Glee Actor Darren Criss (A Straight Man) Reckons He Identifies As “Culturally Queer”

Glee Actor Darren Criss (A Straight Man) Reckons He Identifies As “Culturally Queer”
Image: Sources: Them & E! Online

Straight actor Darren Criss raised eyebrows this week when he said at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment that he’s been ‘culturally queer’ his whole life in an extended statement about his role on Glee. 

Criss portrayed the gay character Blaine Anderson on Glee from 2010-2015, a character whose blossoming romance with fellow queer character Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) drew much attention and positivity across the show’s run. 

Speaking on a panel at C2E2 about his career, Criss responded to a question about what it was like playing Blaine on Glee: “I have been so culturally queer my whole life… 90% of the shit in my life I have tried to emulate, learn from and be inspired by is 100% queer as fuck.”

“These are people that I idolise, that I want to learn something from. And obviously it’s a gross generalisation – that’s a lot of things, a lot of people – but I grew up in San Francisco in the 90s,” he continued. 

“I watched men die around me… there was an awareness of the gay experience that was not a foreign concept to me. So it was a narrative I cared deeply about.”

Continuing in his comment, Criss said that he felt no ownership over the role, and is deeply appreciative of the chance he got to portray a TV relationship many had never seen before.

“In many ways, I’m glad it was me because it was a thing I really liked showing. It meant a great deal to me and it meant a great deal to other people,” he said. 

“Because when people say they were affected by that show or that relationship, it’s not because of me, it’s because of that relationship on TV and the risks that people took to put that on TV.”

“It has value because there’s going to be a lot of people who see that and say ‘Okay, I can now understand this in a context that maybe I wasn’t able to before.’ It was a fucking privilege, and I love talking about it and I’m so grateful I got to do it.”

Response from fans and critics 

The Glee star’s choice of words were widely shared around, both in the media and by fans on X (formerly Twitter). 

Louis Chilton of The Independent felt that the term ‘culturally queer’ was inappropriate, even while acknowledging Criss’ long-term support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Ultimately, the very idea of ‘cultural queerness’ as being meaningfully distinct or separable from actual lived queerness suggests a decidedly unqueer understanding of the world,” Chilton writes.  

However, many fans claimed that Criss was being taken out of context and that his full statement was respectful and nice, and that only focusing on the ‘culturally queer’ comment is disingenous. 

User Captain Poppins said:  

Others pointed out how he spoke at length about his widespread admiration for the queer community, and repeatedly said it was a privilege to have played Blaine. 

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