Okay okay, I – like anybody else on the planet – can agree that Glee (although is definitely one of my guilty pleasures) gets a lot of things wrong. It tried to tackle too many different issues over its six seasons, and at times it didn’t always hit the mark, even though I’m sure the writers had good intentions. However, one of the things it got so incredibly right, and something that is often overlooked when discussing the show, is the relationship between Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) and his father Burt (Mike O’Malley). In fact, I would go as far as to say that Burt is one of the best written characters on the show.
The thing that makes Burt so brilliant and so important, is the way in which he responds to his son’s sexuality. Burt Hummel is a man who loves his son no matter what- and though this shouldn’t be at all a rarity on TV, it can be viewed as such, because LGBT storylines – especially ones involving coming out – are often met with tragedy and woe. An example of this can even be seen with other plots within Glee, such as Santana’s coming out in Season 3 which resulted in her being disowned by her grandmother. However, Burt is shown to be supportive of his son, even when he struggles to understand him, which happens often.
Admittedly, in the first few episodes of the show’s debut season, there are references to Burt struggling with Kurt’s more feminine tendencies, but that’s to be expected – Burt is depicted as a typical ‘macho’ mid-western man. As soon as Kurt opens up to his Dad about his sexuality, Burt’s character development becomes a journey not necessarily of acceptance, since he accepts Kurt from the beginning, but of learning how to push his son to achieve his full potential. Burt does exactly that – he fights for his son to have the opportunities he deserves. Even though he doesn’t quite understand the appeal of the glee club, he will do his best to support it because he cares about his son’s interests. He will complain to the principal so that Kurt can audition for a female solo; he will raise money so that the school has funds for the musical; he will get up on stage and dance to Beyonce to make his son smile. Also, let us not forget the time that Burt kicked Finn out his house for using a homophobic slur; one that he admits to having used himself in his youth.
Burt’s response to the developing relationship between Kurt and Blaine over the series is also great, because again – although this is something that is out of his depth – he is willing to put those things aside for the love of his son. When Blaine comes to ask Burt for permission to propose to Kurt, he does say no, but that has nothing to do with their sexuality. Instead he uses the argument of age, and you know that this isn’t homophobic bias, because it’s the exact same response he had as when his stepson Finn decided to propose to Rachel.
The thing with Burt is that although he doesn’t always get it right, he is always willing to learn. He is always willing to be proven wrong so that he is growing in his understanding of his son and the LGBT community as a whole. This is so important. It’s important for LGBT youth because they see that parents can learn and that even if it seems that they don’t have a clue, if they love you, they will be willing to. It is also important as a lesson in tolerance and humility for heterosexual people. We can all learn a lesson from Burt Hummel- and that lesson is that it’s okay to not always understand. It’s okay to ask questions. Do whatever you need to so that you are growing into a more understanding and empathetic person.