Down and Out in Denver

Bullying on Glee

Posted in gays, tv by Blake on November 15, 2010

Kurt's Tormentor Kisses Him

OK, so I’m a little behind on this one; forgive me.  I no longer have a television (!) so I watch everything either at Alastair’s house or after the fact on my computer.  And I only just saw last week’s episode of Glee, an episode that clearly was a long time in coming (the possibility of Kurt getting some action and the fact of addressing his bullying so explicitly).  One suspects that this has something to do with the recent and horrifying rash of suicides nationwide where gayness or suspected gayness has been a factor.  While I’m grateful to Glee for tackling this issue, I’m also a little skeptical of the tack they’ve taken.  For two reasons:

1. I loved the all-boys school version of “Teenage Dream.”  But I was not convinced — AT ALL — by the notion that this private boys school’s policy of “No Tolerance,” as Blaine explained it, would actually be very effective.  I have a certain amount of experience with all boys’ environments — schools, camps, other organizations — and oftentimes they are significantly worse on issues of homosexuality than are their coed counterparts.  I just don’t buy that Blaine’s classmates are so comfortable with his homosexuality.  Or, for that matter, that the entire school is so enthusiastic about its glee club that they would all be dancing along to its Katy Perry remake.

2. While Kurt has been bullied since Day One on this show, I am made profoundly uncomfortable by the notion that his biggest tormentor is now revealed as a closet homosexual conflicted about his feelings.  When will the gays abandon the notion that the worst homophobes are also homos as well? First of all:  What evidence do we have that this is actually true?  Second, in what way is this politically useful? Or comforting?  Do we really want them on our team?  I certainly don’t.  I also just don’t think this explanation can possibly account for the prevalence of hatred against gay men and lesbians.  Not all of the people who hate us can possibly also want to sleep with us.  Yes, they can be profoundly uncomfortable about their own sexuality or their masculinity.  Or they can just be looking for someone to pick on because they themselves need to pick on others to be popular. And in high school picking on the gay kid is standard practice. But the notion endorsed by last week’s Glee that our worst tormentors are … really just us.  That I don’t buy.

All that said, I’m super excited for Kurt to get it on with uber-cheesy Blaine.  It’s time for Kurt to have some boy-on-boy action.  I hope they don’t shy away from including Kurt’s first voluntary kiss in an upcoming episode, as they have not minded including the delightful Brittany and Santana makeout sessions or this most recent less-than-voluntary lip-lock.

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11 Responses

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  1. squadratomagico said, on November 16, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Like you, I got rid of my TV and just watch things online now. Glee, however, hasn’t yet managed it make it into my rotation. So, no specific comments on that.

    I think one of the truly, horrifyingly insidious underlying premises of the “homophobes really are gay themselves” line is that it somehow asks the victim of the bully to have compassion for his/her tormentor. I’ve often seen this line accompanied by some sort of plea for understanding and tolerance, based on the idea that the bully is not yet mature or evolved enough to handle the conflicted emotions of being gay in a dominantly straight society. It thus turns the table on where sympathies should lie: the bully victim, as well as various bystanders, are supposed to feel bad for the bully’s presumed lack self-loathing.

    But as you note, that whole edifice is based on some sort of pseudo-psychological speculation, rather than any evidence that homophobes are likely to be gay themselves.

  2. ej said, on November 16, 2010 at 9:05 am

    I so thought of you when they made that claim that the all boys’ school was a utopia for the gay guy, with their zero tolerance policy! Perhaps if Kurt’s suspicion was true (that they were all gay!) this might be easier to accept. And as much as I too appreciate them taking on these topics, I do find myself frustrated when they perpetuate certain stereotypes about sexuality and homophobia, like those you mention above. I also am not comfortable with the girl/girl action, when the girls are otherwise presented as heterosexual. They portray the men on the show as struggling with sexuality and sexual identity, but for the girls, it is all fluid in a way that makes being a lesbian seem like less of an identity, and more about the absence of available men.

  3. Mama Monroe said, on November 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Cheers Blake and EJ — nailed it.

  4. Blake said, on November 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    This is why we have a comments section — because our comment-leavers are so insightful — and clearly Mama agrees with me. I had not thought about either of the points made by Squadrato or ej. And they are both so well taken!

    I had been allowing myself to believe that maybe Britanny and Santana were bisexual, but I think you’ve probably got the better read on the situation: their “heteroflexibility” is more a function of whether or not boys are available. I do so hope that they might just end up together, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  5. Heather said, on November 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Right on, Blake! I agree with your critique completely. I also really liked this npr article below because I was vaguely appalled with how Biest was treated in the episode, as well. Apparently the bully actor now has an “it gets better” video, too.

    http://www.nprdigitalmedia.mobi/blogs/monkeysee/2010/11/10/131212955/why-glee-missed-the-mark-with-the-much-hyped-never-been-kissed

    • Blake said, on November 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      Too true! Watching Will kiss Biest I was completely weirded out because it clearly wasn’t a kiss out of Will’s desire for her. And yet she seemed not to mind. And then the boys sing the song to her as if they mean it. I’m fine with them apologizing (as well they should) but they don’t have to insincerely tell her she’s pretty at the same time. These pat solutions to complex problems are just not working for Glee. And you’re right — that NPR article sums it up well.

    • Blake said, on November 17, 2010 at 5:12 pm

      p.s. Thanks for commenting Heather!

  6. GayProf said, on November 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I wish that I watched Glee so that I could agree with you (Because I am sure that I would).

  7. Corey said, on November 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Yeah. I don’t watch Glee either (no reception at home. my television set has lately been reserved for watching actual musicals) but I agree with many of the points above, especially the shift of sympathy from the victim to the bully. I understand that masculinity is confining for all those boys that have to put up the “tough guise” but that’s not a free pass to practice any kind of violence.

    I wonder if this license society is doling out to heteronormative men is really just another form of gender policing. What does it mean to blame the weird/feminine boys for their victimization… “You made me have to question my masculinity. That’s difficult for me. You deserved it.”

    In any case, bullies get not a tear from me, sorry Glee.

    Thanks for a great post, Blake

    • Blake said, on November 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm

      Well said, Corey. It does seem to me that, even in the most recent episode from Tuesday, they are still making this particular bully seem pretty odious and nasty, so it’s difficult to feel sorry for him.

      But the original point stands that we’re spending time considering his problematic situation instead of Kurt’s position as the victim. I also like your point about the femininity of the victim then coming to seem like the problem. “If only you didn’t behave in such an obvious way, then I wouldn’t have to…”

  8. […]  But I enjoyed last night’s episode far more than the bullying episode that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, which was egregious on any number of levels, some of which I noted, and some of which YOU noted. […]


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