“Stereotypical” is a word I find popping up in a lot of negative conversations about Glee.
From Wikipedia (don’t look at me that way; this is not a term paper!):
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of “stereotype” and “prejudice” are often confused with many other different meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions.
This word comes up especially in relation to Glee‘s gayest of gay characters, Kurt.
I have an issue with accusations of stereotyping with regards sexual orientation. I’m a lesbian with short hair and cats. Am I a stereotype? No, I’m a real person.
Kurt Hummel is not a real person. As Chris Colfer (the actor who plays Kurt) says, Kurt is “superior […] chic […] fierce […] fashionable”. And yes. That may sound like a stereotype.
But does it matter that I knew people in school who were like Kurt? Why are they branded “stereotypes”? Why should they be denied representation?
The only thing I can think of here is some phobias going on here. I think a lot of people object to Kurt’s character because of his gender identity and not because of his sexual orientation. I’ll write more about that later. There are some unfortunate undercurrents of misogyny and cissexism in the critiques of Kurt’s character. We can read that it’s bad to portray gay men as not masculine, and that feminine qualities are something to be ashamed of.
When I think of harmful stereotypes, I think of how the Irish are stereotyped as drunk and lazy, or how Jewish people are portrayed as miserly. Both of those are objectively bad qualities. Kurt doesn’t have any really objectively bad characteristics. He’s self-involved (honestly, they all are), but still a caring friend.
And yet, I’d concede the point if Kurt was the only gay character on the show. But even if we only count male gay characters, Glee has Kurt Hummel, Blaine Anderson, Dave Karofsky, Sandy Ryerson and Rachel Berry’s dads, who are mentioned often enough to be considered characters. The characters run the gamut from football jock, pervy choir teacher, to dreamboat prep school kid, to effeminate Kurt and Rachel’s dads who have a performance venue in their basement. I mean, sure, you can argue that they all sing and dance, but the show is a musical comedy after all.