Op-Ed: Ryan Murphy and 'Glee' Flip a Giant Middle Finger to the Show's Lesbian Fans

Op-Ed: Ryan Murphy and 'Glee' Flip a Giant Middle Finger to the Show's Lesbian Fans
Tracy E. Gilchrist

It’s not enough that Ryan Murphy and the gang over at American Horror Story have been sadistically torturing out actress, who’s also playing a lesbian, Sarah Paulson week after week in the name of edginess in an over-the-top package of faux sensitivity and meta hyper-awareness of the treatment of women, specifically gay women, in the 60s. Now, Murphy, a gay man, and the rest of Glee staff, pretty much bid a fond fuck you to Glee’s lesbian fan base with a self-reflexive screed from his bisexual character Brittany (Heather Morris), who’s recently been dumped by out lesbian Santana (Naya Rivera) and who is contemplating a relationship with Sam (Chord Overstreet).

The writers at Glee clearly anticipated a maelstrom of hate mail over the show's bisexual character dating a boy – and let’s face it, there are likely disappointed Brittany and Santana fans of every ilk out there – and they attempted to circumvent it by using Brittany as a mouthpiece to warn lesbian fans of how they’ll be perceived as one big unidentifiable mass of angry dykes should they fail to get on board with Brittany’s new relationship.

Here’s some set up to the offending speech that follows. Sam lures Brittany into the choir room so he can tell her that he's had a thing for her since forever and that he wants to sing a love song with her --we’ll just try to overlook the sudden randomness of the storyline for now. The pair croons a perfectly sweet rendition of “Something Stupid” and Sam attempts to kiss Brittany when it’s over, but alas, she protests. But she doth protest too much not because it’s “too soon” after Santana, or because she and Sam are such great friends that a relationship would ruin things. No. She protests because she fears for his safety, because an acknowledgement of dating him would incite the ire of all of those angry lesbos out there who’re still faithful fans enough to watch the mess that is Glee season 4. But don’t let me tell you. Here it is.

“I like you too much to put you in danger,” Brittany says. “All the lesbians of the nation—and I don’t know how they found out about Santana and I dating -- but once they did they started sending me Tweets and Facebook messages on Lord Tubbington’s wall. I think it means a lot to them to see two, super hot popular girls in love.”

Did that grab your attention a little? Well, here’s the really shitty part.

“And I’m worried that if they found out about you and I dating they they’d turn on you and get really violent and hurt your beautiful face and mouth,” Brittany adds.

“I’m not scared of them,” Sam replies, and attempts to kiss her again.

Like Ilene Chaiken before him who once said, via her The L Word character Alice that  “Lesbians eat their own,” Ryan Murphy and his scribes have employed ridiculous intellectual hubris and superiority to send a message to lesbian fans that they had better not get too uppity or they’ll be called out on national television as the implacable, man-hating losers that they are. At least that’s how I’m perceiving Brittany’s speech. And sure, I fully expect to be eviscerated as one of those implacable, man-hating losers but I just don’t see it any other way.

Part of Glee’s appeal was built on its characters employing a bully pulpit with each other to illuminate stereotypes and character flaws of the bully – Jane Lynch’s acerbic Sue Sylvester being one and Rivera’s Santana being another – but this thinly veiled warning to the loyal lesbian fans who loved seeing two “popular” girls together is just hateful and unnecessary. Murphy, who seems set on fulfilling the old stereotype of the lesbian-hating gay man, must surely, on some level, understand the impact that positive representation of queer characters has on its viewers, particularly its young viewers -- gay and straight. This is, after all, the man who launched an antibullying storyline on this same show that revolved around one of its gay male characters Kurt (Chris Colfer). 

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For invested fans of any couple or storyline there are bound to be people who are disappointed with a break-up, and yes, it is nice to see representation in happy, and even popular, couples. But Murphy and the gang missed the real point with their trigger-happy anticipation of lesbian outrage.  Lesbian fans of Grey’s Anatomy stood by Shonda Rhimes and the Callie / Arizona / Mark triangle because it was a thoughtful and sincere story that didn’t thumb its nose at Calzona shippers.  And fans of Pretty Little Liars’ lady-killer Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell) watched and waited while Emily flirted with possible attraction to a male character this season because her search was plausible and real. Guaranteed, lesbian fans would have come to love a Brittany and Sam (Bram) coupling if the storyline were thoughtful, heartfelt and true and best for the characters but Glee’s writers, who must surely have a collective God complex, couldn’t allow the narrative of the response to happen organically.

The writing team at Glee couldn’t wait for the story to unfold before issuing a reprimand to lesbian viewers most certainly creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. While a Brittany and Sam coupling could have unfolded with little incident were it told sincerely and well Glee’s fuck you of a rebuke to its lesbian fans was  hateful, cynical and unforgivable.

But it's easy to understand Murphy's need to control. He was taken to task years ago for a couple of half-assed lesbian storylines on Nip/Tuck, and rather dig deep to see if he was telling those stories with truth, sincerity and plausibility, even in the wacky world of Nip/Tuck, he turned his paranoia outward to use a beloved character to villify the entire lesbian community as "violent" when faced with a boy/girl romance for a bisexual couple. 

Last year when a fan Tweeted at Grey’s showrunner Shonda Rhimes that she was pandering to the gay community Rhimes replied, "Isn't love universal? Isn't that the point? That you can watch a straight couple in love or a lesbian couple in love and what you see and feel is the LOVE? How is that pandering? Maybe I've been pandering to straight couples all this time."

Pretty Little Liars showrunner Marlene King once told AfterEllen in an interview that she was “honored and proud” to bring Emily’s storyline to life to help others “know that they aren’t alone.”

With showrunners like Rhimes and King who're supportive of their lesbian fans, who needs the bitter old crumbs that Murphy tosses to the lesbian community?  

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Tags: #Women

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