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Glee's Message of Tolerance is Laudable: But it Works Both Ways

05/31/2010 05:31 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Now back from my 5-week trip mostly abroad, I've been catching up and just watched "Theatricality," the latest episode of Glee on Fox.

I'm a huge fan of the series and, though there are mixed moments, I support the humanistic message of tolerance pervading the show. I like the zaniness, especially over-the-top Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch, and adore the mix of folks drawn to the glee club.

However, I think Glee went too far in this episode, painting Finn's actions and dialogue with Kurt as black and white wrong, when, in my view, though Finn descended to the primal in his criticism of Kurt, nothing was inserted by the writers and producers to indicate Finn had been pushed to the limit by the overly aggressive and shocking behavior by Kurt.

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The set-up is that Kurt, a gay character who, though flamboyant from the series' outset and played wonderfully by Chris Colfer, has only recently come out as gay. He is in love with Finn, a football hero, terrifically portrayed by Cory Monteith, who has been tolerant and kind -- he's really the nicest character in the show. Finn is pulled in so many directions, from his Neanderthal football teammates, who can't figure out why he joined the glee club, to Quinn, who convinced him he'd impregnated her though they'd never had actual sex, to the pushy singing diva Rachel and by the aforementioned not so subtle advances of Kurt.

Through it all Finn mostly remains cool, though he begins to crack a bit after Kurt arranges a romance between his blue collar father and Finn's mother, and to the decision that both families cohabitate. Although this comes about because Kurt's father supposedly has a bigger house, it is not clear how this is, as Kurt lives in the basement and Finn will have to share his room. Their house only has one proper bedroom and yet it's bigger than Finn's, where he had his own room?

That's the set-up to the uninitiated, and here is a bit of the dialogue that triggered Finn's outburst when Kurt leads him into their redecorated room. A room which Kurt describes as having been inspired by Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper in the film Morocco, but which wouldn't look out of place in an exotic whorehouse:

Kurt -- A perfect blend of the masculine and feminine. The muted and the theatrical.

Finn -- Are you freakin' insane? I can't live here. I'm a dude....

Kurt -- Why are you getting angry about everything? I worked hard on this.

Finn -- Why is it so hard for you to understand? I don't want to get dressed in front of you. You know that I put my underwear on in the shower before I come out when you're around? I don't want to have to worry about that kind of stuff in my own room, man.

Kurt -- And what stuff are you referring to?

Finn -- You know. You know what I'm talking about. Don't play dumb.
Why can't you just accept that I'm not like you?

Kurt -- I have accepted that.

Finn -- No, you haven't. You think I don't see the way you stare at me? How flirty you get? You think I don't know why you got so excited that we were going to be moving in together?

Kurt -- (screaming) It's just a room, Finn. We can redecorate it if you want to.

Finn -- Okay. Good, well then the first thing that needs to go is that faggy lamp, and then we need to get rid of this faggy couch....

....at which time Kurt's father comes in and bawls Finn out for calling his son a "fag," which he had not directly done and then orders him out of the house.

First, I'd like to say that it's laudable Kurt has such an overprotective father, who accepted him for what he was even before Kurt had the guts to tell him. And I can understand not wanting to use any epithets as adjectives, even as Finn immediately apologizes and struggles to explain.

Okay, so the father is one-sided, that much I can understand. He doesn't want to hear anything derogatory about his son. But we as the audience have to be offended as well that Kurt is portrayed as the beset upon poor soul who needs protection, when it is Finn who has been assaulted.

Finn has been terrific as a friend to Kurt and very patient, even as Kurt doesn't give a damn about Finn's feelings and sexuality, so long as he gets what he wants. That he is unrealistic about Finn, which even Rachel warned him about in an earlier episode, is one thing. Many of us shoot for the moon only to get turned down.

But to have done what Kurt has, pushing for a living arrangement he must know will be uncomfortable for Finn, not because Kurt is gay, but because he has been throwing himself at Finn since the beginning of the series, is downright insolent. Who wants to live with someone lusting openly for our affections in a one-sided manner, straight or gay? And to have decorated their close quarters in a way Kurt surely knows will make Finn uncomfortable and to essentially get a pass by the producers, who decide to make Finn the bad guy, because he's been pushed to the extreme due to Kurt's actions, is not balanced writing and it sends the wrong message.

It sends a signal that gay people or any put upon minority can behave any way they like, however reprehensible. However, if someone momentarily and uncharacteristically reacts in the manner Finn did -- and it's not like he overtly called Kurt a fag, though the reference was unfortunate -- after warning him in earlier dialogue that the room was unacceptable, and Kurt, in his "ignorance," essentially baits him, then Kurt's actions get swept under the rug.

Finn's dialogue about being uncomfortable about being in the same bedroom with Kurt were more about the fact it was so clear Kurt was in love with him, and his "colorful" decorative talents accentuated the tension. Had Kurt been gay and respected Finn's feelings without such an overstated display, Finn would have been cool even about living in the same room, though he still would have preferred his own digs, which had been the case before his mother and Kurt's father got together.

But Kurt only thinks of himself and instead of focusing on how perhaps he had gone too far, the producers preferred to present him as an independent rebel who should be applauded instead of likewise being chastised for pushing Finn to descend to base levels, which he immediately regretted.

In a follow-up scene, when Finn wanted to talk with Kurt, the ensuing dialogue went like this:

Finn -- I want to talk about this.

Kurt -- There's not much to say. I feel sorry for you. I thought you were different.

Finn -- I am different.

We were left with the sense that Finn was totally wrong, and that Kurt was the innocent victim. He was not, and though the series should be commended for supporting gay rights and mocking prejudices on all levels it should also note that people being targeted have a responsibility to behave like decent people to others as well.

Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com

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