“Why Glee isn’t as Good for LGBT Youth as Most People Think” …..by Cody Hecht

There are two things I believe a television show can do to be good for gay youth. Glee succeeds in one and fails miserably in the other. These two things are: being able to show kids that it’s ok to be gay, the other (which is often overlooked) is showing all kids that you don’t have to be a stereotype to be gay. Gay people come in all shapes and sizes. I think most people can guess which one Glee succeeds at, and where it fails.

My main issue with the show lies in the character of Kurt. He simply is not a good example of what gay people are actually like. He is an overblown, almost cartoonish stereotype. This is bad because it does nothing to convince the bullies that gay people are just normal human beings like anyone else. Most people don’t consider this, but changing the bullies’ minds about gay people is just as important as boosting the confidence of the gay kids themselves. If you change the bullies’ minds, it becomes almost unnecessary to boost the confidence of gay kids because they are not being tortured every day at school.

Furthermore Kurt is portrayed as someone who is really weak. He breaks down and cries in what seems like every other episode. I think that gay kids all over the country need a strong confident role model, and Kurt just doesn’t seem to be it. I will admit that the introduction of the character Blaine helped; he isn’t a stereotype and he is a pretty strong character. If Blaine was the main gay character on Glee, I would be extremely happy with the show. He is a strong confident role model, whereas Kurt is not.

A show that I think is much better for the gay community is Modern Family. I think it portrays a side of the gay community that needs to be depicted. Cameron and Mitchell are in a monogamous relationship, raising a child in a stable and loving home. And while they may be slight stereotypes themselves, they are showing in a way that’s never been shown on television before that gay people are just like anyone else. They fall in love and have children just like straight people. I think that this is the most important lesson we should be aiming at the youth of the country. Gay people are just like you and me, all they’re looking for is happiness.

I believe that Glee has the potential to be good for the gay community. All it needs is to become more like Modern Family in the way it portrays gay people. Gays need to be seen as strong independent people. Because that’s what we want to inspire gay kids all over the country to be. The character of Kurt is weak and fragile, and that’s the opposite of what we want to be inspiring gay youth to be.

22 comments

  • Hi Cody

    I recall seeing some interview with the producers of the show where they said that there wasn’t a “Kurt” role in the initial script, but after he auditioned they actually wrote one in – to match his actual character in real life.

    I also think the show gives a good representation of gay characters, Kurt on the one side, and Blaine on the other – I have friends that range in these characters in real life.

    A nice post though, and judging from the number of responses you got people thinking. Nice job.

    Tim.

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  • I agree that Kurt is stereotyped, but so are all the other characters on the show. To only call out Kurt is ridiculous. People break out into song all the time on that show. How many times have you seen that happen in the real world? Glee’s a comedy. Comedy is full of stereotypes. To get angry with the show for that is ludicrous. Though they have gotten better as the show has progressed. I agree that the show’s not as good for LGBT youth as most people think, but it never claimed to be. It’s a comedy first and foremost. So long as that is it’s focus, it’ll use stereotypes. Oh, it’ll expand them and add to the characters, but in the end, it’ll go back to using those stereotypes to make people laugh.

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  • I have to agree with some of the people here, this article did make me uneasy. Glee is a show that elaborates on the idea of stereotypes. And as an avid watcher of Glee I believe the author of this piece has ignored the bigger picture. I would have liked to have seen a response to this piece by a fan of the actual show. Because many Kurt fans would argue, the reason why Kurt is so popular is because he defies people’s expectations because he is in fact one of the strongest and most well rounded characters of the show. And the claim that Blaine is not a stereotype is false. He is a theater kid as well who likes to dance, dress up, and perform, the same as Kurt. Yet while audiences have witnessed Kurt’s triumphs and losses, we have not seen any when it comes to Blaine. Instead, Blaine has regressed from being a confident leader to a self-conscious and needy character. The fact that the author seeks to argue that Kurt’s character is being treated as a joke is something that should address the writing of Glee. Instead the author said that Kurt is not a good example of gay people, yet who proves to be a better example? Cameron from Modern Family, whose outbursts and theatricality are constantly used as a punchline for jokes?

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  • I’m not a big fan of Glee. I’ve watched most of the episodes, but I do find that too often they descend to cruel stereo types. The anti semitism they showed was horrible, and in my opinion gave tacit approval to anti semitism. Their treatment of Kurt leaves me with the same feeling. Too often Kurt is played for laughs. The show writer have done great work with Becky, Coach Beiste and Karofsky, the kind of work that garners viewers and awards. But too often they allow the writing to descend to stereo types played for laughs. Great post Cody!

    Reply
  • This comment is from Richard Joseph Allen. He asked me to post it since as usual WordPress was being temperamental. 🙂

    Hi Jesse,
    Richard Joseph Allen (friends with Glbt Bookshelf) commented on Gay Book Reviews’s post.
    Richard wrote: “Hi, as I couldn’t comment on your site I thought I could do it here instead. As a longtime reader of your website this post just made a little uneasy. I apologize in advance as this might comment is overly long and will seem like a bit of a rant.

    I agree Kurt is a walking, talking stereotype but most characters are nowadays, particularly on Glee. But to me it’s the first time that a character like Kurt hasn’t been treated just like a joke. Yet whilst a victim he never let’s that get him down. Yes he cries, who wouldn’t when he’s been pushed into lockers, thrown in dumpsters, been & and had his threatened, also losing his dad (his only parent)and assaulted. But when he’s finished shedding tears he moves on with his life.

    All this article brings to a head for me is the continuing systemic homophobia from within the gay community itself. I see it on continually on AfterElton in some of the comments & articles and in gay magazines/websites, where characters like Kurt are seen as not being the right sort of “Gay”, who can pass and survive under the radar. Hell most rather put a straight actor play gay like Darren Criss on their covers over Chris Colfer because everyone seems to think that Darren/Blaine are hotter that Chris/Kurt.

    Kurt is a character is representing every kid out there who talks “girly”, walks a funny way or simply likes to dress in fashionable clothes, yet we all say “oh no, he’s not the right sort of gay we want on our screens”. Well this gay man who was a gay teen, wants more like Kurt on our screens and would have loved to have seen him when he was a 14 year old boy who walked funny, talked like a “girl” and loved things that were fashionable. If I did I might have been a happier back then instead of the self-loathing boy I was.”

    Reply
    • Thanks Wave for posting my comment.

      I wanted to add an addendum to it, regarding stereotypes, a few have commented on in relation to the characters of Glee. Everyone seems to have a problem with Kurt primarily because he is such a gay stereotype, that I wanted to point out that pretty much every character on that show is stereotype. The Dumb-jock, bitch cheerleader, fierce latina, diva black girl and theatre obsessive girl. And also the whole idea that Modern Family is any better, please rewatch the show they are just as much stereotypes as Kurt, the writers of the show are just better at making us laugh at them (though not with them because a sitcom is about laughing at people and their situations). Finally I just like to say I’m loving this debate, regardless of whether I agree with the original argument.

      PS – I’m still surprised that Kurt fans haven’t found out about this article yet!

      Reply
  • The problem I have with the character of Kurt is not so much that he fits many of the qualities that are considered a gay stereotype and more the fact that the show almost treats it as a joke. It strikes me that they made Kurt the way he is because they thought it would be funny.
    I also don’t think that is any way necessary that they made Kurt that way to show “a unique and proud gay identity”. I think that there is no such thing. Gay people come in all shapes and sizes, there is no one gay identity. Someones sexual orientation is just one part of a person, and has (or should have) no effect on a persons mannerisms, style, or anything else.
    Imagine if they had an african-american character in a show like Glee who embodied many of the stereotypes associated with that community. I feel under those circumstances many more people would have a problem with it.

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    • Actually, there is an African-American character on Glee. Her name’s Mercedes and yes, she’s a stereotype for the community she’s representing.
      I’m kind of offended that you’ll write things about a show you only watched for a few times.
      Let’s also be clear here: Glee is a comedy show. Yes,it has drama in it and it sometimes tackles some serious issues but it’s still a comedy show.
      I also don’t like the way you implied that it’s Kurt’s fault for being so girly that Karofsky was bullying him and that’s just not right. There’s a lot of things I love about Kurt and one of them is staying true to himself. And I personally knows some gay kids who acts and talks like Kurt so I don’t know what you mean about him being unrealistic. Some of them are actually way worse than Kurt and yes some people are giving them shit about it but that’s definitely not a reason to bully them.

      Reply
  • Great post, Cody. And very true too. It’s something you often see in books too.

    It makes you wonder what they would do when they come across someone who is not a stereotype. They probably wouldn’t know what hit them!

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  • Sorry, I have to post this in a second comment, because I kept being told my message seemed “spammy”.

    I also wanted to point out that, personally, I don’t see Kurt as a weak character. Yes, he cries a lot and gets emotional, which I think is a fault of the writers, but we have also never seen him demur from being gay or from being who he is. He is proud to stand up for himself and, most importantly, stand up for other gay teens like Karofsky and Wade/Unique. He demonstrates often how mature he is as an individual with his sense of self-awareness and self-confidence, even if he wouldn’t necessarily seem like it at first glance (again, breaking down stereotypes). He also has a very healthy attitude toward sexuality, which for a teenaged gay character is HUGE.

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  • In many ways I think Kurt’s stereotypicalness is completely necessary to the show. Yes, we need to see gay characters who are “just like everyone else,” but we also need to see characters who represent a unique and proud gay identity. I think Glee does an excellent job of representing both ideas. We have characters like Kurt and Wade/Unique, who represent personas many people, ignorantly or not, tend to associate with the LGBT community; however, we also have many characters who for the most part are not stereotypes at all, and who encourage viewers to accept that queers come in all shapes, sizes, and flavours.

    For myself, I think Kurt’s “gayness” is significant because not only is it important for teens to see a role model who is unafraid to be himself, however flamboyant, but viewers, too, need to accept and appreciate that we must be supportive of gay individuals who like to wear their sexuality on their sleeve, as it were. Straight teens need to see those individuals are people, too, and that befriending/supporting them doesn’t make anyone weak by default.

    Reply

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