Glee star Darren Criss divides fans after claiming he is ‘culturally queer’

‘I grew up in San Francisco in the Nineties. I watched men die,’ Criss said about his experience

Maira Butt
Wednesday 01 May 2024 12:22 BST
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Glee's Teenage Dream cover ft. Darren Criss

Darren Criss has claimed to be “culturally queer” while discussing the “f***ing privilege” of playing a gay character as a straight man on hit musical TV series Glee.

The 37-year-old actor has appeared in a number of high-profile queer parts throughout his career, including Blaine Anderson in Glee, Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, and Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Criss previously told The Independent he was cautious about discussing the topic of playing LGBTQ+ roles as he had been “s*** on” for doing so, having been previously misquoted saying he would never play such parts again.

The Little White Lie actor appears to have overcome his hesitation as he announced his identification with the queer community on a cultural level.

“I have been so culturally queer my whole life,” Criss told a crowd at the 2024 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.

“Not because I’m trying – you know, actually, I was gonna say not because I’m trying to be cool but I’m gonna erase that, because I am trying to be cool. The things in my life that I have tried to emulate, learn from and be inspired by are 100 per cent queer as f***.”

His remarks appear to have divided fans as some accused Criss of appropriating queer culture.

“All he had to say was that he is an ally! He doesn’t have to appropriate us,” said one person. “As a heterosexual man, he will always be able to live his best life with a female partner anywhere in this world, free from persecution or execution.”

Meanwhile others said the actor’s comments had been taken out of context and misconstrued, but ignored that he had been a longstanding ally of the community.

“He has always been a fierce ally for the LGBTQ+ community,” said another. “What Darren said in full context were respectful and beautiful words towards the LGBTIQ community. He is an ally.”

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Others felt backlash to his comments stemmed from a misunderstanding.

“It’s an inappropriate thing to say, but he is not meaning it in a bad way. He just needs more education to understand why he should not say it.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Criss unpacked the influence that queer culture had on him as he was growing up in San Francisco, adding that he had “watched men die”.

Darren Criss has previously been cautious about speaking about playing LGBTQ+ roles
Darren Criss has previously been cautious about speaking about playing LGBTQ+ roles (Getty Images)

“It was in queer communities that I’ve found people that I idolise, that I want to learn something from,” Criss continued.

“And I’d say that’s a gross generalisation, that’s a lot of things and a lot of people. But I grew up in San Francisco in the Nineties. I watched men die.

“There was an awareness of the gay experience that was not a foreign concept to me. So, it was a narrative that I cared deeply about.”

Criss plays the openly gay lead singer of the Dalton Academy Warblers
Criss plays the openly gay lead singer of the Dalton Academy Warblers (Fox/Glee)

The actor concluded that playing an openly gay character such as Blaine in Glee had been a “f***ing privilege, and I love talking about it and I’m so grateful I got to do it.”

He added that his portrayal as the lead singer of the Dalton Academy Warblers was important representation for underdogs in general.

“Regardless of the fact that I’m a straight kid. That has value. For anyone who’s been an underdog, we all know, in any shape or form – sexual, religious, biological – it has value because there’s going to be a lot of people who see that and say, ‘OK, I can now understand this in a context that maybe I wasn’t able to before.’”

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