Saturday, September 4, 2010

Glee's Girl Trouble

I've had this sitting in my drafts for more than two weeks. I have a lot of things to say about PopMatters post on Glee's Kurt Hummel's "honorary girl status" , but this stood out:

"Before getting into why I’m concerned about Kurt’s construction on Glee, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it’s impossible for televisual representations to wholly represent: there’s no one way to be white, black, female or male, and as such, there is no one way to be gay. As for Kurt, there’s no way for him to effectively televisually represent all gay men (or gay adolescents). What is concerning is that Kurt appears constructed as an “honorary girl” on Glee."


"Therefore, my argument is not with Kurt’s character per se as much as it is about my wish to protest against the feminization and castration of gay men’s actual maleness."

There were a lot of a salient points made in this article, which I'll get to in a minute, but I think the author overlooked the obvious: Kurt's "honorary girl" status is concerning only because femininity is devalued in society. It's unfortunate that his argument comes across  as "everything female is bad," because it minimizes his point that gay characters on television, particularly prime time network TV, aren't varied or nuanced and are, more often than not, desexualized.

"One of the things that could help to construct Kurt as something other than a girl would be to allow him to express the sexual part of his homosexuality. Certainly the castration of gay men on television is nothing new, but it works in conjunction with feminizing gay men to render them nonthreatening and oftentimes womanly. The most readily accessible example of this phenomenon can be seen in Will from Will & Grace whose characterization sacrificed any meaningful examination of gay relationships in order to advance a politics of respectability—which essentially works to primarily put an image of gay men as middle class, white, career-oriented and essentially asexual with the ultimate conclusion left for heterosexuals to draw being, Wow, the gays are just like us! (read: normal).'"

Not mentioned, but one show that did this well was United States Of Tara. Younger son Marshall got to express his sexuality (within the limits of being a TV teen) on the past season, and was, overwhelmingly, a nuanced, complicated character. David and Keith from Six Feet Under, too, were allowed to be sexual, but of course both these shows are on Showtime and HBO, respectively, and could afford to be "risk taking."

And this, from the comments , I thought, said what the original post should :

"As per Judith Butler, it is the role of drag to reveal the imitative nature of gender. While reinforcing a restrictive stereotype, the Kurts of the television realm also serve to make obvious the disjuncture between sexuality, sex, and gender, by highlighting the pointed construction of gender. So while a “masculine” gay male representation on television is sorely needed, so is a “feminine” straight male… and a “feminine” gay female and a “masculine” straight female. Break down the restrictive box that surrounds all folks, as it were."

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