophobia. The camp stereotype is limiting yes, but dangerous? No.

Glee has gone all out to ensure that as many minorities as possible are represented. I admit that it is not a perfect show, but it is doing a lot for young people. It is incredibly popular, and if that popularity can be harnessed into doing some good for the LGBT community, I am all for it.


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