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That's Rich: A Kurt Assessment of Glee

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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?!?

This is Rich

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.

Karofsky vs. Kurt

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.

Do you agree? Disagree? Write to me at matt@tvfanatic.com and/or follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Is Ryan Murphy gay? I'm pretty sure he is. If he isn't, he is tortured in some way because the ridiculous amount of screentime we get for Kurt to repeat the same SL is a joke (the Finn/Burt yawn drama) and I just dont care about it; people who aren't gay get bullied! People who dont have a clear cut motive for bullying are bullies (closeted gay gay bullies outwardly gay guy) and I dont want to feel sorry for/understand a bully. Rachel is bullied constantly; but thats ok because she's both white and straight - if she wasnt either of these things then it'd be an issue of racism/homophobia. So over the hypocrisy of this show.

Sabrinavanderwoodsen

@Keith Vlasak Hey Keith, first of all I'm really sorry to hear about that stuff you wrote about in your post. It's absolutely horrible, and no-one deserved that. I'm glad to hear that you've got some good friends in your life too! Kurt/Karofsky - I love Glee, but the multiple storylines are sending me into a headspin. I think with the bullying storyline - unfortunately most people don't realise it's happening, unless it's a Kurt-type situation where it gets to a really extreme point which is incredibly sad. I always think Rachel gets picked on an incredible amount, and by Finn too (who is an utter dick IMO). It's not meant to be a preachy show, but I think Glee is suffering from RM syndrome (great 1st season - and then the slide begins). Bullying is wrong on ALL levels, but I do think that the audience is meant to see that bullying isn't just extremes too, and the fact that we're all talking about the other bullying that happens means we do notice it. Maybe that's the message here, to not turn a blind eye until it's too late.

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Completely disagree - part of the nature of this show is to leave things hanging, and NOT be some kind of show where there is a framed story about something topical. The best that Glee does is surprise us (Kurt and his dad, for instance) with a reversal. I think they handled it just right for the tone. Karofsky is a bully, forced to Glee Club to play football, likes it, rebels, sees joy from the sideline and then joins in and plays the game. The expectation is that he 'learns' and is apologetic, but no. He isn't. It's not realistic nor helpful to either the story as art or the story as social commentary to expect them to provide some kind of 'happy ending' here. Karsofky does not apologize, and has not changed significantly - at least in this episode. Perhaps his real problem actually lies somewhere else and that somewhere else has yet to be revealed. The show runners and writers clearly did not see a payoff in this episode - I suspect there will be one further into the season, perhaps, in conjunction with Kurt's return to McKinley High (he can't play second fiddle at Dalton forever, can he?)

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Im not agreeing with glee and disagreeing with everyone else but this show is not a drama it is a comedy. So as serious as they can be about an issue they have to have some comedy in it. Which is why I think no one responds to the other bullying (rachel) because then people might think the show is taking a too serious approach and not having enough comedy. I mean I was picked on in school too and no one said anything. Now with Kurt there was actually physical being applied but with no other bullying is something being done I think because they dont find it as serious. My boyfriend for the first time watched it with me last night and asked why no one gets suspended for doing the whole slushy thing and I said because it is not a real school its a t.v show its funny. If they start getting to serious they will turn into a 90210 or a Degrassi type show and I really do not want to see that happen!!!

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The writers are too busy propelling a million different plotlines out of their butts to realize they are letting their "main" one fall flat on itself. I blame it on them needing to milk their popularity for all its worth. I'm trying very hard to keep the faith by reasoning that when Karofsky does come out, he's going to deal with bullying of his own. And it'll be the kind you mentioned because chances are his own friends will turn against him. If the writers do it right (how likely is this?), it can send a pretty powerful message because yeah, it does seem like it was easier to make Karofsky gay instead of ignorant/unaccepting. Thing is though, Kurt doesn't matter to jocks and the jocks don't matter to Kurt. Karoksky, on the other hand, was one of THEM right? In the Thriller episode, even the Hockey guys were surprised to see him on the other side. When they find out that he's gay, all hell is going to break lose. If they go with this storyline, Kurt will play the role of the rock, the solid figure that can help Karofsky and the two of them will most likely battle it out together. I really really want to believe that RM knows what he is doing and is tackling the bullying issue in his own way because if what I mentioned is how he plays on playing it out, he can really hit a lot of bases simultaneously. I am willing to bet on it even because he is trying to set himself to be the pioneer of breaking "gay" into television. I don't know if this is blind faith or not. He definitely drags stuff out way longer than necessary fore sure. I hope they do bring to light that what they do to Rachel is bullying too. I still believe that the writers are the ones that lose sight of Rachel's character up to this point in the season because they were trying to jumpstart so many other characters. Her character completely stopped making sense and started going all over the place. The show itself seems to be having problems figuring itself out overall...like defining what kind of show it wants to be because there are times that it borders on plain ridiculousness. It's putting a lot of caps on itself and its potential...but thats a post for another time.

Matt-richenthal

@Guest: Even if you want to label Glee as "just a show," this is simply poor storytelling. Either bullying is a big deal or it isn't. But Ryan Murphy has made it very clear (the quote I listed was given to the NY Times) in his stance that this focus on bullying is absolutely meant to carry weight and go beyond mere entertainment. This is the creator of the series speaking, not me. Viewers can obviously choose to look at Glee however they want; but I take issue with the result of what is supposedly a grand ambition.

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This week marks the point in time when I've stopped loving GLEE, even though I still like to watch it. The music is fun, banal and 14-year-old-crowd pleasing as it may be. Though they spend so much time trying to get the biggest current hits as quick as possible (they are covering an unreleased single by Lady Gaga pretty soon.. What the hell is the point of covering a song that hasn't come out yet?!), that they miss the songs that actually passed the test of time. 5-10-20 year-old song that you still enjoy no matter how young you were when you first listened to them and how much your musical taste has evolved since. And I'm not talking about the obvious classics that obviously get the GLEE-treatment (gleetment?!) on a regular basis. I'm talking about songs that we, the non-teenage portion (or their parents) of Glee-audience, grew up with.
Anyway, the above is the feeling that kicked off the process, but what really drove me over the edge (and over GLEE), besides Ryan Murphy thinking way to much of himself ("Kings of Leon" incident, and pretentiously declaring that the show deals with social issues when in fact it just toys with them for ratings - bullies are (a) very hot (topic) right now, lets be honest) - the show became yet-another-teen-show this week, ironically - after slightly ridiculing One Tree Hill. Everybody sleeps around with everybody, any meaning to any story (Finn and Rachel) is altered to fit whatever crazy shtick they try to sell at this moment, characters transform completely with a weak context at best (over confidence for Finn?! the whole point was his constant awkward conflicted manner and what the glee club does for it)...
It took a season and a half for the most original show around in a while to become just a typical commercialized teen-hit.

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Kurt not reacting: I think the writers didn't write it in because they just didn't think about it. Obviously the Kurt and Dave thing is either not going to be an issue for a while. When Glee writers write in a foreshadow they do it at the end of the episode not the middle. They just aren't ready for the whole thing to be addressed yet. I'm sure there will be an event that will bring the whole thing with Dave together, but at this point in time they weren't thinking about how are we going to have this "battle" between Kurt and Dave. Bullying Issue: I live in a small town that most of the people over 35 think that being gay is wrong, but in my high school we had several openly gay guys and girls, they weren't bullied or ridiculed which isn't how it is everywhere i am aware, but there should be a line drawn somewhere. I fully support McKinley becoming a no tolerance school, and I agree that bullying has become a joke on the show. Honestly, the ND have been very hard on Rachel in the past, I really only think one episode she was truly annoying. But they were sometimes cruel and I think that needs to be addressed. I mean the least the Principal could do was send someone to this thing called DETENTION, or ISS or something. My high school wasn't a no tolerance school but if you shoved someone or even got up in someone's face there were repercussions. Several times the the glee kids/ football players have gotten into fist fights. You did that and 90% of schools would do something more than just separate the two people and say work it out with words. I think the writers need to take a look at maybe putting in a storyline that the bullying gets so bad the parents complain and the principal is forced to put in cameras, it could be funny, but something is done about it. Oh and 99% of school boards would fire a teacher like sue regardless of her National Titles, but what fun would that be for Glee... We have to remember that this is a TV show, and it isn't always how real life would go all the time.

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I had mixed feelings on this episode. I think the writers are showing that "two wrongs don't make a right" or that showing the bully some kindness may change him into a better person. Bullies are usually insecure or have been bullied themselves. I don't condone any kind of bullying, but we don't want to make things worse, do we? Some people just need to be shown some kindness. I think this world could benefit from that.

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After the last couple of Glee reviews I was getting tired of hearing the continuous ragging on the bullying storyline. But now that you've explained yourself so clearly I really understand your side. Bullying is a really broad topic and your right covering it from only one angle is dumb. Either do it properly or not at all.
I see that the story has not be attended to with great detail or thought. And yeah it probably only was written the way it was because of the recent attention to bullying towards gay teens in the media. However frustrating the storyline may be I am a person who likes a little bit of cheese and cliche in a story. So I am not bothered by it quite as much as you.
The last episode was bar far the best of the season. No tributes or deep politically charged message. Just a good old fashion character driven episode with great song choices.

Glee Quotes

Beiste: Dr. Jones said the new end of world date is September 27, 2014
Brittany: That gives us like two whole years of giving love and brutal honesty to everyone we know.

It's not the broken dreams that break us. It's the ones we don't dare to dream.

Will
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