This is the response of the Glee Equality Project to the open letter posted here on July 15, 2012. The statement follows in its entirety.
We at GEP are pleased that our campaign is prompting people to ask their own questions. We welcome all contributions and feedback for our campaign, and have no qualms if people choose not to support us. We believe in what we’re doing, however, and we believe we’re on solid ground with our views and our campaign.
The gifsets, picture montages and videos on our tumblr, facebook and twitter represent our beliefs. We carefully considered each one and stand by them on the basis of what Glee has shown us on-screen.
The basis for all of our content is cold, hard facts from data collection and observations of season 3. We restricted ourselves to season 3 to keep the task manageable for our volunteer data recorders and analysts, but also to provide what we felt would be a fairer picture as there were established, canon straight and LGBT couples throughout that season. Including data from earlier seasons where there were not as many pairs would have skewed the statistics and made the inequality look even worse than we believe it is. We’re campaigning for equality, but we don’t want to mislead anyone.
Our research and observations fall into three streams.
The first stream of research looks at physical affection. We absolutely recognize the importance of other measures of equality on the depiction of relationships on television, but we believe first and foremost that equal amounts of physical affection are important. Why? So that gay kids watching can see that they’re normal and natural and not “inappropriate for family hour”. So that gay affection can become normalized for straight people too. We don’t believe that there is equal treatment on Glee, and we believe it needs to be fixed.
In our data collection on physical affection, we did not limit ourselves to kisses, and we’re glad people realize this. We tend to concentrate on the kissing statistic because it is clear and grabs attention, and also, kisses are important. These are teenagers we’re talking about. They like to kiss. But that has not been the only focus of our research. Our dedicated data recorders also noted, for ALL couples:
- arms around/side snuggles
- Various other indications of affection such as blown-kisses, shoulder pats, back rubbing, giving flowers etc.
As far as possible, where we have used statistics in our campaign, we have tried to normalize the figures to remove differences due to the standing of a character. Equal representation for us means proportional, appropriate and respectful representation. Thus, in considering our statistics of displays of physical affection, we took into account things like the percentage of LGBT couples in Glee out of the total, as well as the amount of time the core pairings spent talking to each other. We have been clear on this since the beginning – in our first video, comparing kisses, we note that:
- 23.8% of the pairings in Glee are LGBT
- 10.5% of the kisses in Glee are LGBT.
If we had equality on the show, those figures would be much closer.
This is not equal treatment.
Our second stream of research looks at the respect given to each of the couples in terms of blocking in the choir room, dialogue, and public vs. private scenes etc. We have a couple of great photosets planned to be released soon on blocking, and we have previously pointed out as part of our campaign that Brittany/Santana is the only couple that has been forced to share every conversation they have had in season 3 (and this means one on one) in the presence of other people (i.e. public).
This is not equal treatment.
The dialogue information is interesting because it highlights unequal treatment for Brittany/Santana and Kurt/Blaine in different ways. We have not used this information in the campaign yet, but can provide it here as an example of this type of research:
- Finn/Rachel shared 2031 seconds of dialogue (over 30 minutes)
- Kurt/Blaine shared 1217 seconds of dialogue (over 20 minutes)
- Sam/Mercedes shared 317 seconds of dialogue (just over 5 minutes)
- Brittany/Santana shared 311 seconds of dialogue (just over 5 minutes)
- Tina/Mike shared 155 seconds of dialogue (not even 3 minutes)
Unsurprisingly, the two most verbose couples were Finn/Rachel and Kurt/Blaine. Given FOX has indicated that Rachel, Finn and Kurt are their “lead characters”, this does not surprise us, nor do we think it unusual. What did surprise us, was that Sam/Mercedes spent slightly more time talking to each other in season 3 than Brittany/Santana did. We don’t think this is fair, especially considering Sam wasn’t even in the first 7 episodes.
This is not equal treatment.
We also use data from this second stream of our research to further normalize our physical affection statistics. Calling back to the kissing statistics, we found it interesting to look at how much dialogue a couple must share before they warrant a kiss:
- Tina and Mike technically fared best on that front – they kissed once for every 38.75 seconds of dialogue.
- Finn and Rachel came in next with a kiss for every 67.70 seconds.
- Then we had Brittany and Santana with a kiss for every 103.67 seconds and Sam and Mercedes with a kiss for every 158.50 seconds.
- The startling statistic linking dialogue to kisses came with Kurt and Blaine – they only got a kiss for every 608.50 seconds of dialogue.
In other words, the two boys had to talk for over 10 minutes in order to warrant a kiss – that’s roughly 15 times longer than for Tina and Mike, and almost 10 times longer than for Finn and Rachel.
This is not equal treatment.
Our third stream of research for the campaign looks at more qualitative issues including agency. This is of course a more subjective and fluid area for consideration and discussion, and tends to focus more on the lack of respect afforded to LGBT couples. This stream is characterized by observations, such as the fact that Santana and Brittany never once talk about Santana’s forced outing (including what it may mean for Brittany) in “I Kissed a Girl” or elsewhere, or the fact that Kurt and Blaine do not talk about what to do with the evidence Santana collected against Sebastian following the slushy incident in “Michael”. We don’t believe the straight couples on the show were treated so dismissively.
A specific example concerns conflict resolution among the couples. In the episode “Saturday Night Gleever”, each of Finn, Mercedes, and Santana had storylines to do with being uncertain about their futures and were helped out by their significant others in this regard. All three storylines were resolved in that episode. Finn/Rachel and Sam/Mercedes both kissed as part of their resolution, while Brittany and Santana hugged in front of Sue Sylvester in her office.
This is not equal treatment.
In the episode “Dance With Somebody”, Kurt and Blaine had a fight that was resolved. Like with Brittany and Santana in “Saturday Night Gleever”, however, they were not given the privacy or opportunity to share a kiss as part of this resolution. They hugged in front of Emma Pillsbury in her office.
This is not equal treatment.
We believe there is a problem, and we’re going to keep fighting for that problem to be rectified.
In this statement we’ve included examples of the kind of work we’ve been doing – in terms of quantitative data, qualitative data and observations – to provide more insight into our campaign. We tend not to publish too many statistics, relying on them instead to inform our videos, gifsets and picture montages, because we don’t want to pit specific couples against each other. This isn’t a Klaine campaign. This isn’t a Brittana campaign. This isn’t an anti-straight couple campaign. This is a respect campaign.
It’s an equality campaign.
And, for us, the importance of this has been borne out by what we have seen in the letters of concerned fans writing to FOX and messages we have been sent.
- A twenty-three year old lesbian woman wrote, ‘…frankly I find it offensive that such affection is apparently not deemed appropriate for “family hour”. If it’s appropriate for a straight couple, it’s appropriate for a gay couple.’
- A school teacher wrote, ‘The message my middle schoolers were getting from Glee (and I should note that they all started watching the show this season) is that being gay is okay as long as the characters never act on it. When I asked the kids why they thought that, they kept using Kurt and Blaine as their examples. They correctly pointed out that these two were dating but never showed affection so that must be what Glee was trying to say.’
- An eighteen year old fan wrote, ‘But I can say that Glee does not deserve to call itself ‘the gayest show on television’ anymore. One season back, yes, now not anymore. In two seasons Glee has indeed done a lot for the LGBT community regarding visibility on mainstream television. A lot of people are thankful for that, that will never change. But it has come to a point where it’s not about numbers anymore. It has come to a point where many fans don’t accept the poor development regarding Glee’s gay characters anymore.’
- And an anonymous Tumblr user wrote, ‘I’m fighting against the shaming Glee currently creates. As someone who is attracted to the same sex, when I see the same-sex couples being censored, it’s telling me that same-sex relationships are okay, as long as they’re not being affectionate. You’re allowed to love them but children should never see you touching them. It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach and I want to see it stopped.’
We have also featured consistently some of the individual concerns about the way they have handled these characters’ journeys. There have been serious errors and alarming problems in the portrayal of these characters’ arcs and we will continue to highlight these in our campaign, urging others who are concerned to write FOX and make their voices heard.
We believe Glee has been a great show and we want it to be great for all. We want equality and proportionality in the treatment of LGBT and straight couples and the writers to consider the impact of the way they write these characters. We urge anyone who agrees with us to write or call FOX – instructions are on our tumblr.
Can I recommend that next time you release a statement you actually draft a statement and not a speech that blatantly rips off the rhetoric of people like MLK, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement? Jesus Christ.
Yes, by all means let’s focus the attention on how the statement is drafted and not on what it’s actually saying.
I definitely see the inequality in the way Glee treats its straight and gay couples, especially this season, and all the points raised here are valid. Klaine especially is seen as a main couple alongside Finchel by many, and despite this fact they are not allowed to act like a couple on the show and their scenes are routinely cut or censored. There is no excuse for the fact that both Klaine and Brittana essentially stopped talking and/or showing affection after they became a couple even when it would’ve been essential to the plot (e.g. Santana’s outing). Whether this is because scenes like that were not scripted in the first place or were cut in the editing, it needs to be fixed.
I fully support the Glee Equality Project and what they’re working to achieve. LGBT couples and characters are important and should be treated with respect.
What is acting like a couple? There isn’t one way to perform coupleness (coupledom?). Is a couple that doesn’t touch in the same way you and your significant other less in love? Less of a couple? Or do they just navigate things in a different way?
Glee isn’t perfect (I freely admit they fuck up in a lot of ways). But the stories about the queer characters read as authentically queer, not straight versions of queer couples. I would rather have nuanced and complex queer stories, than a bean counting interpretation of equality through a filter of heterosexual norms.
“Authentically queer”? Um, I and all my gay friends touch and kiss our boyfriends and girlfriends. We may be cautious in public places but not in private or in safe spaces. Oh, and we’re all 16-19- Glee’s characters’ ages. I’m not sure how having *conversations*, talking about each others’ lives and sharing physical affection in suitable places is so ‘heterosexual’. Wait. It isn’t. Also, the GEP focus on many of the areas where Glee have shown they ‘fuck up’ in the individual character stories too e.g. the total failing to properly follow through on the effeminophobia suffered by Kurt and the outing of Santana being a chance for a straight ‘hero’ to ‘rescue’ her but many here seem to be ignoring that. The erasing of LGBT supporters of the GEP and the conviction that we are all gay fetishists is really beginning to piss me off.
Bitter Old Dyke here, sorry.
Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.
I want to amplify this a bit. Recognition of getting older sucks, and yeah there is some bitterness here.
When I watch Glee I see my stories being told (almost) as I would have wanted it told when I was 16. (True story: when my first gf and I started dating we quit eating lunch together so “no one would know”. I came out in the early 90’s in a fairly conservative, affluent, mid-western exurb). The writers are closer in age and story to that, so that may be where they are coming from. Maybe Skins (UK) had some things right by hiring younger writers.
However, I can see that when you are 16-19 and watching Glee. You want your queer story being told through your perspective. It is a different story and very cool. Honestly, I want both stories to be told
Also, I do totally read Kurt as a low contact individual. Not that I would ever want Kurt and Blaine to break-up, but I think if Blaine were dating a higher contact individual they would be a more physical couple.
I’m not saying PDA is the only measure of a couple, but the point is, people watching Glee see straight couples kissing and touching in public and in private and having meaningful conversations, but not the gay couples. Do you know what kind of message that sends? “Being gay is okay as long as we don’t see you act on it”.
Although I’m not personally like that, I know many gay people who are afraid of showing affection in public. Okay, maybe this is the case in Glee too. But how about letting them have scenes together in private then. And gay couples are just like straight couples so what is your definition of authentically queer? And what do you think is the excuse for cutting and/or censoring the scenes between gay couples?
I don’t expect the gay couples in Glee to make out in public or something. If the way they have written their LGBT characters is that they are afraid of PDA, that’s totally fine, but they are never allowed to have scenes in private either. Also, many of their scenes are routinely cut – f.ex. the Klaine box scene, and they are not allowed to talk about plot-relevant stuff – like Santana’s outing. I just don’t think there’s an excuse for that.
What bothers me about all this is that this project seems to be trying to force a group of writers into telling the stories which certain people want to be told, and to present those stories according to how certain people want them to be presented. I think this is fundamentally flawed. It isn’t up to us to decide what this (or any) writer or group of writers should say or how they should go about saying it. Art doesn’t work that way.
By all means people should voice their concerns over how the relationships in Glee are presented. By all means they should champion texts which set good examples where Glee might be failing. But I don’t believe that trying to force Glee to become the show we wish it was, rather than accepting it as the show it is, will achieve the desired results.
If the stories that need to be told aren’t currently being told by Glee, then it is up to us to get out there and tell them ourselves, rather than attempting to bully a group of writers into being the vehicle for a pre-determined ideology, which may or may not be in keeping with their own motivations for writing.
I don’t understand your argument at all. So reinforcement of negative stereotypes when it comes to LGBTQ individuals, offensively told stories, negative messages etc that are coming from Glee writers – the same writers who are very loud and very proud of their influence and progressiveness when it comes to this show – should not be mentioned because we are forcing them to tell stories how we want them to be told?
I am sorry but what?! If they are claiming that their show is so progressive and important for LGBTQ+ community then they are going to have to put their writing where their mouth is when they address certain issues. For example:
– they chose to write a story about Santana’s coming out. So when they did so they were obligated to treat it with the proper respect and the sensitivity that it deserves. Instead we got a straight white male outing her by force and then that turned into service for his character, not hers, while we got an update y’all with her parents and amnesia over the fact her girlfriend also got outed in the process and no conversation between the two! Asking that Santana’s outing be written about Santana and consequently, her girlfriend, is asking for respect and consideration of this subject.
– they chose to make a couple out of Kurt and Blaine. So when they did so they were and are obligated to represent their relationship in the same manner that heterosexual couples are depicted. This means that while it is realistic that they would fear PDA then, this being a TV show and all, they are obligated to write private scenes for them where they can be affectionate, especially when straight couples, under almost identical circumstances, get those scenes. This is not about fetishization (which is by the way terribly insulting) of these two boys. It is about normalization. It is about showing physical affection because it is natural. It is about showing physical affection because it will break the terrible tropes of this time – ‘it is ok to be gay but don’t act on it; it is ok to be gay but don’t shove it in my face’. It is about showing kissing & other PDA as natural expressions of love. Because that way we won’t get young teens taking away things like – they are two f-s, they can’t show that stuff on TV – from Glee, like they did and we read about in one of the letters to FOX.
These are just the two, GEP is doing a good job in explaining them all and also providing evidence for it too.
When the writers chose to put these stories out there they also had a responsibility, a big responsibility, to make sure these stories were written well. Glee has a lot of influence, not only on the LGBTQ+ community but in some ways, maybe even more important, on the straight community.
It is not about forcing the writers to write the stories we want. It is about asking that the stories they themselves choose to tell, be told well. I don’t think that is too much to ask. Especially when they don’t mind patting themselves on the back and celebrating their own achievements and all they do for the LGBTQ+ community.
I don’t see the GEP as forcing or the writers to tell stories. A group of fans are writing to tell that they aren’t satisfied with the product the writers put out in Season 3. They are offering suggestions on how they think the show could be better. The writers, the producers, and the network don’t have to listen to them or their suggestions. I don’t see why there can’t be communication between the fans and the storytellers other then the fans just taking their money and time elsewhere.
I don’t see the GEP as “bully[ing] a group of writers.” There’s no harassment going on, the letters and calls are being directed to the network and the GEP has urged for civility. The GEP recently started to include Tweeting the writers and the producers but again civility has been promoted by the GEP.
Indirectly the fans are the patrons that pay for the writers art. The writers and everyone else involved in the production of Glee can decide what sort of product they want to put out and people can decide weather they want to buy it. The GEP is telling them the type of product they’d like to buy.
How ‘well’ the stories are being told is subjective, though, surely? One person’s criteria for what constitutes telling these stories ‘well’ is not the same as the next person’s.
//It isn’t up to us to decide what this (or any) writer or group of writers should say or how they should go about saying it. Art doesn’t work that way.//
Television isn’t just “art”, though. It’s a commercial product. When you engage in writing in a commercial medium, you’re in between two masters: the studio/network and the audience. If you write for TV, you’re aware of the fact that audience response is crucial, because the audience drives the finances that actually allows the show to get made (not to mention, most writers who give a crap about their art actually do care what their audiences think, and try to walk the line between satisfying an audience and satisfying their own artistic impulses). So, to a certain extent, it is actually “up to us” because we’re the consumers. Writers who want absolute freedom don’t write for TV, particularly not for ratings-driven network TV.
It’s a very simple solution to say that fans should just get out there and write tv shows themselves. And it’s certainly possible now for people to work outside of the existing power structure of network tv, and to produce and publish one’s own work on youtube or elsewhere (if not as easy as you make it sound, given that access to money, time, and knowledge of filmmaking is a requirement). Some people do that, and that’s great, but it’s also no solution at all to changing the way that mainstream television depicts queer characters and relationships, which is what this campaign is obviously aimed at.
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