Over the past two years, Glee has become a cultural phenomenon, spawning more than 100 iTunes singles and turning its young stars into household names.
None of the actors has experienced quite so dramatic a rise to stardom as 20-year-old Chris Colfer, who plays gay teen Kurt Hummel.
The significance of the character has not gone unnoticed in the media, with American GLBTI media monitoring organisation GLAAD praising Kurt’s storylines in the show for contributing positively to the visibility of gay characters on television.
However, while queer teenage characters on television are few and far between, those who do feature prominently in mainstream shows are often desexualised, with storylines focusing exclusively on homophobia-related issues.
For the last two years of the show Kurt has fit this bill, and although the character’s sexuality has never been shied away from in Glee, up until recently he was one of the only main characters in the show never to have been in an on-screen relationship.
The introduction of openly gay character Blaine (played by Darren Criss) in the show’s second season raised hopes that this might change, and tonight it finally does, when Kurt and Blaine share a passionate on-screen kiss.
Same-sex kisses on commercial television are rare enough, let alone those between teenage men.
The much publicised kiss comes on the heels of last week’s episode, which tackled gay teen sexuality in a sex talk between Kurt and his father Burt, a role which garnered actor Mike O’Malley an Emmy nomination.
The frank father-son talk dealt with the emotional ramifications of sex for gay teens, a bold topic for prime time television.
As with the kiss, Glee pulls it off.
While the show is clearly invested in tackling some very serious issues facing queer youth head on, it is finally addressing concerns that it had largely failed to acknowledge its gay male characters as sexual people.
We can only hope that these developments in Glee may be a sign that gay visibility in mainstream media is becoming about more than just homophobia.
info: Tune in to Channel Ten tonight (Monday, March 21) to watch Glee at 7.30pm.