Bullying | Darren Criss | Glee | I'm Not Gay

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.


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."

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

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  1. I mean that it is more undefined with gay strangers meeting - which is probably why it used to be you became friends only AFTER having sex and then it changed with AIDS and 'dating' that you had sex only AFTER becoming friends. I prefer to have a little sex first, to see if there is any chemistry.... but then I am probably a slut like brittany.

    Posted by: steve talbert | Nov 10, 2010 1:28:17 PM

  2. Thank you, Glee, for choosing to show this issue as complicated rather than the shallow "very special episode" way issues like this have been dealt with in the past. Glee now has three gay characters. That's a lot of possibilities. As much as I loathe the bully, I can't help but feel sorry for him because Kurt nailed him. He's terrified of who he is. There could be a journey for this character, whether he and Kurt end up together or not Kurt could be a great help to him. But Blane is the hottie. If only they'd given the names more thought. Blurt? Kaine? *sigh*

    Posted by: Houndentenor | Nov 10, 2010 1:34:38 PM

  3. Is Blaine the most important character on TV right now? He just might be. And Darren Criss seems like a really impressive guy. Kudos all around.

    As much as I would love for Kurt to get a boyfriend, I actually would prefer for him and Blaine not to date. Why not show people a realistic friendship between two gay people? How awesome would it be if Blaine could just be the "it gets better" mentor to Kurt, with no sexual tension at all? We already have had the unfortunate stereotype of the gay guy always pining after the unobtainable straight guy, so instead of playing into another cliche of the gay guy sleeping with the only other out gay guy he knows, how about showing a real friendship?

    Posted by: Brian | Nov 10, 2010 1:41:05 PM

  4. Haven't there been rumours all season about Kurts new boyfriend being a closeted footballer?

    Posted by: Grant | Nov 10, 2010 2:09:43 PM

  5. They can joke about Kurt liking them 'big and burly' bears... and if he starts taking the streetcar to school, Blaine can call him Stella..

    Posted by: steve talbert | Nov 10, 2010 2:19:20 PM

  6. @Houndentenor, LOL!

    "But Blane is the hottie. If only they'd given the names more thought. Blurt? Kaine? *sigh*"

    Ha, when I read the first blurb about this story arc my immediate thought was the scene from "Pretty in Pink" when Ducky freaks out about Andie's rich-boy crush:

    "Blaine? BLAINE?!? That's a major appliance, that's not a name!"

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 2:25:10 PM

  7. Smart, articulate and thoughtful young guy. INCREDIBLE episode. Bravo all round!

    Posted by: Lewis Payton | Nov 10, 2010 2:31:20 PM

  8. Last night's show, which i just got to watch, was amazing. I was totally thrown off about the bully kiss. Never expected that. But it proves what I've always believed, the greater the hate the deeper the closet. I hope the writers pursue something, not sure what, between Kurt and the bully.
    As to the bully's kiss, i don't condone the violence but i don't see it as sexual assault. The bully is jealous of Kurt; he is attracted to him and hates Kurt for making him attracted to him. He hates Kurt for being what the bully can't, and that is out and proud of who he is. The hardest part for all of us in coming out is first accepting who we are and accepting who you are against what society has said you shouldn't be. The show was done well and the actor playing Blaine is adorable. If someone that hot sang like that and looked at me with those eyes while i was in high school; I would have passed out from sheer happiness. Unfortunately real life isn't like the show and there is no magical accepting all boys high school.

    Posted by: Matt | Nov 10, 2010 3:05:53 PM

  9. That was my first episode of Glee (well, I'm not counting the Rocky Horror one that drew me in), and I was very impressed with how they handled this subject matter.

    I just may go back and check out the whole series, as friends have been bugging me to do.

    Posted by: Zlick | Nov 10, 2010 3:31:40 PM

  10. Spending any amount of time around arty gay thirty-somethings would be enough to turn any man straight. A torrid experience, no doubt.

    Posted by: jason | Nov 10, 2010 4:08:10 PM

  11. JASON the douche bag strikes again. Too bad not enough to make you go away.

    Posted by: patrick nyc | Nov 10, 2010 5:19:13 PM

  12. Jason, What is the chance that maybe you could only post AFTER you take your meds? For today you get ten for bitterness and a zero for humor.

    Posted by: justiceontherocks | Nov 10, 2010 6:09:44 PM

  13. OK, I freely submit that it was pretty low on the scale of life-altering trauma (I think that's how I phrased it in a different thread.) My larger point is this: the mindset that caused this guy to attack Kurt in the hallways is the same mindset that caused him to stick his tongue in Kurt's mouth: that Kurt isn't Kurt Hummell, kid who lives with his widowed dad and loves theatrics and singing and has a car that he refers to as his "baby" and is a crackerjack place-kicker, and oh yeah who happens to be into dudes. He's Out Gay Kid -- just a screen upon which this guy can project whatever he wants to, and act upon in any way he chooses *without permission*. He can swing a fist or he can kiss him or whatever he feels like, because Kurt is not an actual person to him. I certainly hope that awareness is not the property solely of dick-hating Dworkinites.

    Someone in another thread thoughtfully pointed out that Kurt had already indicated not just his lack of interest but his revulsion ("Hamhock!"). It was only THEN that the bully grabbed him and kissed him. I would argue that's not passion, that's anger of the "you are not allowed to reject me" variety. It was not Kurt's being gay that triggered the kiss, it was his being gay and *rejecting* the bully. Regrettably, there are an awful lot of teenage girls who will immediately identify with that scene, and not in a cute squishy romantic way.

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 7:50:44 PM


    And another reason that I do not believe that the kiss was taken as sexual assault by Kurt is that Kurt's reaction was for he and Blaine to reach out to the bully and tell him that he does not have to face coming to terms with his sexuality alone. Unfortunately, the bully is not yet close to ready to go down that road. Was the kiss inappropriate sexuality, yes. But every act of inappropriate sexuality is not sexual assault. I've been in a bar late at night on several occasions where I guy I was speaking to tried to put his tongue down my throat or started masturbating next to me at the urinal, but while inappropriate behavior, I never thought of these acts as sexual assault - it's just a drunk gay guy thing.

    Posted by: JimSur212 | Nov 10, 2010 8:07:17 PM

  15. I knew Darren Criss before the episode of glee from YouTube. If you look him up you'll find him playing a guitar and singing Disney tunes. You can also look up starkidpotter and see him acting in two musicals and a web series. He is supermegafoxyawesomehot and if you like him check it out.

    Posted by: Caitlin Devine | Nov 10, 2010 8:14:54 PM

  16. @JimSur212, I think its a poorly-socialized guy thing, there's no reason to limit it to gay guys. Douchebaggery is directed towards women every minute of every day.

    So like I said, this is pretty low on the scale of scarring events. Its still a GIGANTIC bummer for the very reason that Kurt stated: until then, he'd never been kissed (except by Brittany, which he didn't count). This is his initiation into adult intimacy, and it was against his will by someone he hates and fears. You can chalk it up to a clumsy attempt at courtship, but it should not just be written off for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that a *huge* chunk of the audience is teenage girls. You can argue the merit of the point I'm about to make, but I really would worry about any message they may take away from that, and the attitude that people can just do that to them and there's really nothing that they can or even *should* do about it. Its not your job, or my job, or anyone's job to be a passive recipient of other people's fucked up psychology.

    (And for the record, the two things you have described do in fact meet the legal criteria for sexual assault.)

    People react all kinds of ways to sexual aggression, up to and including marrying the person who raped them. Kurt's reaction after the fact wasn't welcoming, it was accusatory: "you did this to me, and I know why". I would be really disappointed if the writers turned that into a romance, because now they'd be pairing Kurt up with someone who reacts to stress with extreme violence (unless they want to tackle the issue of LGBT domestic violence, high school dating violence, both of which are dirty little secrets in the respective communities).

    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 10, 2010 9:01:52 PM

  17. "And so for the longest time when people asked me about Blaine ..." Huh? The character debuted a couple of days ago! Is our collective attention span so short now that two days equals “the longest time”?

    Even considering when the episode was shot - which was not many moons ago - it does not qualify as "the longest time".

    Of course, when you consider that the episode in question took place over the span of three days (check the dialogue) and the kids went from getting an assignment to full-on, stage-ready productions, I guess then two days would qualify as "the longest time".

    Posted by: John Merzetti | Nov 11, 2010 2:24:53 AM

  18. @NAUGHTYNOLA: Thanks for making me think. Trust, I get the domestic violence/sexual violence thing. You make repeated, excellent points. But I wonder if the paradigm is the same. The reaction formation depicted with Hamhock might be different from esteem/entitlement/control issues. I'd be wary of the reformation of a bully in any case, but I am willing to consider that it is possible. And wouldn't it, in fantasy, be great to imagine that Kurt's bully could become his biggest fan, and protector after he learned to accept himself and thus became genuinely contrite. But, yeah, the fantasy the the abuser will some day change is a sad factor in the cycle of violence. Facts to the contrary are why this isn't the best message to reinforce.

    Posted by: TJ | Nov 11, 2010 2:55:12 AM

  19. @TJ, thanks. I feel like I'm being too hamfisted about this (hur hur!) Your own point is quite succinct, though: the fairytale of someone violent changing their ways with the love of a good (wo)man is pervasive and dangerous, of which the grisly reality plays out on the news every single day. I would be very sad to see it reinforced in such a high-profile way.

    On a purely shallow level: I think Kurt can do better. The guy is a troglodyte.

    But hey if they do set Kurt up with an abusive partner, he can cut a bitch with his mad ninja skillz:


    Posted by: naughtylola | Nov 11, 2010 9:32:33 AM

  20. I question the judgement of casting a straight male in the role of gay leader as a role model. Otherwise his performance is great.

    Posted by: chadnocal | Nov 12, 2010 5:56:27 PM

  21. I have to say I'm a bit relieved that there is finally a gay character on television that isn't wearing Gucci, having a pose off, adopting asian babies, etc... Granted the meathead has issues but who wouldn't in this situation? His only perceptions of gays are Kurt and whatever is portrayed in the media (ie Will & Grace). It's one thing to show Kurt's struggle and process of coming out but if I were in the closet, I still wouldn't be able to relate to it. The jock, however, is someone I could easily see as myself and has the power to be very illuminating.

    This will be interesting to see played out. While I'm not a fan of Glee just due to horrible writing and farcical plots, I will keep a look out for this (and Darren Criss).

    Posted by: KJG | Nov 12, 2010 6:22:41 PM

  22. Darren Criss went to the same high school as me!! We might get to meet him

    Posted by: Carrie | Nov 12, 2010 7:37:07 PM

  23. I really like Glee and i think Criss is a very smart person. I like that he plays a gay character. Im stragiht and i simply adore gay men. I find them to be very amazing and bold

    Posted by: glenn | Apr 30, 2012 8:59:13 AM

  24. This is a bit fake because "Blaine" wouldn't make the mistake of saying his character is ahead of "Kurt" He's not, everyone is graduating except him, he's only a Junior... sorry

    Posted by: anonymous | May 9, 2012 6:49:13 PM

  25. I understand where Darren Criss is coming from. I kind of grew up like that, but somewhat a little different. My parents was apart and my mom raised me and taught everything.after she passed her side of my family raised which are mostly female. So I know how to treat a lady, even know how one might think. I'm into music and shows like glee because its hard for me to express my feelings out loud, but when I hear the right music everything become clear to me again. Throughout my school years everyone was my friend no matter what was their sexual orientation. I was the guy that fitted in with everybody

    Posted by: Tremaine | Oct 22, 2012 12:43:56 AM

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