Friday, May 7, 2010

A Response to Kurt

The following is a response to Lee Wind’s question on the subject:

In the context of stereotyping, the show definitely started out with some broad brush strokes. “Gay kid, Aretha, Wheels, Asian…” Sue labels a set of characters in an earlier episode. That said, I believe the emphasis here is on growth and development. On a weekly basis, the students are reminded of the binary typologies they’re supposed to fit into—popular/unpopular, smart/dumb, attractive/frumpy, lead/backup singer, etc.

As the show has progressed, though, I tend to view these divisions being chipped away through character development first, by pointing out the stereotypes as Sue did, assembling a diverse group of students for her musical number; and second, as the kids begin to question the places they’ve been consigned as Mercedes did when she pointed out to Mr. Schu, “You only trot me out at the end of every number so I can wail on the last note.”


Musically, she’d in many ways fit the stereotype of black backup singer just as Kurt fit his respective stereotype in his feminine falsetto. In the Madonna episode, that came into question as they busted out a new sound together. She took an empowered lead, and his vocals (and look) were arguably more masculine.

Now, these challenges to their stereotypical identities did propel the show a bit, but did not change the fact that their characters are largely dictated by said stereotypes. I’d say the “frustrating mix of stereotype and not-stereotype” is more relatable to men and women going through struggles with identity. A gay teen may not fit the stereotypes portrayed in Kurt, but he still faces them in others’ expectations.

I see this trend of complicating stereotypes continuing in the next season as Kurt’s love interest (closeted and masculine, perhaps) will certainly provide some contrast to the issues Kurt faces.


robert said...

From purely the standpoint of American popular cultural development, the upcoming love interest plot line for Kurt's character represents a great opportunity to lift the veil on same sex romance between young people. The potential is exciting, but will it be fully represented as consensual and decent or fall prey to speculation and marginalization? Looking forward to it. I think you made 'spot on' observations about character development thus far

Phunk Factor said...

Kurt is no doubt one of the more interesting characters in Glee after Sue! His storyline is wayyy better than alot of the other gay characters out there....the only one i can rate above him is Kevin from Brothers & Sisters!

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

@robert: I really hoped you'd comment on this one. I think part of this worry lays in the mechanics of comedy. To me, comedy is an interplay between fulfilled and subverted expectations. For this reason, the characters begin as stereotypes and many notable moments are based in those stereotypes. I really do think the right will be attacking the show pretty hard core once this goes down, but I look forward to it even more.

@Phunk Factor: He is such an interesting character. I think that there's so much potential not only with said future boyfriend, but also with Finn's mom and his dad. Exciting.

PS-- I need to see Brothers and Sisters so badly.

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