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Did 'Glee' Cross The Line With 'Tranny'?

Gay rights group up in arms, but is this much ado about nothing?

I really like the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. But at the same time, I'm glad the organization is only 25 years old.

I can only imagine how many ulcers its public policy people would've had in the 1970s if the group was older, especially when "All in the Family" ruled the airwaves.

Good old Archie Bunker. He was a racist, a bigot, a homophobe -- pretty much the opposite of the whole Star Trek philosophy of infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Yet, the character was loved -- not because of his hatred, but because of the way he exposed the hatred in others.

Think about that. Watching how ugly hatred is in other people, especially on television, forces us to look not just at those around us, but inward as well. As much as viewers tuned in to see Archie Bunker -- played by the late Carol O'Connor -- each week, they knew that the last thing they wanted to be was Archie Bunker.

Of course, Archie always had a foil, typically in the form of Meathead, played by Rob Reiner. But did we necessarily have to have our hands held to get the message?

Maybe so. But there are so many television options now, that we don't have to have every program holding our hands. They can make us laugh without the need for a live studio audience. They can make us think without preaching. It's television made by the savvy for the savvy, and "Glee" is definitely one of those programs.

It's sophisticated and fun, but you almost always walk away thinking about some message the show is trying to share.

This past week, it was the "Rocky Horror Picture Show." I'll be honest, I'm not that big of a Rocky Horror fan. But I am a big "Glee" fan. And I watched the episode because of my love for the characters, stories, songs and message that "Glee" provides.

When Harry Shum Jr.'s character of Michael Chang expressed the fact that he couldn't play Dr. Frank-N-Furter because his parents didn't want him playing a role portraying a "tranny," GLAAD got up in arms.

Of course, they didn't get up in arms last year when "Glee" used the terms "faggy" and "fag," only because it resulted in an on-screen rebuke by a straight character that many suspected in the beginning would be not-too-crazy about his son's sexuality. However, since Mr. Schuester didn't call in Chang's parents and lecture them about accepting diversity and using words that are not demeaning to whole population segments, GLAAD got angry, and earned some free press to go with it.

Seriously, why would "Glee" be expected to hold viewers' hands through something like this? I watched the episode. The word "tranny" didn't affect me. What affected me was the fact that Chang couldn't take on a role he seemed very interested in playing because of the hateful nature of his parents -- a grim reality. If you see Chang in the later scenes, sitting alone in the audience while the others rehearse, you can tell that he is not happy at all.

Just because the message was subtle doesn't mean there wasn't a message. The reason why I like this level of sophistication in shows because it forces us as viewers to read deeper into what's going on, instead of looking simply at the surface. I didn't get hung up on the use of "tranny," but instead, realized exactly what Ryan Murphy was trying to share.

We don't have to point fingers at everything and everyone to share a message. We don't need to have everything spelled out for us. What we really need is the ability to look closer, as one of my favorite movies of all time -- "American Beauty" -- tells us. And when we do, what we find is absolutely beautiful.

About the Author

Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus and is a veteran print journalist. He lives in Tampa, Fla.
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