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Glee's Darren Criss: 'I Define Myself as a Straight Male'

Vanity Fair's Brett Berk asks Glee actor Darren Criss in a roundabout way if he's gay.

Criss VF:

Chris [Colfer] told me one of the times we talked that some of the power in his performances is from having personally experienced many of the things his character goes through as a gay teen. Not that this is in any way necessary for an actor playing any kind of role, but I’m wondering about your own personal connection to the character of Blaine and the subject matter you’re addressing.

CRISS:

It’s a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart, simply because I grew up in such an open community—doing theater in San Francisco. I mean, it doesn’t get much, stereotypically, “gayer.” I was inadvertently raised in the “gay community.” I had straight parents, but I spent massive amounts of time at a very early age with gay, theater-hopeful thirty-somethings. And those were the people I spent time with early on, so my whole perception of “sexuality” just wasn’t there. It just...was. It even got to the point where, later in life... I had all the components in place. I was, well, not super effeminate, but I was into girly things—I liked musical theater, all the stereotypical things. I had to come out and say, well, I’m sorry, but I think I’m straight. And people were like, say it ain’t so! And I would say, “It’s been a secret too long, but I’m actually a straight male.”

And so for the longest time when people asked me about Blaine, I wanted to say It doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t. But I don’t want to devalue it, because it’s a very earnest question, and I can see why people would want to know. And I realized that if I said, It doesn’t matter, that immediately means that I’m gay. So I do define myself as a straight male, but it really doesn’t come into play with me in this role. As an actor, your objective is always to play the scene. And this case, he happens to be a gay teen.

Glee Criss also talked with Popwrap about gay teen bullying (which was addressed on last night's episode - spoiler warning) and his character:

"Blaine is a year ahead of Kurt, both literally and figuratively – so when they meet, Blaine immediately connects with him and feels the need to impart his knowledge. He has gone through the same trials and tribulations Kurt has been feeling at McKinley. He wants to help Kurt. It’s a beautiful message that gives hope to Kurt, and hopefully everyone watching. Gay or straight, I think it’s superfluous – teens in general struggle with discrimination and this is a great coloring on the show. [As far as the current rash of gay teen suicides] Like any tragedy, it’s all about bringing attention to it and addressing the issue. It’s not new. This has been happening for years and I think the gay teen component is at the forefront, but it’s so much bigger than that. So yes, it’s heightened the stakes, but in a weird way, it’s inspiring us to be a lot stronger about what we’re saying. I’m no longer just acting opposite Chris Colfer, I’m also talking to the bullied teens and the parents who’ve lost kids to this. There’s people listening now, it’s kind of empowering."

Previously...
Glee's Teenage Dream on Whether He'll Kiss Kurt [tr]
Watch: Glee's All-Guy Teenage Dream [tr]

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Comments

  1. I kinda want him to date the bully. I would like to see the storyline where Kurt helps him out, but I don't know if the show could really do that.

    That aside, That kid is smoking hot, if the show would stop auto tuning the singing I might actually listen to one of the songs instead of fast forwarding.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Nov 10, 2010 10:54:27 AM


  2. I'm sure the bitter patrol will find some way to tear this apart, but wow, what a well-spoken man. He's got a new fan.

    Posted by: Robert | Nov 10, 2010 10:55:08 AM


  3. Oh man this episode brought back memories. When I was in high school, there was a "Kurt," the boy who was too out to be in, and there was me, the quiet guy who hung with a "semi-cool" group. I was bullied in elementary school but faced down my nemesis in the schoolyard and won. I knew I was gay, and had support at home, but there was this one guy at school, a muscular jock (Tom), who always pushed me into the lockers. "You look like a f-g, I bet you're a f-----cking f-g." It was like time would stand still. And then it would be over. A year after high school, Tom walked into the same bar I was in. Yep. Gay. He apologized and asked me to dance. Slow. It was a shocker. Years later, I heard he died from an AIDS-related infection. I don't know if the "F" word will ever die out in schools. It's the first slur kids learn. But this episode really nailed it. Most straight guys aren't really that concerned about gay issues and don't taunt people over their sexuality. When you encounter a bully who does these things, chances are he's closeted, and just not as brave as you are.

    Posted by: Jonster | Nov 10, 2010 11:01:38 AM


  4. Good for him - last nights episode was great!

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 10, 2010 11:03:08 AM


  5. no ones perfect. Everyone has their cross to bear.

    Posted by: KevinSF | Nov 10, 2010 11:06:29 AM


  6. "And I realized that if I said, It doesn’t matter, that immediately means that I’m gay."

    BINGO!

    Very smart, very cute, very talented.

    Best "Glee" episode EVAH!

    I have the feeling that Kurt and the bully are going to fall in love.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 10, 2010 11:22:27 AM


  7. OK can I chime in here with the Kurt-Bully theoretical love affair? This guy has attacked Kurt violently for how long? Forever? And last night he attacked him *sexually*. Low-grade violation, I freely submit, but make no mistake about it that was sexual violence. Ask any of your female friends how they would react if a guy who had been regularly beating them suddenly grabbed them and stuck is tongue in their mouth. That is not some kind of perverse romantic gesture, that is sexual battery.

    Please do not turn this into something cute.

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 11:27:43 AM


  8. Heh, he said "later in life."

    Cute. That video melts me.

    Posted by: Patrick | Nov 10, 2010 11:41:02 AM


  9. @NaughtyLola

    THANK YOU! Finally, someone agrees with me. :P

    Posted by: Luke | Nov 10, 2010 11:45:15 AM


  10. This new character is cute and smart... A+ casting! Well done.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 10, 2010 11:45:17 AM


  11. I very much enjoyed last night's episode. It covered a complex topic through good story-telling and heart. And I think the new friendships that were made between the characters will be interesting to watch. I also hope that we see more of Blaine's character because he seems like a good guy.

    Posted by: Ty | Nov 10, 2010 11:47:56 AM


  12. Sorry, but I disagree that it was sexual violence. I think Kurt made him confront his sexuality and in a moment of pure passion expressed how he truly felt, revealing the true demons inside him. When Kurt made clear that he did not want to be kissed by him, he stopped. It was pure physical violence every time he pushed Kurt into the locker, but the moment of that kiss was pure honesty. You could prosecute the bully for all of the physical violence, but I don't think a prosecutor in the world would charge him for that kiss. When Kurt indicated "no". It meant no. We need to be careful when feminists try to interpret gay male conduct, because some of them view the penis as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction.

    Posted by: JimSur212 | Nov 10, 2010 11:49:33 AM


  13. If this show had been on when I was a teenager, I might have had the courage to come out while I was in high school. Anything that makes that process easier should be applauded. For those of you upset about the bully, I think they captured a very ugly reality of gayness in America. It is closet cases that succumb to the homophobic atmosphere in our society who end up being our greatest tormenters. If we could only catch them early on, it would change things immensely.

    Posted by: gaylib | Nov 10, 2010 11:51:28 AM


  14. @JimSur212, a few points:

    1) It is illegal to force someone to kiss you, full stop. Whether a prosecutor pursues the charge doesn't necessarily reflect the law. Prosecutors pursue charges that they think they can get a conviction on. Sexual battery is and has always been "squishy" in terms of predictability of legal outcome, particularly when there is no visible trauma and the entire cases is predicated on he-said / he-said

    2) The bully went after Kurt a second time and only stopped when he was physically forced back. That is not indicative of respect for someone's boundaries, that is pushing *past* the boundary and only retreating when the other person physically fights back. That's not passion, that's "I take what I want when I want it." Kurt certainly was not enjoying the moment; he was frozen when it happened, and he was deeply upset when talking to Blaine about it in the stairwell.

    3) Domestic and sexual violence is woefully under-reported when the victims are men, doubly so in the gay community. They used to have PSA billboards in the subway in the city where I live trying to drive attention to it.

    4) 'Feminists hate men' is a tired old trope that hasn't been relevant since Andrea Dworkin roamed the earth.

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 12:08:11 PM


  15. It was a GREAT episode - heard the buzz and tuned in (it has been a bit to gay pandering to catch my interest in the past - and I do not like Gay Pandering from FOX as they are a sister company to Fox News).

    He identifies as Straight -- so that folks do think he is gay. Does not say he is not BI!

    Posted by: rjp3 | Nov 10, 2010 12:12:10 PM


  16. JIMSUR212 you are so off on this one. Just moments before he tried to kiss him he not only physically assaulted him by throwing him into the locker, he also punched the locker and threatened him seconds before the kiss. And your 'theory that feminists hating men or view the penis as a weapon only proves that your parents must have dropped you on your head a few many times too often.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Nov 10, 2010 12:16:32 PM


  17. I don't agree that "it doesn't matter" would mean you're gay. A lot of people seem to want to make all kinds of assumptions when it comes to other people's sexuality, but that's part of the problem that the more aware people should be challenging.

    The media shouldn't feel entitled to hound an actor into announcing his real-life sexuality every time he plays gay any more than those playing doctors on medical dramas are pressed to admit whether they've ever been to medical school.

    However, Darren Criss is very well-spoken. Last night's episode was great! I'm glad Darren Criss' character has been introduced so that there is not just one gay character.

    Kurt's over-the-top feminine stereotype is the only gay character we ever saw on the show last season. When told "girls come to this side of the room," he goes straight there and seems insulted when reminded by Mr. Shu that he is male.

    It's almost as if Kurt is going to discover someday that he is not gay but trangendered, and I don't know that all of the audience is sophisticated enough to understand the difference.

    GLEE is overdue for a variety of gay characters that seems to be foreshadowed for this season.

    I love the show and hope we'll see more of Darren Criss' character.

    Posted by: GregV | Nov 10, 2010 12:22:38 PM


  18. @JimSur212, a follow-on question to my third point:

    How much of that type of behavior (not bullying per se but sexual aggression) does go on in real life, in your estimation, and how much of it would you say is bona fide courtship rather than men not acknowledging their own status as a victim of violence simply because they've been raised with the understanding that its impossible for men to be victims of sexual violence? I'm not suggesting that all aggressive sexual behavior be pathologized, or that people should start hewing to some overwrought victim mentality, but there should be an acknowledgment somewhere that this does happen and its really not part of "normal" human interaction, regardless of the sexes of the people involved.

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 12:30:31 PM


  19. I've had a drink with Darren. He seems nice enough. Didn't think he was gay.

    Posted by: chrissypoo | Nov 10, 2010 12:32:04 PM


  20. I could see a Kurt/Bully storyline playing out precisely because, as Kurt said last night, no one has ever wanted to kiss him before - he's never in his life experienced someone being attracted to him. For someone in that situation, being the object of attraction can outweigh a LOT of flaws and bad actions on the part of the person attracted to them.

    Posted by: Sancho | Nov 10, 2010 12:37:34 PM


  21. As far as the sexual attack idea, that was my exact first thought when I watched the episode. I suppose there is a fine line, at the high school age, where taunting is flirting. I remember well being told that the girls that used to kick me when we were in elementary school were just showing their affection but didn't know to. I suppose this could be argued as a transformation exercise for the footballer. Either way, it could be taken either way.

    Thanks for your story, Jonster. That was touching and kind of you to share. As someone who has encountered sexual violence by other guys, twice, I can attest that people look at it with far less seriousness. I've actually been asked by people I considered friends whether I was sure I didn't want it or was part to blame. Over years, people still refer to it with flippance. I don't.

    Back to the episode, though, this could go far further than any "it gets better" campaign. Nothing against the campaign, but this really made a point on many levels. Well done, Glee.

    Posted by: Tim | Nov 10, 2010 12:41:29 PM


  22. Don't forget, the confrontation ends with the bully fleeing in terror -- of his own feelings.

    He knows he's gay and he knows Kurt knows he's gay.

    Kurt wins.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Nov 10, 2010 12:41:30 PM


  23. *facepalm*

    "For someone in that situation, being the object of attraction can outweigh a LOT of flaws and bad actions on the part of the person attracted to them."

    Just FYI, this is precisely why people return over and over again to abusive partners, who in turn frequently murder them in the end. You have neatly summed up my whole objection to the 'bully becomes a love interest' hypothesis. Thank you.

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 12:45:47 PM


  24. I know this is a completely shallow post relative to the other ones (of course, Glee has always been part melodrama, part camp), but the very hot guy playing David at Dalton Academy didn't pull off playing a straight guy at all. Why couldn't Kurt go for him? Relative to other shows, Glee is great at casting Asians (and a special shout out to Glee for casting Harry Shrum Jr. and his abs), but having an inter-ethnic gay couple could have been a lot of fun. Just noting the small missed opportunity...

    Posted by: Anon | Nov 10, 2010 1:22:18 PM


  25. I thought the footballer actor was great to try to go in again when he was first rebuffed. I don't know if that was stage directions, or his acting coming out. But it is exactly what I would expect someone like that to do. Have their desire confused with revolusion and anger - and then once it is out, he thinks Kurt will automatically kiss back because what else is there but the sex?? But it is so much more than that. I hope that Blaine and Kurt go through that phase where they think they are supposed to be sexually attracted to each other only because they are both gay,,, but then realize that they aren't really into the same things sexually, and make better friends. Or the opposite, where friends grow into lovers. That's the "hard" part of being gay - the person can be a friend, lover, or both. It isn't as undefined with straight people because there is so much already there in terms of roles, society, expectations, etc.

    Posted by: steve talbert | Nov 10, 2010 1:24:15 PM


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