Love, Norms, and Heterosexual Priveledge

Kurt and Blaine in "The Purple Piano Project" (screencap). I admit I chose this picture mainly for the bicep.

I don’t think it’s any big secret that I am an enormous fan of the Fox show “Glee.”

While the show contains much that is campy, cheesy, and cartooney, it also has several wonderful factors, which I early on decided were 1. Sue Sylvester (such incredibly snarky, wonderful, sarcastic writing), 2. Will Schuester (a character and actor who is my age so I could feel less creepy, and the best-looking man in the cast– or at least he was until part way into season two when the guy I’d started crushing on the moment I saw his viral YouTube Harry Potter fan musical joined the cast and introduced me to my mantra of “he’s 25, he’s 25, he’s 25″), and 3. Kurt Hummel, whose story of finding his voice and coming into his own as the tormented outcast with the single parent who is an absolute saint both moves me and conjures up memories of middle school.

But the best part about “Glee” is the way, in the midst of all the silliness and drama and total lack of realistic high school portrayals, they manage to make the audience push edges and question assumptions. In little glimpses of poignant, honest moments, viewers are stretched. Sure, there are the obvious ones about teenage drinking and sexual activity and gay and lesbian characters. But here in my liberal, progressive tower, I was sure I was above such things. So the writers throw me for a loop with “Born This Way,” when characters don’t self-identify the characteristics I’d have named as their biggest hurdles, or with doses of sympathy toward characters like Sue and Karofsky (but never Sebastian, I swear it!), or as early as the fourth episode, forcing me to confront my assumption that the man who wore flannel and a baseball cap and changed tires for a living was going to freak when his son came out to him. Think again.

Blaine and Kurt are the model couple in "I Kissed a Girl" (screencap)

And now the show has me thinking about heterosexual privilege.

For years, my gay and lesbian friends have bemoaned the difficulty of watching movies and television shows where the principle (or only) couples portrayed were straight. While I effortlessly lost myself in the romance, my friends lifted challenges. With whom does one identify? How weird it feels to simultaneously want to be the leading lady and want to be the man romantically involved with her. How demeaning that gay characters, if presented at all, are caricatures or exaggerations, often intended for comic relief, with relationships to be pitied or analyzed rather than emulated.

But in “Glee,” Kurt and Blaine present an alternative.

One of–  if not *the*– strongest couples on the show, Kurt and Blaine (or “Klaine” for the die-hard fans) have a relationship based in friendship and mutual respect, honesty and walking side by side through challenges (from haters and would-be lovers to competition to the tribulations of high school), frank conversations about sex and sexuality, and deep commitment to living and loving exactly as they are. They are often the ideal couple, modeling stability and integrity to other couples and singles on the show. In fact, compared to Klaine, the heterosexual couples in the show are a mess, a constant jumble of drama. The next-most committed and established couple I would argue are Brittany and Santana, two girls (only kept apart for so long because of Santana’s reticence to come out). Finn and Rachel, the “power couple” of the show, have more bumps than a Vermont road in March, and frankly, it’s pretty annoying to watch.

Hosting the holiday spectacular at their "bachelor pad" in "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (screencap)

But Kurt and Blaine are magic. And it’s not because Kurt addresses and heals my inner middle school reject (although he does), and it’s not because Blaine is simply drool worthy (Darren Criss is 25, he’s 25, he’s a young but totally legal 25…). It’s because they have a relationship that is beautiful, and fun to watch, that I want to root for and be a part of, just like any other time I snuggle up in front of a romantic comedy and dreamily lose myself in the eyes of the leading man, placing myself in his paramour’s place.

In short, watching “Glee” makes me dream of being Kurt.

A gay man.

This is a rather new and somewhat disconcerting feeling, if I’m honest.

And knowing and naming that makes me realize quite clearly how awkward and strange it must be for glbt individuals to watch just about anything else, where the assumptions about normal and happily ever after never look anything like them, only and always like me. That’s not okay.

So for all its silliness and hype and despite the very real issue I take with inappropriate student-teacher boundaries (or lack thereof) presented in “Glee,” I love it, because it challenges me and invites me to step out of my comfort zone and walk a mile in Kurt’s (often fabulous) shoes, or the shoes of any other person who doesn’t live inside the comfortable bubble of my heterosexual privilege.

And have I mentioned that I think Blaine is cute HOT? And 25.

4 Responses

  1. A giant heart and hug for you. Because really, there’s nothing to say other than that I would love to bring a pair of Death by Chocolate pints to your couch and watch THIS show with you, after all these years.

    Love,
    Lissa

    • We will have to do that some time, my dear. Especially after I finish making my home-viewing-purposes-only cut of all Kurt, Blaine, and Klaine scenes ever. Season 1 is a somewhat melancholy hour and a half with a quirky soundtrack. Season two is already at 2.5 hours, views like an epic romance, and has more all-male vocal pop music than anyone needs, but it is glorious.
      I think of you whenever it’s normal to be gay on Glee, and I rejoice. <3

  2. very insightful and well written and something to ponder….Same sex marriage is long overdue…in both civil law and Church law….let’s pray that the Spirit moves us all to be more aware of the human dignity that should be accorded to all of God’s children

    • Agreed, Toni. That’s my prayer and my constant battle. I fully believe we will see change in our lifetimes, and that gives me hope. Silly as things like TV shows can be, they speak to larger shifts in conversation and demographics. My daughter has no preconceptions about marriages, except that a wedding is even cooler when there are “double princesses.” In a generation, we will look back in shame and brokenness, and maybe then we can undertake the long road of seeking healing and forgiveness for how we have stripped others of dignity and humanity. Yet again. *sigh*

      In hope,
      Becca

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