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The Blaine Effect

December 7, 2010

I had to work tonight and missed the latest episode of “Glee.” The mere fact that that bothers me says quite a bit about the effect Darren Criss has had on the show and how it’s perceived.

It’s been barely more than a month since Criss debuted with his performance of “Teenage Dream,” which spread through the internet like wildfire. His performance inspired me to finally download iTunes after years of holding out, since the mp3 was available there about a week before it was to go on sale at my regular source, Amazon.com. Almost immediately after his debut, it was announced Criss had been cast as a regular, and I’ve been hearing a lot more about Glee since then than I ever did before.

Take for instance Criss’ duet with Chris Colfer (Kurt) on tonight’s episode. Fox used the below clip to generate buzz, something that would have been unheard of even a few years ago. But what’s even more striking is that a male-male duet is on a mainstream Christmas album. A relative asked me what the big deal was and I challenged her to name a single mainstream gay male duet; she couldn’t.

Sure, Criss is a good actor, looks dashing and has a great voice, but I think the character of Blaine has caught on the way it has because he’s so unusual. There aren’t many gay characters on TV, especially on prime time on a major network, and even when there are they tend to fall into very stereotypical roles. As I said last post, Kurt stands out for being out, but he’s also a high-voiced, fashion-obsessed effeminate boy who loves musicals—a stereotype from the ’50s. Blaine, on the other hand, comes off as a well-adjusted, normal (if somewhat preppy) guy who’s comfortable in his own skin, and that’s just about revolutionary.

It seems like the writers are still trying to get his character down, and he has had some unfortunately stereotypical moments since his debut, but I still have hope for Blaine. He has the potential to be the kind of character we rarely get even in shows aimed at gay audiences. (Try to find a normal person on “Queer as Folk” and you’ll be sorely disappointed). I really hope the writers can get him to that point, because while having someone like Kurt would have been great when I was in high school, but someone like the idealized Blaine in my head would have been a teenage dream come true.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Shep permalink
    December 8, 2010 12:53 am

    After much head-scratching, I couldn’t come up with a single gay duet (besides “Hakuna Matata”, which was vetoed). So I searched around found this:

    http://www.afterelton.com/askmonkey/06-01-2010

    I don’t know many duets, but it was still pretty shocking to realize that I don’t feel like I could have ever possibly heard even one. I can’t _name_ many hetero duets, but at least I can vaguely recall hearing plenty. Gay duets are a complete void, though.

    • Shaun permalink
      December 8, 2010 4:41 am

      That picture looks awfully like my old school uniform.

      Yes, I see your point. One thing that always worried me about the old argument of ‘no gay characters’ on particular shows is there were so many characters on them that we knew nothing at all about their sexuality – so they could have been gay. I wonder if this feeds into the idea that there needs to be some sort of ‘marker’ for audiences to see so even when what the character is doing tells us nothing about their sexuality, people can see it.

      • December 8, 2010 11:42 pm

        Shaun, I acknowledge your point that there are plenty of characters whose sexuality hasn’t been explicitly defined, but the fact is that, to the vast majority of people, everyone is straight unless they’re told otherwise. That’s why people ask if Mike and I are brothers (despite us holding hands!), and why (prepare for the cliché) coming out is a neverending process.

        If people didn’t generally assume everyone was straight then life would be a lot easier for the LGBT community, but that’s just not the case.

  2. December 8, 2010 3:54 am

    The closest I get is “I’ll Cover You” from Rent, which is kinda close to mainstream. (And the best duet in the show.)

    • December 8, 2010 11:39 pm

      It’s mainstream for a musical, but I don’t know if a musical can really be mainstream these days. I’m thinking of that term in the sense that you could stop a few people on the street and have most of them recognize it.

  3. Stella permalink
    December 14, 2010 9:47 am

    Ignorant choice of words! SMH. Why must you used the word “normal” to compare Blaine to Kurt? What is normal? Mainstream? Kurt is normal and Blaine is normal.

    I’m happy that Glee is introducing a variety of gay characters to the show. Variety is normal.

    • December 14, 2010 12:04 pm

      Hi Stella, thanks for your comment. I meant “normal” in the sense I imagine most of Glee’s viewers would use it–relatable, mainstream. Maybe I should have put it in quotes, but I don’t think anyone can argue Kurt is the kind of kid you find frequently in high schools, given his unrealistically outlandish dress and behavior.

      FWIW, I don’t consider anybody I know to be “normal” in the traditional sense.

      • Stella permalink
        December 15, 2010 2:46 am

        I apologize for my words. I became really upset because I often deal with people assuming normal is good and being a little different is a bad thing. After reading your article again, I understand that you were talking about the viewing audience. You are correct that many will see Kurt as over the top and maybe outside the box while Blaine seems like the kid you went to school with or your brother or the guy next door type. Flamboyant guy vs. Regular guy. I get it now. Sorry for jumping the gun and thinking you were being insensitive. BTW, I like your blog.

        Thanks for responding to me.

        • December 15, 2010 8:09 am

          No worries at all. I’m glad you like the blog!

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