Glee: not as queer-friendly as it pretends to be
Popular TV show pushes conservative values
Can't Think Straight
I fucking hate Glee.
“But Jon,” I hear you say, “You can’t hate Glee. You’re gay. Don’t you just think Kurt and Blaine make the cutest couple and are the best role models for young gay kids?”
No, no I do not, fictional straw person. I think Glee, just like Modern Family, just like Degrassi, makes a spectacle out of their gay characters, sanitizing them into easily digestible, safe, harmless, and often delightful characters that any straight man or woman can love.
“But Jon,” I hear you say again, “Isn’t that a good thing? Don’t you want gays to be accepted?”
Yes, you’re right. I do want gays to be accepted. But you aren’t doing queer kids any favours by showing them that they only way they can exist is to exist like everyone else. I hate to break it to you, but everyone else (that means you if you’re straight, probably you if you’re gay and want to get married) has been participating in a system that has, since the Victorian era, been oppressing and marginalizing queer folk. Telling me that I’m allowed into this oppressive group doesn’t make me feel better, because I’m only allowed into the group if I conform to what you, the heterosexual community, deem acceptable as “queer.”
What does this have to do with Glee? Let’s look at Kurt and Blaine.
Now, I’ll confess I gave up on Glee about three or four episodes into Season 3. The only thing that kept me going was Kurt’s story arc, which was the most compelling of the entire series. I bawled when Kurt’s dad married Finn’s mom. I was emotionally invested in the show, just like everyone else was.
And then I realized: I shouldn’t be invested in the show just like everyone else. I’m not just like everyone else. I’m a queer man. I am different. And Kurt, like me, shouldn’t want what everyone else wants. He’s different. And we need to recognize this difference and not cheer him on when he enters into a relationship that is basically just Rachel and Finn’s, but with two guys.
It’s everything our mothers wanted from us, and this is exactly the problem.
Kurt’s relationship with Blaine mirrors the relationship of every heterosexual couple in the series. This is perhaps shown no better than in the episode where Kurt loses his virginity at the same time Rachel does. Kurt gets a relationship just like Rachel does, and we all cheer for acceptance.
But is this really acceptance, or are we just oppressing Kurt in a more subtle, more harmful way?
What we’re telling Kurt, and other queer males (don’t even get me started on the queer girls; Santana is a complex phenomenon in Glee that would warrant a whole other column) is that if you want acceptance, you have to be just like every other heterosexual couple out there. You have to want a monogamous relationship, with a well-paying job, a couple kids, a dog, and a white picket fence.
Sounds awfully conservative, doesn’t it?
That’s because it is. Glee may be the most conservative show I’ve seen in the last six months, and I’ve watched the pilot of Work It.
Glee isn’t nearly as progressive as we want to think it is, because its idea of “acceptance” is telling Kurt and Blaine and other gay males that you’ll be accepted if you want the same things your straight counterparts wants. Instead, I think it needs to work something like this: we need to recognize the difference that is queerness. Queer folk are not like heterosexual folk. We need to recognize this. Denying us the ability to define ourselves, by telling us that we’re just like you, denies us the opportunity to truly define who we are.
Unfortunately, the queer community has bought into this line. We push the “we’re just like everyone else” line so often, when, in fact, we’re not like everyone else at all. We shouldn’t want to be part of the system that has singlehandedly oppressed us.
How do we do that? How do we get out of that system? The first step would be to speak out against Glee, and stop deifying it as this bastion of acceptance and progressive values. Let’s be queer. Let’s take the opportunity to look at these heterosexual institutions and rework them so they work for everyone, and not just those who fit the mold.
You never know; it just might create the post-sexuality world we want.