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Scott D. Pierce: Is 'Glee' too gay? The question is offensive

Published May 16, 2011 9:11 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Fox's "Glee" just might be the most gay-friendly show in American network TV history.

It's so gay-friendly that it's criticized by some for being too gay-friendly. As if positive portrayals of gay characters is going to turn viewers gay.

It's 2011. Aren't we over that yet?

Apparently not. The Fox affiliate in Houston aired a report titled "Is TV too gay?" and not only gave time to a virulently anti-gay activist, but the anchor compared the gay characters in "Glee" to "product placement" of sodas in movies that make "everyone in the theater thirsty for that particular brand."

Pathetic.

"Glee" executive producers Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuck, Ian Brennan and their team deserve huge credit for moving beyond Kurt's (Chris Colfer) coming-out tale and tackling bullying this season. Teenagers watch the show, and if any of them rethought that behavior, then "Glee" deserves not just applause but heartfelt thanks.

But … the storylines have been inconsistent and sent mixed messages.

Tough guy Karofsky (Max Adler) bullied and threatened Kurt, who was forced to transfer. Yet Kurt's friends and even his stepbrother, Finn (Corey Montieth), befriended an unrepentant Karofsky in one episode.`

Karofsky seemed to merit special consideration because he's a closeted gay who's overcompensating. It seems unlikely a straight gay-hater would have gotten the same treatment.

When Karofsky apologized and Kurt returned to McKinley High, it was a sham. The bully had no remorse — it was part of a plan to hide his sexuality and win the race for prom king.

A horrible message indeed.

"Glee" has made mistakes before. In the first season, good-guy dad Burt Hummel (Mike O'Malley) came down hard on Finn for calling Kurt's redecorating efforts "faggy." Burt's heart was in the right place, but Finn had a reason to be uncomfortable. Kurt had hit on him repeatedly, sexually harassing his soon-to-be stepbrother.

It played into the stereotype that gays pursue straights and attempt to convert them.

It's 2011. Aren't we over that yet?

Murphy acknowledged the mistake, as did Burt.

And "Glee" made another course-correction last week. Karofsky showed genuine remorse. And some degree of reality returned to McKinley High when Kurt was elected prom queen as a cruel joke. Because the world isn't as progressive as "Glee" sometimes pretends it is.

The show has always been erratic, with plotlines wildly gyrating from week to week. If "Glee" was all fluff, it wouldn't matter.

But you can't tackle tough issues and try to send important messages if you're not consistent. Or, worse yet, if you send the wrong message.

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays. Reach him at spierce@sltrib.com or 801-257-8603. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottDPierce; check out his blog at sltrib.com/blogs/tv.