15 responses to “Glee: The Halfway Point: Disability and Sexuality On Glee”

  1. Heather Freeman

    A note on Santana; I believe an earlier episode referenced her having sex with Puck, so she’s more likely bisexual than lesbian. Given that context, I read the revelation of the relationship between Santana and Brittany as a typical homophobic attempt by the girls themselves to still present as straight.

    If they pull a Joss-Whedon style erasure of bisexuality – well, I guess that’s just one more thing to be annoyed about.

  2. julian

    I never saw Brittany & Santana as gay (or even bisexual) at all, but then again, I don’t specifically recall any moments referencing their involvement with each other except that “big reveal”. I kind of interpreted it as the kind of thing a lot of (especially young) women do in a “I kissed a girl and I liked it/hope my boyfriend don’t mind it” culture — make out with other girls/women only to attract men who, of course, imagine themselves as the main player in any “lesbian” fantasy. d

    I feel weird about Kurt. I love him, and there certainly are gay boys/men who are very feminine in nature (without identifying as female), but I think you’re right that his boyfriend-less status is not an accurate portrayal of being gay in high school these days. When I was in high school 8 years ago, out gay students were so few and far-between that we didn’t have a lot of chances to date (at least not people our own age — which is why so many gay men have their first sexual experience with someone much older). But these days, more and more kids are coming out in *middle school*, so by the time they get around to high school bf/gf drama age, they can participate in it themselves.

    Finn is pretty much my least favorite character, but I’m still voting for him to have a Big Reveal and fall in love with Kurt. ;)

    Re: the singer in the deaf choir: Do you mean the character wasn’t deaf, or the actor wasn’t? Based on Glee’s inability to have actual disabled folks play their disabled characters, I wouldn’t really have expected the deaf choir kids to be any different.

  3. calixti

    Re: Santana and Brittany, weren’t they in the Celibacy Club? Because that adds an extra layer of nasty to their relationship, imo–they can still be members because lesbian sex isn’t ‘real’ sex.

    Or, I may be misremembering and they may not be in the Celibacy Club at all. Or maybe it was supposed to be taken as them being hypocrites.

  4. julian

    I understood perfectly what you were saying about Kurt’s “might as well be a girl” characterization. It’s just too often that discussions about how the media turns all gay men into an Kurt/Will’s friend on “Will & Grace”/Emmett (from QaF) heads down the road into, “Yeah, all the gay men I know are REAL men!”

    When, of course, Kurt is just as much of a “real man” as Puck or Finn. Some gay men (and some straight ones, if homophobia & misogyny doesn’t keep them from faking traditional masculinity) *are* like Kurt — but some are indistinguishable from straight men. The media just hasn’t gotten the memo yet.

    EXCEPT! I don’t know if any of you have watched “Trauma.” It’s your basic medical drama show, following a handful of EMTs. It’s really nothing interesting, with the exception of one of the male medics being gay — and he’s just like everyone else. There’s no “Will & Grace” feel to this character whatsoever. He’s just a dude who happens to be interested in other dudes.

    It’s honestly really sad how excited I was about that particular portrayal of teh gay. I can’t think of *one* other depiction of gay men that doesn’t turn them into drug/sex addicts or women.

  5. calixti

    meloukhia, good point on the celibacy club not being mentioned again. In retrospect, it seems like it was only mentioned to show how hypocritical the ‘good girls’ are and give the producers a ‘look, we’re progressive! and EDGY! ooh!’ moment with Rachel’s speech. Ugh.

  6. julian

    I love that his partner’s homophobia is really fading, too, because I think in many instances that’s all homophobia is about — ignorance about what gay people are actually all about.

    I can’t remember any of the character’s names (except Rabbit, lmao), but in the last episode I saw, the partner invited the gay guy to his home to have Thanksgiving with his wife & kids. Aw, the sweetness.

    I don’t know anything about San Francisco, but there is certainly a starry-eyed thing when you finally come out and realize the world isn’t ending and you can be HAPPY. And that there are other gays in the world.

  7. Sarah

    A lot of very interesting ideas in the post and comments. This is somewhat OT, but Heather, you are so, so right about Joss Whedon’s erasure of bisexuality. That annoys me so much. Not that it’s any better to have characters who act like bisexual women just to attract heterosexual male attention, as Glee does. Because that’s totally the way it works, apparently. It’s not like there’s any social stigma about bisexuality or anything.

    With Kurt, I really think the show is conflating sexuality, gender identity, and being transgender in a lot of inaccurate ways. It’s one thing for Kurt to enjoy fashion and act otherwise “feminine.” But when he preferred to work with the girls when they did mashups, things got kind of dicey. Identifying as a gay man does not equal identifying as a woman.

    As for Artie’s sexuality, I do get the sense that some fans are shipping Artie/Tina (as suggested by “Wheels”), but the show hasn’t exactly called attention to that plotline. (We need to see the Puck/Finn/Rachel/Quinn/Kurt Love Pentagon instead, apparently.) I think there are some potentially interesting issues there, though I have zero confidence in the show’s ability to handle them in ways which are at all sensitive to disability rights thinking. It’s interesting that the Artie/Tina relationship was originally portrayed as a relationship between two PWD, but was revealed to actually be a PWD/normative-abled person relationship. Because these different relationships *definitely* take on different social meanings.

  8. AWV

    the implication seems to be that Sue gives Becky a chance because she wants to treat her like anyone else, and give her the experience of being a cheerleader. Which might actually be kind of neat.

    I disagree that this would be neat, because Becky’s tryout wasn’t better than any of the people Sue didn’t let on the team (and IIRC she was mean to all the other kids who had bad tryouts). It’s not treating Becky like anyone else for Sue to put her on the team when she wouldn’t put any of those other kids on the team.

    Although I agree that the scene with Brittany giving Becky money makes Becky seem dependent, I’m much more bothered by the fact that they didn’t just have Becky be a talented cheerleader. This goes perfectly with the portrayal of the deaf choir–people with disabilities can only succeed because someone else is trying to help them, or feeling sorry/emotionally moved.

    Additionally, it’s really fucked up that the show portrayed Sue’s sister as living in an institution*–I mean, not that no intellectually disabled people are in that situation, but I don’t think the show was trying to draw attention to the problem of institutionalization. It was portrayed as normal for her to be living there.

    *(I guess it wasn’t exactly an institution–maybe it was just the creepiest group home ever–but still. It really bothered me that Sue’s sister seemed to just be lying in bed waiting to be visited. If I went to visit someone in a group home, I’d expect to find them watching TV with the other residents, or eating dinner, or out on a trip. And I live in Ohio too, it’s not like some cutting-edge east coast thing for an intellectually disabled person to not be shut up in a room all the time. If Sue is so rich and loves her sister so much, why doesn’t she pay for a better group home?)

    Kurt is a good character but I feel sort of bitter about it–like, Ryan Murphy is gay, so of course he cares about developing the gay character well, but he sure doesn’t care about any other minority characters, because developing them might actual involve putting in effort, and having to consult people. Oh noes!

  9. Isabel

    With Kurt, I really think the show is conflating sexuality, gender identity, and being transgender in a lot of inaccurate ways. It’s one thing for Kurt to enjoy fashion and act otherwise “feminine.” But when he preferred to work with the girls when they did mashups, things got kind of dicey. Identifying as a gay man does not equal identifying as a woman.

    I don’t know that that was implying that Kurt actually identified AS a woman, just that he much preferred to work with his female peers than his male ones, which, can you blame him? But, full disclosure, Kurt is my favorite character on the show because he reminds me SO MUCH of one of my best friends since ninth grade. SO MUCH. The fashion sense. The hilarious-but-mean “oh my god did he actually just say that i am going to hell but i can’t stop laughing” sense of humor. The general sense of disdain for his peers. The being-friends-with-girls-exclusively. If he’d he did use the girls’ bathroom in our usual hangout spot (& he isn’t trans, he said the boys’ bathroom was just really gross). so… I guess I don’t have anything to contribute about Kurt, because he is the character that actually rings truest for me just because he reminds me SO MUCH of someone I actually know (& love). (I mentioned this to him and he told me he didn’t have a male partner on a group project till sophomore year of college)

    Except maybe – I don’t know that it’s that unusual for gay or even just non-gender-conforming boys – speaking here specifically of teenagers, that general age range – to wind up basically being “one of the girls” socially speaking, because straight teenage boys can be so awful in terms of… a lot of things, but especially if you’re not up to snuff in terms of standards of boy-ness. I definitely have one close heterosexual male friend who is far from a typical straight boy and, partly because of that, has no male close friends and never has (and he went to an all boys’ school all his life), and I’ve known other boys who were either gay or otherwise non-conforming who grew up much the same way.

    I guess I’m confused by the fact that you say you’re not upset by the fact that he’s characterized as effeminate (which I agree is not upsetting, though it would be nice to have some diversity on TV in terms of how gay men present themselves), but you are upset by the fact that he’s “characterized like the girls in the show.” I actually don’t really know what you mean by that, or why it would be a bad thing for him to be “closer,” in a sense, to the girls on the show than the boys on the show.

    I also am sort of confused by this:

    And who else was unnerved by the way the revelation went, which seemed to suggest that lesbians can’t be in “real” relationships because they’re all gay and stuff?

    because the context of the reveal was Santana explaining that she was very much NOT in a real relationship with Puck – in other words, her relationships with Puck and Brittany are the same (just sex). I also don’t see how the two characters are putting on same-sex interest as an act to garner attention when they’ve been keeping the relationship a secret – I actually kind of liked that, because it was like, oh two girls are hooking up with each other just because they like hooking up with each other and it brings them pleasure, not to show off for boys.

    All the stuff about disability was spot-on, & I’m really enjoying this series! Sorry that I go on at length about two points I am confused over/disagreeing with while my commentary for all the plentiful spot-on stuff is entirely limited to “yes! what you said!”

  10. Sasha_feather

    This post has been included in a linkspam at access-fandom. Thank you for reccing us! :)

  11. Sarah

    It really disappointed me that Glee took a disability, like stuttering, and disposed of it for convenience, from what I saw, to give Tina more of a role in the show. Glee didn’t want someone who has a stutter/disfluency to be a ‘speaking’ character.

    I was so excited when I heard the buzz before “Wheels” happened that a stutterer/PWS was going to be featured on the show. What excited me the most was that it was a female stutterer. Only 1 in 4 stutterers are female, and I had only seen another female stutter on MTV’s True Life: I Stutter.

    When I read the piece about Jenna Ushkowitz researching stuttering, my feelings were that of “Good try but no cigar”. While the writers of Glee messed up how Tina’s stutter is approached, the actress who played her didn’t seem as a culprit.
    Until I saw this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtrJhE-9OQc

    Newsflash Jenna: People who stutter actually communicate with other human beings!

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