(watch the whole clip for the first one)
(watch till 0:53) enjoy some music and dance 🙂
Glee was a famous television series that aired in 2009, with the reputation of being a gay text. Kurt Hummel, the flamboyant gay character in Glee, presents several stereotypes that are associated with gay characters on TV. The first video clip takes part in the very beginning of the whole series, where Kurt and several other main characters are first introduced. Inside the scene, we see several bullies from the football team tosses Kurt in the dumpster. If you continue to watch the series, we see that there are multiple places where Kurt is constantly getting bullied. This is connected to the stereotype that Miller mentions in the article that gay characters are usually victims in TV series. Inside this short clip, Kurt only has one line, “please, this is Mark Jacob’s new collection.” From this sentence, we can get the idea that he is coming from a family that is economically well off. This is also evident in the second video clip, where he is dressed fashionably and dancing in a large house with multiple floors. Another stereotype that we are encountering here. Gay characters are often depicted as being overly flamboyant on TV series so that producers can make audiences understand that the character is gay when they first see him.
All of these stereotypes create false imagery for the gay community just as what we learned previous weeks regarding how television creates stereotypes for other communities although we do see more gay representations on TV. The increasing appearance of gay characters on TV is mainly because the Slumpy class (Socially Liberal, Urban-Minded Professionals) desires “edgy, risqué programming” with a “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” position. These audiences want to include equality and diversity within their ideology to make them seem more liberal and cosmopolitan without challenging their economic conservatism. There are several issues that we are facing with these stereotypes.
The first problem that we encounter here is the idea of “model minority” that Becker mentions in his essay. We see that gay characters are always educated and wealthy. What they are struggling with is social recognition of their sexual orientation. This phenomenon is evident with the character Kurt in Glee and the gay couples, Mitchell and Cameron, in Modern Family. All of them are middle-class family, who live in a decent neighborhood. We do not see gay characters who are minorities or poor as if gay people are only white and wealthy. This is a stereotype that the Slumpy class wants to see because it offers “straight Slumpies a painlessly passive way to affirm their open-mindedness.” They do not have to struggle with challenges from minorities or people in lower class if they only have gay characters that are white and wealthy on television. This allows them to include diversity and is more cosmopolitan without confronting their economic conservatism of not willing to have redistributive policies for the minorities and the poor people.
This idea leads to the second issue that we are facing with gay representations on TV. We assume the opinion that gay characters are included more and more on television because the audiences actively support gay rights. However, “consuming difference commodified for one’s convenience and being repeatedly encouraged to celebrate diversity did not guarantee that one’s consciousness was thoroughly transformed” according to Becker. Watching more television series that include gay characters does not necessarily mean that the audiences are actually supporting gay rights. It is possible to think about the idea that they are watching it only because they desire edgy and hip contents to be included in the television. It is because gay characters do not hurt their principle ideology that they allow gay characters to be widely represented on television. Becker illustrates this idea by comparing with the decrement of African-American characters on TV. If the Slumpy class truly wants diversity, then there should be more African American representations. However, we do see the fact that the Slumpies “shared the same intolerant attitudes toward blacks as older generations.” This phenomenon hints to the fact that it is not the actual gay rights that they are supporting. What the Slumpy class wants is to make them seem more open-minded with the inclusion of diversity that fits their ideology.
- Do you think that the Slumpy class is supporting diversity and gay rights or they simply want to include more edgy and hip contents?
- Are there more stereotypes that you can think about are associated with gay characters? What are some TV examples that you think of?
- Are there any other problems that are associated with the gay stereotypes on TV?
- We do see quite a lot of gay representations on TV but often with negative imagery. Consider the discussion question that we did for Module 7. Do you think gay characters should have more but worse representations, or less but more positives representations?
Ron Becker, “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class”
Taylor Cole Miller, “Performing Glee: Gay Resistance to Gay Representations and a New Slumpy Class”
Thoughts and comments welcome below!