Characters with dominant identity markers are also present in Glee. When it comes to their identity markers, these dominant characters are often viewed as privileged.
To be privileged means that you have an item of value that is “denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do” (Johnson, Privilege pg 21). In other words people who are privileged are given opportunities and advantages that tend to make their lives a little bit easier simply because of their gender or the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, privilege can be a rather complicated idea and often times it goes unnoticed by those who are given the advantages. As Wildman and Davis said, the characteristics held by and the advantages given to the privilege group often become what society see as the “norm” and because of this people do not see their opportunities as “special” or as “limited” to who receives them (pg 53). They either believe that they deserve them or that everyone else experiences them as well.
According to Johnson, privilege comes in two forms, as unearned advantages or conferred dominance. Unearned advantages arise when entitlements that all people should have are only received by a select group of people. This includes “feeling safe in public places” and having one’s opinion valued (Privilege pg 23). On the other hand, conferred dominance is when one group is given power over another. This one is more difficult to see because it is not about giving something to one group verse another, conferred dominance deals with feelings of superiority over other people.
An example of conferred dominance could be seen in a man telling his wife what to do around the house, but not listening when she asks him to do something. The notion of telling a wife what do is felt to be okay by a husband because they see themselves as superior since they are the man.
Both types of privilege can be seen in Glee. An unearned advantaged can be seen when Kurt no longer feels safe walking through the school hallways due to the fear that Karofsky will torment him or slam him into the closest locker. This fear is something that no one should have to feel. Because of this, the characters that are not effected by this feeling of fear (since they are of a dominant sexual orientation; heterosexual) have the privilege of feeling safe. This applies to Karofsky because even though he is actually homosexual he is perceived as straight, as well as Kurt’s step brother Finn. Neither of the characters have ever once thought that walking through the hallways could be frightening.
Conferred dominance in shown when Mike’s dad orders him to quit the Glee Club as well as the school musical in order to pull his grades up after receiving an “asian F”—an “A-“. Although I have not discussed this identity marker before, this event deals with age. Due to the fact that Mike’s dad is significantly older than him he feels superior and believes he has the right to tell Mike how to live his life even though MIke is 18 years old. (Yes I agree some of it probably had to do with the fact that he is his dad, but the example can definitely be applied here.)
Johnson, A.G. (2006). Privilege, oppression, and difference. In privilege, power, and difference, 2nd ed (pp. 12-40). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Johnson, A.G. (2006). How systems of privilege work. In privilege, power, and difference, 2nd ed (pp. 90-107). Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Wildman, S.M. , & Davis, A.D. (2000). Language and silence: Making systems of privilege visible. In M. Adams, W.J. Blumenfeld, R. Castaneda, H.W. Hackman, M.L. Peters, and X. Zuniga (Eds.), Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.