ï»¿Kurt Hummel is a popular gay character that broke through the Fox filter. But does his brand of Fox-approved homosexuality serve to reinforce stereotypes?
Glee is too gay, it seems, for the editors of Vanity Fair’s website, who apologised this week when a writer forgot where he was and used the word “fags” â€“ in a postmodern, ironic way of course â€“ to describe a recent episode of the hit US comedy series.
But while the gratuitous use of culturally-loaded words is fine for a bite-sized debate on Twitter, there is a much bigger problem that gay writers don’t discuss: the whopping headache of a tired gay clichÃ© that Glee itself embodies.
Leaving aside the brilliance of Sue Sylvester, my own gay-Glee-gripe is with Kurt Hummel, America’s poster boy for Fox-approved homosexuality with his wholesome goodness, a dazzling Colgate smile and a passion for Madge.
He’s hailed as a TV breakthrough, a positive role model for the Bieber generation. But with his fondness for makeovers, dance routines and the boy troubles of his girlfriends, I wonder if the character just buys into a sickly GleechÃ©. Would it have been more refreshing if, as the TV blog Remote Patrolled put it, “Kurt’s makeovers had been disasters, or if he’d turned out to be a darn good football player”?
Devised by Ryan Murphy, a gay writer in his forties, “Kurt” comes from The Sound of Music’s wide-eyed jailbait Kurt Von Trapp, while “Hummel” pays homage to a freakish rosy-cheeked line of youthful figurines that were popular in Nazi Germany. Swap the lederhosen for haus of Gaga and you get the stock-gay sensation that is Kurt Hummel. Can someone hold my hair back?
The stereotype he embodies does of course exist. But what about the majority of gay men who aren’t represented on TV? Gay teenagers must gulp with fear when they see Kurt, as he confuses the closet-door with a piano lid and makes being gay look like a full-time job.
In series one, Kurt relentlessly pursued his straight classmate Finn, in a dangerous storyline that reinforced to a young audience that gay men are predatory, won’t take no for an answer and will do anything to seduce any straight boy in sight.
And Kurt seems to embody the ethos that gay kids must prove themselves by excelling at something as if to justify the tragedy of their sexuality.
I much prefer Maxxie in Skins, who, like Kurt, had a passion for performance arts. But unlike Kurt his life didn’t revolve around fighting gay battles. The writers of Skins focused instead on the struggles of Anwar, a Muslim boy who felt that his strict upbringing made it difficult for him to get along with gay pupils, despite them being friendly towards him and a fellow minority in the classroom.
You might say that any gay character that gets past the Fox filter is a triumph. And there’s a sense of liberation, happiness and honesty to quick-witted Kurt that has warmed the hearts of millions. Chris Colfer has created a fun character, more three-dimensional than I’ve probably made him out to be. It comes as no surprise that he has a vast gay following â€“ the website AfterElton named Kurt the seventh best gay character of all time.
It’s also a personal achievement for Colfer, winner of a Golden Globe, a millionaire, only 20 and openly gay. He shares the red carpet with gay men twice his age who never in their award-stuffed careers dared to come out.
Perhaps Kurt Hummel is just the spoonful of sugar that Hollywood needs right now, but I can’t wait for the day when we don’t need these irritating test-tube gay heroes on TV.
How about a new series called Gloom, set in Southend-on-Sea, in which the gay protagonist is a kleptomaniac BMX biker who meets his teenage boyfriend in a young offenders home after being jailed for conning tourists? Episode one features the song Don’t Stop Deceiving, a heavy-metal cover that isn’t available on iTunes.