I had a great conversation with a coworker about this week’s episode of Glee, particularly relating to Kurt’s storyline this season. A lot has been said about the “gay agenda” on the show this season. The thing is, this show intentionally portrays “misfits”. Fat, nerd, handicapped, gay, hoe, emo, stupid, etc. Anyone not considered normal by the mob. We all know high school can be very cruel. This show celebrates being different. And one thing to also notice is that every misfit portrayed has at least one person who accepts them and in an over-the-top way (Puck’s crush on the overweight girl, anyone?).
But out of all those words I just listed, which is really the hot-topic, taboo issue? Gay, right? So that’s what we are inclined to debate the portrayal of the most. It’s also the issue that most resonates with the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy. I’ve discussed how Murphy is “preaching to the choir”. Most people who watch the show are probably already okay with homosexuality as a lifestyle for those who choose it. But now I’m thinking that’s not who Murphy is targeting at all….it’s this young generation who maybe haven’t solidified what they think just yet. My issue is that Murphy is trying so hard, I find it a little unbalanced. The Santana/Brittany storyline a couple weeks ago seemed completely out of the blue! Sometimes it feels like everyone is going to come out. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Shue does, after all his lady problems. And the whole Karofsky bullying storyline sends out this strong message that if you are a homophobe, you must really be a closet gay. What most viewers are at odds with in Kurt’s character, and why he has become so unlikable, is that he is guilty of being just as intolerant of straight people as he thinks everyone is of him. I don’t have to remind anyone of the uncomfortable scenes of him sharing a bedroom with Finn, the intolerance to his friends wanting to pray for his dad when he was sick, or the wedding that ended up being all about him instead of his dad and Finn’s mom. Everyone has to conform to him; he is always the character who has done nothing wrong. Pop culture, big hits like this DO have tremendous influence, so if it were me and I wanted to teach tolerance to my viewers through diversity, then yes, I would change a few things. Kurt HAS misstepped several times in his pursuit to end his persecution, and I would have him come to realize his own intolerance.
But here’s the thing we have to remember: EVERYTHING is over the top about this show, including the representation of said “misfits”. One example: on this week’s episode the Kathy Griffin character–one of the judges at Regionals– was an obnoxious ultra-conservative, Sara Palin-esque character. For one second, I thought, “nope, I’m finally done with this show.” I really did. I did not like the portrayal of a Christian to be so overly and negatively painted; her line seemed way too forced anyway. Why the need to throw in a line about her not agreeing with gay people getting married and implying they are going to hell in a discussion about who should win a singing competition? That’s Murphy trying too hard! (And by the way, being gay does not lead to separation from God–or hell; not having a relationship with Jesus Christ does.) But then I decided, EVERYONE is portrayed that way. Look no further than Sue Sylvester for that evidence. She’s throwing students down stairs, shooting them out of cannons, and verbally/physically abusing them in the halls on a daily basis. These would all obviously be criminal acts in real life. It is just that *I* am particularly sensitive to the Christian character portrayal. I personally wish every Christian would be known more for what they DO stand for than don’t, but the reality is quite the opposite. Griffin’s character was portraying that reality in Glee’s way.
At the end of the day, Glee’s message is about celebrating diversity and it’s medium is through over-the-top comedy. That means it is going to cross a “comfort line” once in a while and it is up to each person to decide if that is worth the value of the entertainment they are receiving. This season has pushed me almost to that limit, admittedly, from–my opinion–the unbalanced tolerance storyline of Kurt. But the entertainment I get from everything else Glee does so well is enough to keep me in and enjoy it! And so I will!