Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I tried to think of an appropriate title for this post, but then I figured why beat around the bush. Last night on Glee, Kurt (Chril Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss) locked lips after months of dancing (and singing, hey!) around the issue. This kiss was big for fans of the show, but for people like me that study popular culture the event was HUGE!
Let's back up a bit to last year, when two pilots debut to rave reviews and immediate success, both of which featuring gay characters as key cast members.
and, of course, Glee.
Both shows were trailblazers. Even today you can count the number of principal gay characters on mainstream prime time television on one hand and these shows had the audacity to take it one step further. Modern Family's Cam and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Furgeson and Eric Stonestreet) were a happily married couple raising a baby and, arguably, the most stable relationship on the ABC comedy about three "modern" families. Glee's Kurt, not to be left behind, was a teenager struggling with being the only out student at his Ohio high school and, the nerve!, he wasn't even sexually active.
Or so it seemed. At the time I was taking a class that examined the depictions of sexuality and gender in media and, being a fan, I chose the Fab Duo from Modern family as the subject for a research paper. I read article after article about how Fergusen and Stonestreet were reshaping with each episode the contemporary perception of same-gender couples and fighting the good fight for tolerance and understanding. The show's creators were praised for the honest portrayal of a gay couple in today's world and for all intents and purposes the show seemed perfect.
Except for one, tiny, detail: Mitchel and Cameron never, EVER, kiss.
A Los Angeles times reporter has written that the couple look more like BFF's than a couple and one source I quoted in my thesis talked, eloquently, about a particular Valentine's Day episode where Cam and Mitch were "relegated to fist-bumps" while the other cast members swooned like "puppies in heat."
The show's creators have not been mum on the subject. They have always, adamantly, denied that the lack of physical affection is in any way a mandate from homophobic powers that be and rather that they have always tried to emphasize that Cam and Mitch's loving relationship is not about the physical (which is, truly, a service to the gay community in my opinion) but that doesn't change the fact that fans have been waiting, patiently, at each episode wondering if they would finally see the answer to "where is the love?"
It finally came, in an episode appropriately titled "The Kiss" that felt more like a concession than a creative decision. In the episode we learn that Mitchell (conveniently) has issues with PDA and in a fleeting moment near the episodes credits the couple share a kiss that seemed perfectly tailored to be neither too long, nor too short while the real plot goes on around them. It was subtle, and it was sincere, yet especially when compared with the other characters it hardly makes up for the glaring lack of intimacy between the two during the show's tenure.
Meanwhile, that OTHER show on Fox (helmed by the admittedly controversy-loving Ryan Murphy) seemed hell-bent on putting Kurt in the limelight as much as humanly possible. Plot lines involved coming out to his parents, dealing with bullies at school (to the point of fear of physical harm), ostracism, the temptation to just closet himself and "blend in," crushes on heterosexual characters, and the list goes on, and on, and on.
In January Entertainment Weekly put Colfer on the cover of an issue examining Gay Teens on TV and detailing the "revolution" that was occurring. And the ratings just kept, going, up.
Then, before we even knew there was a race, we had ourselves some competition. When the year's Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series were announced we saw some familiar faces: Colfer for Glee, Stonestreet and Fergusen for MF and NPH for HIMYM (who, interestingly, is also gay).
Colfer took home the prize, and while both shows are still performing amazingly well the creators of Glee have taken their prize pony to new heights, first giving him a crush and now the big K that MF fans have been clamoring for since day one.
Mitch and Cameron, in the meantime, have had some very memorable hugs.