Glee Raised the Bar for TV Inclusivness With Gay KissWednesday, March 16, 2011
On last night's 'Glee,' the New Directions won regionals after hitting the stage with a pair of original songs -- a first for the series -- but that isn't what anyone is talking about this morning. After months of hints and winks, fans of FOX's hit musical finally got what they've been waiting for: The characters of Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) kissed for the first time. And it wasn't a peck. It also wasn't overtly sexual or desperate, it wasn't rushed or clouded with turmoil, and it certainly wasn't played for laughs, the way many kisses between men are on TV. It was perfect.
"'Glee' has raised the bar of what it means to be inclusive on TV, and viewers are tuning in by the millions, sending a clear message to networks that Americans not only accept gay and lesbian characters, but they are beginning to expect them," GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios tells PopEater. "It's stories like Kurt and Blaine's that continue to remind gay youth everywhere that there's nothing wrong with being who you are."
The characters portrayed by Colfer and Criss, who is nominated for Logo's annual NewNowNext Awards 2011, which honors what is up-and-coming in popular culture, in the Brink of Fame: Actor category, are arguably the highest-profile gay characters on television right now, and, as the LGBT community continues to recover from the wave of bullying-related suicides late last year, it is especially important that Kurt and Blaine represent a pair of openly gay teenagers comfortable with who they are and seemingly on the verge of a real romantic relationship grounded in mutual respect.
"The two most recent episodes have represented queer youth and coming of age in a way I've never seen on broadcast television before, let alone one of the most popular shows in the country, with a mostly young audience," AfterElton's Christie Keith wrote in her recap of 'Original Song.' Keith is also referring to last week's 'Sexy,' in which Santana (played by Naya Rivera) confessed her love for Heather Morris' character, Brittany. Also on last week's episode, Kurt's father Burt (Mike O'Malley) sat his son down for a straightforward discussion about sex, providing him pamphlets and telling him, "This is gonna suck for both of us, but we're going to get through it together, and we will both be better men because of it. ... Kurt, when you're ready, I want you to be able to do everything, but when you're ready I want you to use it as a way to connect to another person, don't throw yourself around like you don't matter."
Since its debut, 'Glee' has been lauded for its inclusiveness, with characters representing myriad ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. Last year, GLAAD honored 'Glee' with the GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Comedy Series, and the show is again a nominee this year. Colfer is set to attend this year's GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles on April 10.
For how often the show delights in being over-the-top, these recent storylines have been grounded in a way that can only benefit 'Glee's' millions of young LGBT viewers, who rarely get to see themselves represented as fully formed, multi-dimensional characters and not stereotypes on prime-time network television. The show has been dealing with the issues they deal with daily directly and with great care, and it's heartening to know that in FOX's 'Glee,' a generation of young gay teens has been given something no generation of LGBT persons has had before them -- a group of peers to relate to.