02 February 2011

Gay Teens on TV

I love Entertainment Weekly; my favorite day of the week is when that magazine shows up in my mailbox. (A Christmas gift from my sister from a couple of years ago that JUST KEEPS GIVING--thanks Amy!).

It was an extra-special day when the recent "Special Report" edition arrived, with the cover story on "Gay Teens on TV," and cute-as-buttons Darren Criss (Blaine) and Chris Colfer (Kurt) of Glee sharing a tender moment on the cover.

This makes me happy for several reasons:

I love Glee. Something about the musical numbers moves me to tears every single week, and the bullying theme this year is just brilliant. Kurt’s dad has been supportive of his gay son from the get-go. Blaine’s version of "Teenage Dream" was better than Katy Perry’s, and how about the gorgeous duet of "Baby, It’s Cold Outside" between Blaine and Kurt on the Christmas episode. I could go on...

As the article points out, TV was sorely lacking in gay characters for years, at least ones who weren’t “one-time guest stars, whispered tragedies and silly sidekicks." (Check out my earlier post on gay TV characters here). Acceptance of gays continues to rise, as polls and recent political gains confirm, and TV watchers very clearly make that case by inviting the same gay characters into their homes each week.

EW notes that demographics have changed too: the average coming-out age is 16 now, while about 20 years ago, most gays didn’t come out until college. Also, the percentage of schools with gay-straight alliances is at 45%. That’s up from 25% in 2001 (and 0% when I went to high school, not all that long ago).

Perhaps more importantly, the storylines speak to kids AND parents. On Glee, for example, Kurt’s dad looks and acts like what he is: a small-town guy from the Midwest, a mechanic, a man’s man with average intelligence and sensitivities. But he's also shown himself to be a dad who immediately supported his son when he came out and has continued to stand by him, fiercely and loyally, in every situation. I hope that parents who watch Glee with their kids are taking their cues from him. That’s when it will really get better.

From a corporate standpoint, EW says there have been no controversies for Glee--no boycotts, protests, or episodes blacked out by the local broadcaster, as has happened in the past to gay-themed TV episodes. In fact, Glee will take over the most coveted, hyped, and celebrated TV spot of the year, when it airs directly after the Super Bowl later this week. Since currency is king, this is obviously an important measure of mainstream acceptance for the show’s gay sensibility.

It’s amazing to see how far gay characters--and therefore gays--have come. As Jarrett Barrios, president of Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) says, “This increasing number of story lines makes it impossible to assume there are no gay people around you. It makes it uncool to be a bully.” Amen.

- Maura McGurk

Maura is an artist who paints about issues related to gay rights. Please check out her paintings at http://mauramcgurk.com


  1. I think it's crazy how far we've come as a society; soon (I do believe that) people will laugh about the stick created over being gay and accepting it, as opposed to tolerating it. Not there yet, but very soon.

  2. This is a great article I love how gay had become a buzz word. It is great to see gay role models on mainstream tv.

  3. I agree DeeCue. But instead of a laugh, I picture a startled awe, like when you find out how cheap groceries or stamps used to be. Or the same OMG-that's-crazy look my 9-year old niece gave when she found out that interracial marriage used to be illegal. We're getting there.


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