Is Glee actually bad for gay representation on television? That’s not a question being asked by GLAAD (which loves the show) but Newsweek‘s Ramin Setoodeh, the magazine’s go-to for all things gay. The article isn’t just misinformed, its premise is miserable.
Characters like Glee‘s Kurt, Entourage‘s Lloyd, and Ugly Betty‘s Marc and Justin all lean effeminate, some more than others. This, Setoodeh all but concludes, is “hurting” the image of gay Americans because it’s pushing a stereotype.
He’s right — but only in the “pushing a stereotype” department. Which, let’s be sure, isn’t always a terrible thing. And is sometimes worthwhile.
Setoodeh (pictured), who was previously called out by Project Runway‘s Jack Mackenroth for misinformed entertainment reporting, fails to acknowledge that when it comes to today’s gay television characters, particularly the young ones, we’re in the middle of new era. One of progress. These characters are no longer on the sidelines; they are crucial to the main stories. They aren’t merely the sounding boards for the main protagonists; they are given their own complex plotlines. No longer are these characters prohibited from being as sexual as their straight counterparts (though we’re still not completely there).
With Glee‘s Kurt and fellow youngster Marshall on United States of Tara, we’re seeing gay teen characters who deal with school pressures, crushes, and coming out. They also just happen to be characters who play fey. And that’s okay — because many young gay kids (and adults) are.
Moving up the age spectrum are Entourage‘s Lloyd and Nurse Jackie‘s Mohammed. They can both queen out, sure. But the importance of Lloyd — whose relationship was part of the plot — continues to grow on the HBO series. Aside from Jackie, Mohammed might be our favorite character on Showtime’s drug drama, because he is witty, not “sassy.” And the gay parents on Modern Family might lean feminine, but where’s the recognition that they are breaking down stereotypes by starting a family, instead of remaining thirtysomething and fabulous?
And did Setoodeh forget all the non-girl-y gay male characters on the small screen? Because they’re everywhere: Trauma, Southland, Brothers & Sisters, Greek, One Life to Live, and Torchwood. Heaven forbid they promote another stereotype about gay men we’ve encountered: Some are masculine and — gasp — “straight acting!”
For once, we’re volunteering to let GLAAD give a media outlet a smack down. As GLAAD chief Jarrett Barrios has said about Glee‘s Kurt: “To see a story line that reflects the anxiety that they have, and for that character to get reinforcement that being gay isn’t an illness or a perversion, that kind of message is extraordinarily powerful.”
Unfortunately, so too are completely off-base articles in well-respected national magazines. This has all the markings of a story that began “Hey look, there’s a trend!,” which always end badly.
Setoodeh isn’t all bad; he penned this cover story about Lawrence King and the troubles facing gay youth. We believe his heart is in the right place, even as an “objective” entertainment reporter. But there’s something terribly off base with a conclusion that it’s bad to finally have young gay television characters that real-life gay kids can identify with.