‘Glee’ Sparks Controversy With ‘First Time’ Episode

Nov 8, 2011 4:04pm

“Glee,” the popular musical comedy-drama about a fictional high school, is no stranger to controversy, and today’s episode featuring two teenage couples — one gay, one straight — losing their virginity drew fire even before it hit the air.

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FOX

In the episode titled “The First Time,” heterosexual couple Finn and Rachel and homosexual couple Kurt and Blaine consummated their relationships. EW’s Pop Watch called the episode “incredibly moving,” saying the sex scenes were “handled very delicately.”

But the Parents Television Council didn’t think so, calling the show “reprehensible” and the Fox network reckless for “celebrating teen sex.”

FOX declined ABCNews.com’s request for comment.

“There are opportunities and occasions when programs have dealt responsibly with teen sex,” Melissa Henson, PTC’s communications director told ABCNews.com. “I’m not convinced that ‘Glee’ is that program.”

Henson said “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy made a storyline for “shock purposes, not educational” ones.

Though Henson dismissed the gender of the two couples as “irrelevant,” the coupling of Kurt and Blaine marks a new milestone in television.

“I can’t think of another network series that’s taken a teenage gay relationship so far or been so progressive,” EW’s Pop Watch said.

Liz Pearle, editor-in-chief of the nonpartisan Common Sense Media, said homosexuality is part of our culture, regardless of how we feel about it.

“It’s the third rail of discussion points,” she said. “And it needs discussing, whatever our values are about it.”

Pearle said the episode presents an opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about all aspects of sexuality, because they are already talking about it anyway.

“Our teens are growing up in a culture so sexualized, whether or not they participate,” Pearle said. “In high school they are thinking about what their first time is going to be like. The discussion is very much in a high schooler’s mind. FOX has teed up a conversation for families that kids are having on their own.”

Henson said that rather than creating a conversation, the show plays into research from the University of North Carolina that found television acts as a “sexual super peer” for teenagers, exerting pressure on them to make decisions they are not ready for. At the same time, she pointed to a Kaiser study that showed most kids get their information on sexual health from television.

Pearle agreed that television can be a super peer. All the more reason she said for parents to talk to kids about the messages they are getting from media and teach them how to think critically about them.

By now, star Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, is used to the flak the show receives.

“I absolutely expect to hear from (watchdog groups). It’s funny, I always go into this instant panic state whenever they tell me about upcoming episodes, because we always do so many delicate situations on the show,” Colfer told EW recently. “But then I get the script and we shoot it and it’s always handled so well that I never really had any reason to worry about it.”

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