Welcome to the twentieth article in our Pride series for the month of June! Each day we will be highlighting a different LGBTQ+ character who we think is a great example of representation, dynamic characterization, and overall badassery. Check out the rest of the series here.
Let us think about high school for a minute. Maybe you were one of the popular kids that always fit in. Or maybe were you one of the less fortunate that was bullied for looking different, acting different, being different. I remember what it felt like to not fit in, to be persecuted for not conforming to what was considered “normal.” What is normal anyway? Who gets to define it? We are bombarded with slogans every day – “dare to be different,” “be yourself,” “stand out from the crowd.” When in reality, being different is just as difficult now as it has always been.
Diversity is not the norm, conformity still rules the day. One show that dared to be different was the musical comedy-drama Glee, which followed the highs and lows of McKinley High School’s glee club the New Directions. The characters in the show were made up of the usual high school groups, jocks, nerds, cheerleaders, the popular and the unpopular. The thing that made Glee different was not just that it was a musical but that it dovetailed the music with important life lessons.
When these kids joined the glee club, they found a home; a place they all belonged no matter what happened outside the choir room. It did not matter where they were in the high school hierarchy, they could face anything as long as they stood together, and they would have to because the rest of the school saw the entire glee club as losers.
One character that stood out, was Kurt Hummel, played brilliantly by Chris Colfer. The character of Kurt originally didn’t exist. Colfer had auditioned for the role of wheelchair bound Artie Abrams, who was ultimately played by Kevin McHale. Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, was so impressed with Colfers’ audition that he created the role of Kurt just for him.
The thing that made Kurt stand out for me was not just his flamboyantly, fashionable wardrobe (although that was spectacular.) It was the fact that he was a gay young man being raised by a single parent: his father. In the beginning, Kurt’s father acts like he doesn’t have a clue that his son is gay. Kurt goes out of his way to try and hide it from him at home. At school, everyone knew and it made him a prime target for bullying. Even though Kurt was attacked every day, he refused to change or back down. He would not accept being anything less than himself.
In season 2, Kurt was bullied so ruthlessly that he actually had to change schools to escape his attacker, a closeted gay member of the football team that was so full of self loathing that he took it out on Kurt. Kurt transferred to Dalton Academy where he met Blaine Anderson (Darren Criss) who would eventually become his love interest and who follows Kurt back to McKinley High and the New Directions. With the support of his friends and the love of Blaine, Kurt was eventually able to forgive his attacker and move on.
While it is a lot more likely to see LGBTQ+ characters on TV and in movies now, but back when Glee first aired that was not the case. What Glee did back then was give kids a character they could relate to. They could see some of themselves in Kurt. The fact that he was proud of who he was and not afraid to show it was something special. He showed kids that they didn’t have to hide under a rock just because they were different.
The thing that made Glee stand out was that it was not afraid to tackle tough issues. Like Kurt, it to refused to back down and that is why the messages it conveyed are still relevant. So if you are looking for something to binge watch this summer, Glee is a must see.
Do you have a character spotlight suggestion? Leave it in the comments down below!