Jane Lynch in Glee
Jane Lynch in Glee

Glee and Modern Family are two of the too-few hits of this TV season, and both are gay, gay, gay.

I did a laptop recap thanks to hulu.com, which gives you a chance to catch missed episodes or see them again with an analytical eye.

In one of the early episodes of Glee, it’s unlikely that sweet, effeminate Kurt would’ve gotten past the butt-slap move to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” among real football players, whom he was trying to get in sync. What was moving, however, was the part where he kicked the winning field goal and his dad, the flannel-wearing redneck in the stands, jumped for joy and screamed, “That’s my boy!”

Has society evolved to the point where even a flaming queen of a high school kid—and we all knew one, even in my little no-stoplight hometown—can be his parent’s pride and joy rather than an embarrassment?

The show is set in a small Ohio town, not unlike the Michigan town where I grew up. We had the same redneck dads, the same football obsession, the same unplanned high school pregnancies. There were no pride parades, no same-sex dancing, no LGBT support system.
But things were different then. The only images of gays and lesbians on TV and in the film were rarely called gay, but you got the idea because they were either flamboyant queens, losers or criminals who died some horrible death.

Modern Family is another new show, a little more adult, depicting Ed O’Neill as divorced dad Jay Pritchett with a new Latin bombshell of a wife who has a son. His eccentric ex-wife is played by Shelley Long; they have a daughter and a gay son, who each have spouses and children.

Modern Family

One ironic and funny scene had one gay dad encouraging his partner to “straighten up” for their child’s sake at a daddy-daughter day program. He thought that looking and acting less gay would help them be more accepted by the other parents. Otherwise, the gay couple is accepted on the show as just another link in the quirky family circle.

While it’s great that there are new shows like Glee and Modern Family and even Stargate Universe, which for the first time in the space series’ 15-year history has a gay character, I hesitate to give Hollywood too much credit. Ironically, even though lots of gays and lesbians live and work here, those who are in a position to make decisions about TV, film or what their gay and lesbian clients do are often among the most homophobic. Like the gay dad in Modern Family, they want to fit in so much that they are willing to compromise, just to make everyone else comfortable so that they can be a part of the community too (except with more style and better taste).

So rather than taking the lead when it comes to controversial topics, Hollywood more often reflects the reality that’s already out there.

But that’s the good news because that means these shows with prominent gay characters have gained a foothold, sequined or otherwise, in mainstream living rooms that are already aware of the gay community. As Glee, Modern Family and Stargate Universe take the perspective that gays in society are not an aberration or abomination, the signs are there that modern society is more accepting of that notion as well.

However, there is one segment of society that is still fighting this trend. It came to me while watching Stargate Universe. The show’s inaugural season focuses on the crew trying to keep everyone alive on a dying spaceship. No one looks at ethnicity or sexuality when deciding who will live and who eats it for the team. It’s all about survival, how each person can contribute to the survival of the group. It’s a necessary strategy.

STARGATE UNIVERSE — Pictured: (l-r) Jamil Walker Smith as Msgt. Ronald Greer, Ming-Na as Camile Wray, Brian J Smith as Lt. Matthew Scott, David Blue as Eli Wallace, Robert Carlyle as Dr Nicholas Rush, Alaina Huffman as Msgt. Tamara Johansen, Elyse Levesque as Chloe Armstrong, Louis Ferreira as Col. Everett Young, Lou Diamond Phillips as Col. Telford — Syfy Photo: Art Streiber
Photo Credit: Art Streiber

I couldn’t help but think of the modern United States military, and how it chooses to keep people based on sexuality, rather than on their ability to contribute to the survival of the American people.

When looking at the big picture, it seems so obvious that our nation’s security is more important than personal prejudice. Even television is showing us that.