At halftime of the conference championship game on Glee's Super Bowl episode, Dave Karofsky watched from the sideline as members of the school's singing group and football team came together to entertain fans.
The burly lineman was surprised to find himself jealous of their performance. Also inspired by the fact that he wouldn't be allowed to play in the second half unless he joined in, Karofsky entered the zombie-themed fray.
He danced. He sung. He basked in the cheers from the crowd, was welcomed back to the team and bonded with quarterback Finn. This all took place in front of Kurt, who stood and smiled from the bleachers and all I could think was: HUH?!?
A quick Glee primer: Karofsky spent weeks tormenting and bullying Kurt until, finally, the openly gay student feared for his safety and transferred schools. We haven't seen much of Karosky since, except for his occasional taunting of the glee club.
During his interactions with Kurt, it also came out that Karofsky was actually gay, a development I frowned upon from the outset because it pigeonholed the issue of bullying. There are absolutely cases of closeted homosexuals taking out their confusion and frustrations on other, like-minded individuals.
But there are also many other types of bullying, and Glee is yet to address any of them. This isn't just a gay problem, and it certainly isn't just a gay-on-gay problem.Even more troubling? The show has seemed perfectly fine with bullying in almost every other case. On the Christmas episode, a teacher threw a shoe at New Directions, simply because they were singing in front of her class.
On this same Super Bowl installment, Artie (a wheelchair-bound character) had a slushee dumped over his head. In the hallway. In front of everyone.
No authority figures were called in either time. Instead, jokes were made (the bullies quipped to Artie about being "equal opportunity" offenders), songs were sung, nothing remotely resembling the fallout from Karofsky's menacing of Kurt took place. There's been missed opportunity after missed opportunity for Glee to tackle the broad issue of bullies lashing out at those they perceive to be weak. Not because they are gay and not because the subject is gay. But simply because it's high school, students are young and insecure and this is how they compensate.
So, back to the halftime show and game. What the heck must Kurt have been thinking, watching his best friends dance merrily around with his sworn enemy? And all because Karofsky actually enjoyed the routine and/or simply wanted to play football again. It's not as though he showed any remorse for how he treated Kurt. Every reason he had for being out there was 100% self-serving.
Yet Finn invited him to join New Directions full-time after the championship, the same invitation Will had extended earlier in the episode. Yes, Finn at least mentioned an obligatory apology to Kurt, but not because Karofsky had earned any kind of redemption or arrived at any conclusion other than this: he likes both singing and football. Moreover... Beiste can kick Karofsky off the team for not joining the glee club - but he receives no punishment for harassing Kurt? I just ask for consistency, especially on such a pressing topic.
What was the message Glee was trying to send here? Considering Ryan Murphy has sold the show's bullying storyline as possessing "social significance" and "weight," I was incredibly disappointed in this outcome. It just didn't make any sense.
In truth, this Tuesday's episode of Glee tackled bullying in a far more successful manner, without even mentioning the topic. There's no real way to get through to the bully himself, as the reasons behind their tactics are too far-ranging and too difficult to sum up in one example, such as the show tried to do with Karofsky.
But Glee could break through with the victims of bullying. Consider the realization Rachel came to when she belted out "Firework." It's okay to be alone. Never define yourself by the behavior or feelings of another. That's the sort of mantra many troubled teens out there need to hear. It sure beats whatever muddled message Glee has tried to send with Karofsky.
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