Glee: Kurt and the Casting Couch

In the second episode of Glee’s new season, “I Am Unicorn,” Kurt’s character loses the romantic lead in the school musical, West Side Story, to his more masculine boyfriend Blaine. The episode was both fascinating and confounding because instead of interrogating masculinist gender hierarchies, usually one of the show’s great strengths, the show affirmed them, making the argument that Kurt could not sufficiently turn on women because he was too “delicate,” “fragile,” “too much of a lady” and “not Rock Hudson gay, but gay gay.” The adjective “feminine,” was oddly never employed, although it would have been much more suitable for describing Kurt than “delicate,” especially given that the character had just performed an audition that displayed considerable upper body strength.

via Glee: Kurt and the Casting Couch | Antenna.

Really interesting piece with some odd stuff. I’m kind of on the run right now but thoughts:

1. I think that the Glee writers chose the word “delicate” intentionally… to be wrong. It is so obvious that of all the characters, Kurt is probably the least delicate of them all. Psychologically, physically and even his personality — he’s a strong person.

2. There is a later mention that is just a bit jarring given the context of the article. The author refers to Todrick Hall as gay and more masculine than Chris Colfer. To my knowledge, Todrick Hall has never spoken publicly about his sexual orientation, and I’m not very sure he’s actually perceptibly more masculine than Chris Colfer, unless we’re going on voices only. So yeah, weird to make this assumption based on — what? — in an article about assumptions based on (presumably) the same kinds of things.

3. Despite his voice, Chris Colfer does not strike me as effeminate, but Kurt does.

Your thoughts?


13 thoughts on “Glee: Kurt and the Casting Couch

  1. That article is….really wonderful, even though I feel like it gets a couple of basic assumptions wrong.

    For example, I felt that the scenes and storylines with Kurt in that episode were very obviously constructed to be wrong, down to word choice, as you mention. I never got the impression that we were supposed to agree with the directors–but rather, like Kurt, our opinions as viewers didn’t matter to the outcome. That’s how these things work. They’re unfair and complicated and uncomfortable and hurtful and ultimately illogical and they happen anyways.

    Which is, really, quite a ruthless statement to make about passing, don’t you think?

    Because the argument for passing isn’t always phrased the way Finn phrases it, about safety and blending and toning it down just for a little while, for the sake of someone else. It can be a lot more quiet, a lot sneakier, and a lot more insidious. It can seem quite correct and justifiable. After all, Kurt’s audition really wasn’t appropriate for the part. They’re not being homophobic, he simply didn’t audition as well…

    …but, textually, Kurt’s original audition is not critiqued at all. It’s not really an appropriate audition at all, but this is Glee and since when does that matter and the other characters seem to love it. They go into the meeting thinking of him as Tony. They have no doubts about his ability to play the role. Then they bring in their knowledge of Kurt as a person outside the context of the audition, and that’s when talk of passing, etc. starts up.

    I don’t know. I feel like a lot of the messages coming out this season are being delivered in a very interesting way that maybe reads as confused because they’re so quietly bold, kind of ruthless, and without easy answers or explanations. Kurt didn’t audition correctly, and he also can’t pass. It doesn’t matter, his audition, because he can’t pass. Mercedes self-sabotages, and in the end she’s still being mistreated and Will’s treatment is *still* Not Okay. It’s…

    It’s the opposite of the Model Minority trope. I wonder if that’s why the text is being read as “confused,” because it’s not didactic, it’s not neatly packaged as a Tale Of Social (In)Justice or even as something that could be read as such anyway, it’s just a unabashedly a tale about teenagers working out who they’re allowed to be (aka Glee.) It’s not pretty, neat, or fun, and though I have faith it will eventually be triumphant ala Kurt’s journey in season two…it’s not, not yet, not in the space of an episode.

    Which makes me suspect that the “confusion” has less to do with a story suddenly contradicting what’s been said before, and more with confusion about the inability to package it as anything else, which has always been a convenient feature of the show.

    And the characters…they’re right. Kurt can’t pass. Even this article doesn’t dispute that. Kurt is actually one of the most masculine characters on the show–there’s been some great stuff written about that, actually–but he’s not going to be read as straight. Which I think is something the article seems to fundamentally fails to grasp. Kurt embodies a specific type of appeal, of masculinity, as referenced in the article. It’s a type which the article contends has a lot of appeal, and a fundamental eroticism, yes? But that does not mean it has the same level of power or currency. That doesn’t mean its accepted, let alone as “masculine” or “good” or “erotic” in the world Kurt lives in. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be read as anything other than a threat, or that laughing at it won’t be seen as a relative kindness.

    I don’t know. I quite agree about the fetishization, is that the word, by fans of Kurt and then of Colfer–who really does not strike me as effeminate, but–and there is a lot of interesting information in the article. And I realize I just wrote an essay for a comment, I apologize.

  2. Probably because you can easily Google it yourself. If you’re going to write a blog about something, maybe take some time to educate yourself about the topics discussed.

  3. Have Googled, several times, making sure there was nothing I’d missed. There are a lot of people asking, a lot of people saying, but never TH himself and nothing quoting him ever saying he had a boyfriend or doesn’t, or is gay or isn’t. Just that he doesn’t talk about it. So, hey, prove your point or piss off.

    PS: You know that stick doesn’t belong up there, right?

  4. When you criticize an article for something, you most definitely deserve to be called out for not doing your research or just being flat-out lazy in it. The article and video refer to Hall saying something about Chris Colfer, and in that VERY SAME PIECE they refer to is where HE talks about being gay. All you have to do is search for his name and “gay” and it comes up. It’s the THIRD hit. Hardly something difficult to find. Hall has not kept it a secret that he is gay.

  5. TH has never said publicly that he’s gay. In that interview, the blogger made assumptions … in followup interviews, TH made it clear he was talking about the impact of playing a gay character. In other interviews he’s talked about similar things but puts it in the context of having gay friends. Also, that interview was apparently written from memory — there’s no recording or transcript (I have that from the blogger himself).

  6. Does a person have to declare “I am gay” in every interview he gives? Hall did not just sit there and let that guy assume he was gay without correcting him. He is gay, he is out, and it was a known thing between them.

  7. No need to apologise. Your comments are very often the smartest thing about this blog (that’s why you have a login).

    I think the fetishisation of Kurt and of CC is part of a much larger fetishisation of the queer… I think it’s part of any minority culture becoming more prominent and understood and seen is that, at some point, it becomes popular and in some cases, eroticised. (Think “I Kissed a Girl and I liked it” and t.a.T.u) Provided that point passes and we don’t buy into it, that’s grand, but I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the women’s movement in that regard. Women have bought into their own fetishisation and it’s going to take a very long time to get away from that. Because, at the moment, even if women are 100% running a tv program, for instance, there is still going to be a lot of very disturbing stuff about women on it. Because in many ways, we confused liberation and our bodies being marketable as though they were the same thing.

    So I worry about that with queer culture. I mean, the shows on telly about gay people can be very explicit. The L Word and Queer as Folk were very sexual in a way that I don’t really see in shows about straight people (I am quite open to correction here; I watch very few shows about straight people). Did either of those shows contribute to visibility? Both, really, I’m sure. But did they do it in a positive way? Less sure about that.

    Glee is obviously less explicitly sexual, but the excitement over THEY KISSED was very sexual, as evidenced by the almost immediate transposition of the animated images to portray the two boys more horizontal than vertical.

  8. I like being called smart. This should happen more often in my life.

    I think what you say is very interesting. I think there is a lot of fetishization of queer people happening currently–except it’s not even actual people, it’s acts. I have the same impression of The L Word and QAF–but it’s an impression I’ve gotten from the reactions of others, as I had no access to them growing up and I’m not interested in them now. But that seems to be the legacy they’ve left.

    And too, with Glee…in terms of sex the show is very conservative and family-values, but it’s also a show where a huge amount of plot centers around dating and infidelity and where the political things they do tend to connect to sexuality. I think I rambled at you about how the notable thing they do with disabled characters is give them sex lives, and from there agency is derived.

    I want to make a list someday, the Tropes Of Glee. Not just magically appearing background music, but the tools they use to advance stories. Leaving Glee Club, Food, Dating, Infidelity….there are a few others, and they make me think a lot about Maslow and the dysfunctional world of WMHS and why *these* signifiers are chosen, time and time again, not others.

    The more I think about the article though, the more it strikes me as an example of the phenomena it’s describing, rather than a critique.

  9. I have to wonder why Artie or Coach Beiste didn’t direct him to pick a more ideal song for his call back and exercise some simple direction to see if it could come out naturally. Also Kurt has already proved he can butch it up when he sang ‘Pink Houses’-just because they can’t see past his natural persona they didn’t buy it. Also as far as ‘delicate’ goes Kurt has more balls than the rest of the guys put together. It would have been really interesting if they’d ended up double casting Tony as well; it would clearly show the two sides of masculinity.

    on another note=perfect song choice for Colfer: ‘What Makes a Man a Man’

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