Last week, on the Fox News program The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly discussed his fear that Glee might encourage kids to experiment with "alternative lifestyles." He stressed that the "glamorous" nature of the program might seduce kids into trying homosexuality or becoming transgender. When asked if he thought homosexual or gender identity might be "contagious," he said "I don't know." He concluded that "a lot of these dopey kids are confused about who they are."
Is it true that a television program can influence a person's sexuality or gender? When I was a kid growing up, I loved The Love Boat. Did the rampant heterosexuality on that show influence me to "experiment" with heterosexuality? When Gopher chased Charo, did it make me want to go out and chase a girl? No. In fact, the hundreds and hundreds of episodes of "straight" shows that I watched (The Brady Bunch, Three's Company, reruns of I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver, and so on) did not push me into trying heterosexuality at all. Ricky loved Lucy. Marcia had a crush on Davy Jones. Still, I remained gay through and through.
Another one of my favorite programs growing up was Charlie's Angels. This show was undeniably glamorous. And sexy. It featured three beautiful women, scantily clad, running around wielding guns and flipping their hair. If ever a show had the potential to push a pre-teen boy into experimenting with heterosexuality, it was this one. Did it work on me? No. I was still gay after watching every single episode. Jaclyn Smith paraded around in a skimpy white bikini, and my focus was on the storyline.
Gretchen Carlson, on this same O'Reilly Factor program, agreed that there was a danger in a show like Glee featuring gay, lesbian, and transgender characters. While showing a transgender teen singing on Glee, Carlson stated, "I wholeheartedly believe in today's society that kids are experimenting with homosexuality. We see it in celebrities who maybe just do it on the side, and it may be drug-fueled." Huh? Children are influenced to experiment with being transgender because drug-fueled celebrities are "doing" homosexuality "on the side"? What the hell does that mean? Where does she get her information? Are Hollywood celebrities experimenting with homosexuality on the side? If this is true, will someone please give Channing Tatum my phone number?
O'Reilly's justification for kids' experimentations was that, as a teenager, he was compelled to smoke because he saw James Dean smoking. This comparison of identity to cigarettes is completely ridiculous and insulting. His argument not-so-subtly suggests that if children "experiment" with sexuality or gender in "alternative" ways, this is harmful to their health. Watching James Dean may have made Bill O'Reilly experiment with smoking, but watching Bill O'Reilly makes me want to experiment with hurling a brick through my television screen.
O'Reilly and Carlson, listen up: If someone is gay, that person is gay. If someone is transgender, that person transgender. If a boy wants to kiss a boy or wear a dress, these are not "experiments." Children are who they are whether they watch Glee or not. If you are a gay kid or a transgender child, Glee may help boost your self-esteem at a time when you are most vulnerable. A child is not harmed by watching gay and transgender characters on Glee. A child is harmed by watching Bill O'Reilly and his team calling them "dopey," spouting ignorance, and instilling fear about sexuality and gender.