Glee: On My Way

Posted on February 22, 2012

Ugh. We can’t with this show anymore. If that’s not the reaction you expected us to have, well….

Look, we’ll go quietly. An episode like last night’s certainly had nothing but the best of intentions and we’re going to try not to shit all over that – especially if people reading this were emotionally affected by it all. If it’s still your show, go right on loving it. As for us, we’ll just exit quietly through this side door, the bloated self-importance and treacly glurge finally having done us in.

But before we go…

A show in 2012 with a large teen audience and a proportionately large gay audience will find itself dealing with the issue of gay teenagers generally and anti-gay bullying specifically at some point. We would have expected no less from Glee and we support the show’s efforts to consider the lives of young gays and help educate other people as to what those lives are really like. But – and we are hoping our brothers of a certain age will back us up here – there comes a point when the effort to educate and be respectful of a group of disenfranchised people tips over into inadvertently redefining them in a new way: victim.

Remember, my brothers? Remember that ten-year period when the mass media definition of “gay man” was “noble, diseased victim?” Is this new trope of gays as noble, weepy, child victims really a step in the right direction? Because just as in the eighties and nineties, when the majority of gay men were not dying of AIDS; the majority of young gay people today are doing relatively okay for themselves. Does this mean there’s no problem to be addressed? Of course not. As we said, we support the show’s efforts, but THREE painful coming out stories in little over a year, each one progressively more dramatic than the next (Kurt: full love and support from all of creation; Santana: public humiliation and estrangement from family members; Dave: suicide attempt) is overkill of the worst degree. And by making each story progressively more damaging to the person who comes out, what the hell is the message they’re trying to send anyway?

And since we’re stepping in it, we may as well grind our feet into the mess a little: kids only get so much out of “It Gets Better.” You know why? Kids, by their very natures, are not forward-looking; everything is RIGHT NOW and of the HIGHEST IMPORTANCE. We can’t think of any message from an adult more condescending to a teenager than “Shh. It’s okay. Just dream of ten years from now.” Especially since the message of “It Gets Better” pretty much accepts anti-gay bullying as an inevitability; something for the kid to just hunker down and get through. In other words: the message of “It Gets Better,” whether it intends it or not (and obviously, it didn’t) is that the victims of anti-gay bullying have to do the work of dealing with it, but no one else does. “You’re on your own, kid. Chin up. The good news is, you might be happy in a decade.”

And can we just say, as two people who chose the marriage route, that Kurt’s fantasy scene for Karofsky had an underlying message of “See? In ten years, you’ll be JUST LIKE A STRAIGHT PERSON, with your office job, spouse, and child!” Obviously, we don’t look down on anyone who makes those choices, but it was oddly limiting that these were the only choices offered. We get it; Karofsky wasn’t going to dream of being a choreographer on Broadway or something, but the boring pedestrianism of that dream was kind of depressing. Is this the message we’re supposed to be sending to gay kids? “You too can be a cog in the machine, just like your parents were!”

And what makes this so depressing for us is that when Ryan Murphy first decided to address the lives of gay teens, he started off in the best way possible: by giving them something to dream about. When Blaine sang “Teenage Dream” to Kurt, we were inspired to write probably the most heartfelt thing we’ve ever written on this blog:

“To the straight people reading us: remember high school? Remember your favorite songs and movies, TV shows and music videos from that period? Imagine if all of that media bombardment telling you what to like, what to wear, and how to be attractive, popular, and cool, imagine that all of that aimed for and addressed everyone else but you. Imagine what it’s like when every sappy love song (or angry breakup song), every rom com, every trendy TV show and blockbuster movie, even every video game, imagine if they all depicted a form of romantic love that simply isn’t available to you. Imagine going through high school without even so much as a hint of yourself reflected in any of the things you watch and listen to, any of the things that literally every other kid is talking about. Imagine the one thing you want more than anything in the world: to be kissed, please god, just to be kissed, imagine you have never seen that depicted anywhere or referred to in any way but as something to be mocked and shunned.”

“The fact of the matter is, bullying is the natural result of all that socializing that reinforces heterosexuality as the norm and everything else as… well, so under-represented that it might as well still be a taboo. Teenagers see thousands of murders depicted onscreen by the time they reach 18 but most of them never see a boy kiss another boy or sing him a sweet love song. You want to prevent gay kids from killing themselves? Push for more scenes like the above. Giving a young gay boy the dream that someday Prince Charming will come and sing a love song to him? You cannot imagine. You simply cannot imagine how revolutionary such a thing is.”

What happened, Ryan? When did you decide giving gay kids the message that their lives had value and potential wasn’t the way to go and defining them as victims was a great idea? When did this show become so determined NOT to be fun or uplifting or aspirational anymore? How many times do we have to watch the tears fill Kurt’s eyes? And boy do we miss the Kurt who talked like a bitchy, angry 16-year-old rather than the Kurt we have now, who talks like a 40-year-old grief counselor.

Okay, maybe we did shit all over it a little. Look, we can walk away from a show when it stops giving us what we liked in the first place. If Glee continues on, more power to it. We hope its fans continue to get something out of it, but for us, we’re done with watching gay people cry every week.

One final thought:

The way for the creative community (and indeed, the entire world) to address anti-gay bullying is not through weepy portraits of its victims, but through SHEER RAGE. Fuck “It Gets Better.” Show us a campaign against gay teen bullying called “THIS SHIT HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW” and we’ll sign on in nano-seconds. Because the people who need to address anti-gay bullying definitely aren’t the victims – and not the bullies, either. It’s society that needs to change its attitudes toward gays, from the top down. And when the majority of people are righteously angered by any attempts to dehumanize gays or treat them as inferior – and more importantly, moved to act on that anger, rather than sitting at their computers and shaking their heads over it – then anti-gay bullying will practically evaporate. Every time a gay kid takes his life, it’s not he who’s at fault, nor is it the parents, the bullies, the church or the school district. WE ARE. WE ALL ARE. You should be furious about it, not gently weeping over music videos.


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