Category: Weekly Columns

There’s no doubt that I’m really wading into it with the title of this column. I was reflecting on the end of this season of Glee and the only other television series that I watch regularly, Modern Family. I enjoy both show but do wonder if they have an agenda as to the message they want to put across.

Let me be clear on my stance on homosexuality to eliminate any pre-conceived prejudices you may assume I have or may project on me that are not true. I lost a VERY DEAR friend to Aids back in the day when it first appeared. I worked in showbiz for a quarter-century and loved and interacted with people of all stripes, with equal passion, respect, and collaboration. If they were talented and good people, I loved them. If they were not, I didn’t. Simple.

Further, as far as rights, I believe we are all created in God’s image and deserve equal protections under the law, and equal choices in our personal lives. To be explicitly clear, if either of my boys were gay, I’d love them the same. If they were bad people, my love might diminish but I don’t give a hoot about their sexuality.

Nonetheless, what message are these two shows choosing to portray? I believe that Modern Family portrays a gay relationship with all the dimension, humor, pathos, and love of any relationship and I love the show and all the characters. I believe Glee is much more agenda-driven and looks to put gay characters in the forefront to a very large and unrealistically disproportionate degree.

There will constantly be arguments about what percentage of the population is indeed gay just as there will be even more heated disagreements about the cause – IF there is a cause – for that life choice. I believe – again to be clear – that there are several possible causes for one’s sexuality. I believe in the majority of cases, it is simply the cards you were dealt and you have little or no choice as to whom you love. In other cases, a serious trauma such as physical or sexual abuse can be the seeds of sexual orientation.

And finally, how society chooses to treat lifestyles often encourage behavior in one direction or the other for those “on the fence.” This was quite evident in ancient Greece where it was commonplace for aristocratic men to have sexual boy-slaves. Had that society not condoned and encouraged such behavior, it is less likely it would have been so prevalent.

The same argument can easily be made for promiscuity, in any community. When we lived in more let’s say prudish times, sexual experimentation was reserved and often delayed until and only upon marriage. The sixties changed that dramatically and, in this man’s opinion, it’s gotten a bit out-of-hand on Madison Avenue and in Hollywood! The prevalence of teen promiscuity is well documented and, again in this dad’s opinion, largely unhealthy for our kid’s healthy adult sexual growth and maturity.

I watch Glee because I enjoy and truly appreciate the music and talents of the performers. I don’t watch it for the story lines and have particular distaste for the portrayal of sexuality among high-school age students. Whether it’s Puck trying to seduce his (female) teacher to get a good grade or the portrayal of two same-sex relationships with Kurt/Blaine and Brittany/Santana, it all feels like an effort to make all sexual conduct appear ubiquitous and just fine among these 15-18 year-old kids.

And, I emphasize the word, “kids.” They are kids, though most are portrayed by young men and women a decade or older than the characters they’re playing. What messages are the producers of Glee attempting to sell? I believe they want the audience to believe that open homosexuality in high school is cool — that any sexuality is just fine, and that the realities of acting out on your sexual feelings at that stage of life are not near as harsh as they really are.

I believe Glee is portraying a fantasy world with minimal consequences for the experimentation and sexual promiscuity these young people indulge in. Even the heterosexual relationships feel out-of-touch to me with the lead characters of Rachel and Finn planning on getting married while still in high school. Hello?

Let’s look at the relationships in Modern Family, in contrast with Glee. I see in the three primary families portrayed, diverse, funny, and interesting lives. The gay couple is loving, argumentative, and funny in every bit the same ways as the two heterosexual couples portrayed. All the parenting shown is realistic, again very funny, and there’s abundant humor, never stereotypical other than making fun of Jay being married to the much younger Gloria.

The bottom line, to use a much over-used expressions from show biz, is that for me these are two entertaining shows. Glee overtly presents its political messages while Modern Family avoids hitting us over the head with any message and, instead, lets the writing and characters make us care. What do you think?



  • Mark D Worthen PsyD

    I think the title of your post should be “Glee Promotes Promiscuity” since that appears to be your point. Otherwise some might leave with the impression that you think Glee is promoting a “gay agenda,” which I don’t think you mean to convey.

    • Bruce Sallan

      You are right, Mark…when I first chose the title I wanted to explore the word “gay” as well – which used to have a different meaning altogether. 

    • Sixty Second Parent

       I too think that it should be called “Glee promotes promiscuity” – Your title seems to be pointing to the ‘gay’ aspect more than the promiscuity, which is what you are addressing in the post. I think you are pretty clever and would know that that title would be more controversial. You could also ask “Is Glee Disabled?” as when I last saw it there were two main characters in wheel chairs. Do you see what I am getting at?

      • Bruce Sallan

        Yes, Yes, and YES! lol…you got me!

  • Lhkellett

    Absolutely on the mark with this!

    • Bruce Sallan

      TY – waiting for the blowback…

      • Amy Jussel

        I don’t think there’s much ‘blowback’ in pointing out the obscuring of teen sex data in Hollywood health, as I wrote here in this CDC/Glee ‘health facts vs opportunities’ convo about youth being FAR  more responsible than the hookup/bed-hopping culture being seeded and deployed for ratings fodder in media…but what I DO think is dicey is this surreal ‘happy dance’ of gaydom that could cause some very REAL life blowback on kids whose real life school/environs may not be as supportive. (though their bullying plotline did a good job of ‘going there’ it’s like the end of season romp turned into a free for all love fest of all things queer)

        While the entire Glee show is a Coleridge style suspension of disbelief, you bring up a good point about younger kids watching it, who may not have the full media literacy chops yet to discern the nuance; coming away w/an ‘it’s all good, whatevs, be who you are’ flippancy that at best distorts reality, at worst, puts kids at risk.

        • Bruce Sallan

          Saying ANYTHING about gay issues if not coming “out” fully for their rights sets one up for cries of “Homophobe” just as saying anything about Obama that is negative sets one up for being called, “Racist!” It’s sad that “free speech” is really allowed ONLY when it’s politically correct! Let’s not even begin to discuss what goes on at most of our college campuses!

  • Kelly Kim

    I absolutely love the show, Glee, (and I don’t watch much TV), but I believe it is a show for adults, not teens. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Yet it’s completely marketed to kids, Kelly!

  • Janice Person

    I think much of what passes for entertainment and news has an agenda to it…. that’s why some people prefer one network to another one, etc. I think Glee does intentionally include societal messages and most of them are things I’m fine with… my guess is if they are going beyond what’s comfortable for their audience, they will lost audience and that will help the producers reconsider the  show’s direction. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      If Hollywood cared about their audience they would make less R-rated movies. R-rated movies ALWAYS underperform their PG-13 brethren. There’s a great book by Michael Medved called “Hollywood Vs. America” which illuminates this FACT brilliantly. Most in Hollywood promote their agendas vigorously – e.g. Michael Moore, George Clooney, Sean Pean, Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, and Susan Sarandon to name just a small few!

      As for news – they should no longer call it “news” – it’s almost all OPINION and it is certainly NOT journalism!

  • Pete G

    What bothers me the most about Glee is the audience it reaches.  When I taught 7th grade, the girls all watched and talked about that show.  I don’t know if the producers intended audience is 12 year old girls, but that is definitely a portion of their audience.  I’m not a fan of any show that has kids (even if they are young adults portraying kids) dealing with these unrealistic sexual situations and topics.  

    On the other hand, I love the whole Dunphee clan.  They are hysterical, maybe it’s because I can relate to Phil a little more than I’d like to admit.

    Thanks for a great column about an interesting topic Bruce.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Of course GLEE panders to that age demographic – the same kids that love Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and Katy Perry – look at her songs! Do they suggest modest behavior – or Lady Gaga? I know – rhetorical question!

  • BloggerFather

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m with you. I don’t like the idea that high school kids are bombarded with pressure to not simply have sex, but to give it no importance. Unfortunately, as long as they watch these shows, that’s what the shows will portray. Back in the good old days of Friday Night Lights, there was also teenage sex, but it was portrayed as meaningful and emotional.

    About the gay relationship, well, I believe any show that helps gay kids feel more accepted is a good thing, but like I said, I don’t believe that’s the show’s agenda. The only agenda Glee promotes is the expansion of terrible lip syncing. The rest is just about ratings. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      Coming from Hollywood, I would disagree that show-runners/producers only care about ratings. Many work hard to advance their views and agenda. I am not saying that is the case with the people behind GLEE, but given the story-lines, I suspect it is. Of course, they throw in plenty of dazzle too FOR the ratings. 

      Many in Hollywood are very activist-oriented. And, you’re pretty much isolated if you care about anything not of “their” view. The Gary Sinese’s of Hollywood are few and far between.

  • Brian Vickery

    We take a similar approach to our watching of Glee. I am not happy with the sexuality/promiscuity portrayed in the show; however, it isn’t terribly inconsistent with what our kids are seeing in high school…same goes for the bullying.

    I do love the singing, tight harmonies and creative choreography. I basically “desensitize myself” a bit to all of the underlying themes and agendas to focus on the awesome talents of the performers on that show.

    I really stay away from TV altogether, but I watch Glee and Bones on NetFlix…and my kids had me watching Raising Hope over the weekend (and they watch Grey’s Anatomy…think that brings some agendas, too…hasn’t TV generally done that with subtle/overt political stances).

    • Bruce Sallan

      I watch VERY little TV these days. Tend to just watch movies on Netflix – saw a great one from Argentina the other day, “Sidewalls,” which I really enjoyed! No agenda but good and interesting visuals and story-telling!

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  • Azmomofmanyhats

    I’m not sure it is about agenda, or about controversy – that stirs buzz, that prompts people to watch, that raises ratings. If viewership dropped, would the network keep shows just because of the agenda? Probably not.  If it were a revenue loss, not gain, I just don’t think the industry is so altruistic that it would outlay time and resources to promote a cause.  On the flip side, I do get the feeling that as long as the cause makes a profit, the industry will gladly promote/broadcast it. With these two shows, they appear to be geared to different demographics.  As such, they are written in different ways. 

    • Bruce Sallan

      The industry is definitely NOT altruistic but they also ignore GREAT masses of people that want G and PG-rated movies…or movies about religion and simple family values. The fact that the average R-rated movie ALWAYS underperforms the PG-13 movies is regularly ignored. Filmmakers think that violence and sex shows they’re hip…to me, it shows lack of creativity in the same way that modern comics use profanity incessantly. Listen to the greats of the past – drop-dead funny – without resorting to non-stop swearing! Ugh, I could go on and on….

  • SharonGreenthal

    Having been the parent of a Glee kid, I can tell you that the gay relationships are looked upon as perfectly normal among those kids – but having said that, I agree that Glee – which I really want to love – takes the overt behavior to over the top levels. I also feel a sense of alarm when I watch the show and think about the 10, 11 and 12 year olds who are watching it too – not that they will be in any way influenced by the sexuality of the characters, but that they will think that sexual activity in high school is ok. 

    I am far from prudish, believe me – but sometimes I feel a level of discomfort about this show that makes me want to run around the neighborhood and cover children’s eyes.

    On another note: Matt Morrison attended our local high school (Los Alamitos) when he was an OCSHA (Orange County High School of the Arts) student. We are proud of our local boy!

    • Bruce Sallan

      I feel exactly as you do, Sharon however I believe those 10, 11, and 12 year olds are definitely influenced by what they see. If sexual promiscuity is portrayed so recklessly as normal, they will think it is and perhaps act in similar ways. 

  • Eric Burgess

    Bruce, great post and it’s good to see your stance on the topic. I couldn’t agree with you more. Truthfully, after the Glee Rolling Stone cover shoot I was done with the show. It’s just unfortunate how the writers in Hollywood feel they need to PUSH the envelop farther each season in order for a show to be popular.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Eric, I think the show would be MUCH MORE POPULAR if they weren’t pushing the envelope! That’s the irony!

      • Eric Burgess

        I know!

  • Aaron

    I do agree with you on the part that there may be an exaggerated amount of gay teens on the show, but it could be true, because being in the drama/performing arts program of my school, I have noticed that there are a lot more gay or lesbian teens than in other parts of the school, so it could actually be a realistic portrayal of teens in Glee club.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Very glad to hear from a high school student who is LIVING IT now. Yes, there are usually more gay people in the arts – a stereotype, for sure, but a true one. Thx for adding your thoughts, Aaron!

      • Bill Draeger

        Why do you think that?  It seems to me gay men might go for wrestling. But perhaps I’m being too stereotypical.  

  • Pacwp

    I love your statement:  “To be explicitly clear, if either of my boys were gay, I’d love them the same. If they were bad people, my love might diminish but I don’t give a hoot about their sexuality.”  How true that is for me as well.  As parents we don’t get to choose how god created them sexually, intellectually; but we do get to be the people who guide them, support them, love and help them create their best lives; after that its up to them.

    I do like Modern family, our eldest twinnie daughter and I will make it our Monday guilty pleasure time; the show is so much better than Glee is representing “real” people.  During Modern Family my daughter and I will sit and shake our heads in agreement about some situation.  In our family, both sides, there are gay men trying hard to be good dads, partners and parents and we support them 100%.  So when Modern Family reflects much of what we all ready know.

    Glee, just stinks as a show, IMHO, the ONLY thing good about it is Jane Lynch!!! Best in Show!!!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for weighing in PACWP…I keep waiting for blowback…so interesting it hasn’t occurred (yet)?!

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  • Robert Veres

    Sex on TV is always scary for parents, regardless the sexuality. I tried to ban TV from my kids’ privileges, but I got outvoted (5:1)

    • Bruce Sallan

      Robert, we had NO over-the-air/cable TV in the house until the boys were teens. ALL we had were videos/DVDs that we approved. It was non-negotiable. 

      • Robert Veres

        Hmm I wonder if I could blame your success vs. my failure on gender – all 5 of mine are girls.

        • Bruce Sallan

          What failure? Having and raising FIVE girls is quite an achievement!

  • Sarah Jevnikar

    As a 23-year-old fan of Glee who’s never watched Modern Family, I have no qualms with Glee’s portrayal of sexuality and teen sexual relationships. Sure it’s a bit extreme at times, but in general it’s a world I recognize. It’s reflective of the teen reality for the most part, for better or worse.

    • Bruce Sallan

      So glad to hear from you, Sarah. Do you think it is reflective of a small town high school, as this one is?

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  • Wayne McEvilly

    Let me begin by applauding you Bruce for this opening observation: ” I believe we are all created in God’s image and deserve equal protections under the law, and equal choices in our personal lives.” As to Glee, well, I don’t “have TV” so I do not watch shows, but I do have a DVD player and  rented one season of Glee to watch. To me, it is a fabricated reality that is portrayed here, and although the talent is obviously of high calibre, the material is not reality-based. There is a lot of the “unbelievable” and the patently absurd written in. 
    Apart from the show itself, and briefly to speak of my own opinion on the matter at hand I have concluded that as long as the subject continues to fascinate society to the degree it does, there is something profoundly “wrong” with society – not with the sexual orientation, just with the fact that it is assigned such dreadful importance. And when we have candidates vying for the position of running for the Presidency of the nation who are absolutely obsessed with other people’s sex lives, well….what can be said? So to conclude, the “issue” will have been transcended if and only if we come to a point in our social evolution that it becomes “no big deal” who other people find attractive sexually. 
    And on a lighter note, that Rachel sure looks old enough to be a highschool student’s Mama. LOL and off….
    Thank you Bruce.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Wow, let me applaud YOU Wayne for not having TV! I’ve tried but my family rebelled! My wife and one of my sons watch far too much of it and THAT is a real problem, IMO! Yes, it is indeed a “fabricated reality” but YOU are old and wise enough to recognize that – are 10, 11, and 12-year-olds who LOVE the show as wise?

  • David Weber

    I like both shows, although I don’t watch them regularly.  Modern Family has held up for me longer than Glee did.  As far as the portrayal of gay persons goes in the shows, what one person may call an agenda another person may simply call a narrative angle.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Did I tell you that I love you, DW!

  • Dan Frederiksen

    glee is of course super gay. the very name is used synonymous with gay.
    it’s as gay as sodom and gomorra and gay will never be ok.

    in the name of decency you sheep are being bullied into supporting homosexuality with the lie that if you don’t embrace it you are a mean person. will you also embrace pedophilia. and necrophilia. and beastiality. why is sodomy so perfectly ok but the line is drawn with pedophilia.

    spare me your kneejerk rebuttal that it’s ok because it’s consensual. so might beastiality also be.

    wake up and grow a spine dad.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Not sure where you think my spine should be, Dan? Or on what issue? But, thanks for resurrecting the dialogue on an old column of mine!

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