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That's Rich: A Kurt Assessment of Glee

by at . Comments

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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I agree that Glee is dropping the ball with the bullying storyline. As soon as Karofsky was revealed to be a closet homosexual I think the story was diminished. This is an important story with everything that is in the news right now. Glee is in a place where they can tell an important story and it seems that they are shying away from an important story for the sake of a musical number or a laugh. They are better than that.

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I have to agree with you. There are many instances where bullying has been overlooked. However the real issue here is how completely useless Will has become. I feel like he's become the Rufus/Vanessa of glee (okay maybe not vanessa) but he is almost deserving of his own useless scale in the glee round table. It's as if he's become the spokesperson for global issues. I've given up on glee making any sense, one day bullying is terrible and the next the club is bashing rachel? Kurt? And the comment rachel made to santanna Tuesday was ridiculous...

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@Jeffrey Kirkpatrick Regarding your saying: I had someone in defense of Glee's mixed messages say to me "There's a night and day difference between getting a slushie in the face, or being thrown in a dumpster and actually having your life threatened." To that I say "Tell that to the kid on the receiving end of any of it." I guess you've never had your life threatened by anyone you might think meant it. I'm ugly (and if I ever wanted to consider it might not be so bad to be so ugly, my school mates certainly made sure such thoughts were fleeting at the very best). I don't want to go on there, but figure you get the point. I've also mostly been a manager/supervisor anywhere I've worked. Meaning ... I've also had my life threatened 4 times I can recall off the top of my head -- once by somebody I fired who I didn't take seriously, once by a friend who only said he'd kill me if I ever became famous (and he was crazy enough to give me pause), once by someone who pulled a knife when I wouldn't let him borrow my car (and who was disarmed by a couple of coworkers standing right there by the pop machine when he approached me), and lastly by a guy who showed me the gun he had in his pocket and only obliquely suggested I might find myself shot in the back of the head sometime. So, Jeffrey, and I do want to be sure to admit I did have a few very good friends by the time I graduated (and that really made a difference for me) ... but, I hated high school and have never gone to a class reunion and have had classmates who would never say a kind word to me be friendly when I've run into them and been asked to show up for a reunion and how it would be different now. Ok? But it is much much worse to have someone threaten to kill you when you have reason to think they just might be insane enough to really do it. That's a much higher level of bullying. Believe me!

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I'm glad that this appears here and the bullying issue and how Glee is handling it isn't going away. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! But then, I do think they've been a bit realistic in the way Kurt doesn't fight every battle there is (like sit in the stands knowing he's not going to say anything even if he imagines what he might say) -- and they've stressed how he doesn't stand up for himself at every opportunity in conversations with his father. It could be a lot of it is the actor's take (and one more reason he deserves the awards he gets), but I also think the writers/producers also are aware that most of the time when people are bullied, they try very hard not to do anything that will goad the bully into even worse.

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I disagree, as much as Glee is trying to get across the impact of bullying, its just a show. While I can respect the fact that it does have a cultural impact it is not a public service announcment, it is meant for entertainment and Ryan Murphy and the writers came up with this particular storyline because this is what happens in certain cases. You can't expect them to try and portray every type of bullying situation. Again it is just a show meant to be watched and enjoyed.

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Lol. A tad long sorry :)

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I respectively disagree somewhat Matt. I'm feeling a lot of angst from you towards the Kurt/ Karofsky storyline :) And although I agree there has been a heavy focus on it, has been handle delicately and that Kurt didn't seem to mind Karofsky dancing with the Glee club, I think that there is a realism to the way the writers have handled the situation. Kurt seems to be a much stronger, independent and gathered individual since being at Dalton. I'm sure he by no means likes Dave or would befriend him but I'm hoping that the writers perhaps are trying to show growth in Kurt's character. If not, then yes, they are hopeless :) Here's me hoping that, that is what they were trying to present at the football game.
I also disagree with your point of bullying only being addressed through gay bullying. :) I think that you make a tad ridiculous argument. I hope we're watching the same show but I can recall countless episodes with bullying being addressed (other than that of Dave/ Kurt) whilst also keeping a realistic approach on the subject of bullying in high school. I don't know what High School you went to but at mine I can surely admit to dozens of times when I victimized and also times when I was the victim: with no consequences for the perpetrator. Everything needs to be taken into consideration Matt. Yes the slushying (Is that a word?) gets the blind eye turned on it, it seems but when the footballers got slushied, Bieste definitely found it to be 'just desserts'.
We both know that the biggest bully in the school is Sue and without a doubt the most useless, abnoxious and 'in the clouds' teacher is Will.
I adore your passion and interest in Glee but also believe that we're at different stand points. I'm all for continuity, justice/ happy endings and good conquering evil but also love the humour of the show and at times where something happens not the way I envisage or necessarily agree with, I simply appreciate the writer's perspective and try and rationalize with the idea. Something that we are clearly doing differently. :) But hey, what's the point of everyone having the same view?
Cheers,
Oz

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i agree with this..the way rachel is treated by most of the other members of glee is completely ignored and yes she is annoyed but it goes way too far sometimes. artie being ganged up on was horrible. and it made no sense that kurt would stand there watching the people/person who made his life hell whilst singing away happily. i think the root of these problems comes down to the writers failure to maintain consistency and evenness in their storytelling, instead leaping from one 'big issue' to the next, using bullying as a comic device in some cases and to ram home a message in the case of kurt, who is clearly a favourite

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I think when the show began they wanted to show that the Glle vluc was supposed to be this dorky, uncool thing to do and they did by showing forms of bullying the members. I don't believe they neccessarily itnended on makign bullying a major part of the show. I think that they received a lot of feedback from the public really liking Kurt's character and they wanted to delve deeper into his life. I think, as someone pointed out before, that because many of the writers and people working on the show are gay so this is an easier topic for them to handle. It's never really bothered me because it's worked for the show in creating so many different layers. By focusing on Kurt's storyline they were able to spin all of the stuff with Kurt and Finn and their parents getting together. I adore Burt Hummell and their relationship and I've loved seeing him stand up for Kurt in so many ways. The trouble Kurt's had with Karofsky has worked in with the relationship he has with Finn. We've seen Finn's character deal with this issue by making him choose ebtween his popularity and someone who is now a part of his family. But why they chose to make Karofsky gay as the reason he is bullying, I don't know. When I first saw that epsiode I was shocked and actually found it interesting. Maybe that's all they wanted, the shock value. Ya know what I never understood? Remember when Finn and Puck slashed the tires of all the Vocal Adreniline members? They were almost arrested for that crime and yet noone did anything when Vocal Adrenaline egged Rachael. I'm sorry but I think it's much worse for a person to be assaulted then for cars to be vandalized. I understand Mr. Shue not wanting the club to go after VA but he should have goen to their school and complained. It was barely addressed.

Matt richenthal

@SuperIdole: You seem to have corrected yourself in the end, but I wasn't asking what Kurt should do. It's an overall take on how the show has handled a sensitive, pressing topic: so far, it's made bullying solely a gay-on-gay issue, and it redeemed Karosfky - in the eyes of Will and Finn, at least - without him showing an ounce of remorse.

Glee Quotes

I'm gonna miss all of you. I love you guys.

Puck

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.

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