Mitigating Differences

In last week’s discussion, we talked a lot about the representations of GLBTQ people in mainstream media, but collectively recognized the lack of lesbians in current media. While Fox’s hit television show Glee has recently served as a major source of awareness for the American public regarding bullying, homophobia and teenage homosexuality, its episode on April 27 introduced some new story lines, and thus social issues. This week, Santana, a closeted lesbian, approached Dave, a closeted gay football player, about entering into a fictional relationship in order to increase their popularity (among other things). While this was not the main point of the show, it brought a new idea of what homosexual teenagers go through in order to seem the same as their peers. While both Santana and Dave are on top of the McKinley High social pyramid, they still don’t feel comfortable proclaiming their sexual preferences to the  general student population.

In addition to introducing the viewing public to a new relationship, Glee countered the GLBTQ aspect of the show this week with personal perceived weaknesses or differences of most of the other characters. By printing these things boldly on shirts, teachers and students alike loudly proclaimed things they may not like about themselves, but must deal with anyways because it is part of who they are. By placing personal differences on par with sexual identity issues, the writers and producers of Glee have created a show where being different is normal, and who can argue with that?

By taking the focus away from homosexuality and instead focusing on the fact that all teenagers experience self-consciousness and difficulty in high school, are they taking the spotlight off of GLBTQ social progress and acceptance, or does the show’s writing serve as a social indicator that progress really has been made? In my opinion, the answer is both yes and no–while teenagers have more exposure to “difference” on television and in the media in 2011, I think the fact that two homosexual youths have to mask their identity in a fictitious relationship points out that we’re not entirely there yet.

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