November 16th, 2011


“Glee” Fails to Show Real Consequences of Outing

“Glee” Fails to Show Real Consequences of Outing
By Crystal Cierlak

We have probably all been in a situation where we’re arguing or fighting with someone and they’re saying some rather unpleasant things about us. They’re “winning” the argument and their momentum for unleashing insult after insult is gaining in strength while we struggle to find one thing to say. And when we finally find the meanest insult we can think of, the one we think will knock this person off their horse and make them stop, it’s so horrific that we’re filled with regret by the time the last word is out of our mouth.

That’s what happened on “Glee” last night, when Finn publicly outed Santana in the hallways of McKinley High. And he didn’t stop there. Not only did he out her, but he then elaborated on what kind of person she is, the fact that she torments others because she can’t deal with her own struggle, and that she should just come out and be done with it. While the beginning of the exchange did an excellent job of illustrating just how much of a bully Santana really is, there is no justification in the world for Finn outing her. What made it worse is that an informant who saw the exchange leaked the information to an unknown character running for Congress and who used the information as a campaign tactic against another opponent, Sue Sylvester. All of a sudden Santana was being outed in front of a much larger audience, one that includes her parents, whom she hasn’t come out to yet.

The candidate running for Congress won’t get the blame for publicly outing a teenager because they’re a character we’ve never seen before and for all intents and purposes the character probably didn’t know that Santana wasn’t an out lesbian. Unfortunately, the show also made no attempt to indicate that Finn felt any sort of remorse for his actions. In fact, he looked relieved to have finally beaten Santana at her own game. For a character who has a gay brother-in-law and who espouses the virtues of sticking together (the reason they chose a Hall and Oates song for their “mash off” instead of a band that had broken up) he sure does lack a lot of common sense when it comes to the gay community.

The real issue here is not necessarily the characters on this television show but the writers and producers who bring the show into our homes every week. The show has taken on issues pertaining to gay teenagers in a very big way (having successfully told a story about two gay teenagers losing their virginity the week prior) but really missed the mark here. There could have been so much more they could have shown us, more to give us food for thought on how to handle such situations. The fact that Finn felt no remorse for his actions when he is a main character is sloppy and does nothing to add a dimension to his character.

And then there is Santana. Is she a bully whose bracing tactics have been seen as funny and “fierce”? Yes. It’s actually unbelievable that a bullying character like Karofsky (who has no transferred to a new school and living a mostly out gay life) was shown to have little to no redeeming qualities and largely painted as a villain of shorts, and then there is Santana who has built a reputation for being a bitch to everyone since the first episode and her bullying is just considered to be one funny quip after another. Did she need a reality check? Absolutely! This was not the way to do it, certainly not without Finn’s character suffering a bigger consequence than being slapped in front of his friends and peers.

Where can the show go from here? In an ideal world they would address the issue and use their very popular show to teach the kids watching at home why it’s not okay to out someone, that coming out is a very personal and private ordeal that must be done on an individual’s own time, and that outing another person is no way to retaliate due to bullying. I imagine the show won’t do that. Instead, next week they’ll be singing “I Kissed a Girl”, a song that exploits sexual curiosity and exploration for profit and, by the looks of the promotion for next week, won’t address the issue at all. There have been many criticisms about “Glee” not maintaining continuity in the past but as a show that prides itself on being a banner for teens both gay and straight, it’s sorely disappointing that the storyline lacks the capacity to be explored in all of its complexity.

The makers of “Glee” have taken on the responsibility of being the voice on TV for gay teens and teens with gay friends. If they won’t take on the responsibility of showing it from all facets then they’re doing their audience and themselves a disservice. A very sad disservice.