Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It gets better, according to Glee.

This is the quintessential 2012 phenomenon: a blog post about Glee addressing the issue of bullying. And you were there.

As an full-on Dave Karofsky fan, I was kinda bummed to see Max Adler be shuffled off the Glee set last season. His quick cameo about four episodes ago, wherein he showed up at a gay bar dressed like his corny good ol' boy self, suddenly enlightened and happy because he now had an identity: he was a cub! The scene was glib and tied the loose ends way too neatly. I considered it a failed opportunity.

Then last week hit, and we saw Karofsky suddenly re-entering the picture as an actual gorilla (because subtlety never struck the Glee writers' minds), all ga-ga over Kurt. And again, I rolled my eyes. Not believable in the slightest. Doesn't matter that if I were in Kurt's place, I'd be awfully torn between the big lug and Mr. Johnny Angel Blaine. But my stomach tightened painfully when one of Karofsky's football teammates saw the two of 'em sitting at a restaurant together on VD, and called him out on it. It was all over the blogs the next day. A set up for a gay teen bullying suicide episode! And the commentariat rose up as one: the writers had better not fuck it up. Expectations were low, since Glee has been so wan this season.

Well, I'm thrilled to say that the "teen suicide episode" didn't suck. This episode was epic in its ambition. In its worst, most heavy-handed moments, Glee hits after-school-special territory. Not to say that this episode wasn't heavy-handed. But let's call a spade a spade: we are in the midst of a culture war, replete with taking sides, full-fledged attacks, and numerous injuries and casualties. Tonight, Glee fired a powerful salvo against those who maim and kill with hatred, intolerance, and homophobia. Since people who take this stance often don't think highly of Hollywood, the actual effects of this episode remain to be seen. But that it was shown on prime-time TV is astounding, and its message will resonate. (Keep in mind...it's only been 15 years since Ellen came out on her show, the first character to do so, and ABC had to place a parental warning at the beginning of that episode. Now, out gay characters are commonplace, even boring sometimes.)

So let's start off with what went right. This is Glee, so of course, you're gonna have the soundtrack to life's big moments. Including killing yourself, apparently. As tacky as that sounds, this moment was hit out of the park. Karofsky's fright upon seeing "FAG" spray-painted in pink on his football locker while his teammates looked on in derision was palpable, and played perfectly. The scene lasted long enough to make you squirm...and just sit in that for what felt like an eternity. Darren Criss singing his lungs out on "Cough Syrup" was a beautiful white boy teen angst moment courtesy of Coldplay channeled through Young the Giant. It provided a great foil to Karofsky's tears and anguish on seeing his Facebook page hijacked by classmates outing him and telling him to go back into the closet (which he ultimately did...to step on a chair and stick his neck through a noose made from his belt).

It was also really tough to see that Karofsky came up against rejection everywhere he went. His friends (assumedly all jocks) were his worst enemies. (Not much help that he was at a new school and probably had few friends there.) His best friend told him he never wanted to talk to him again. Kurt rejected him out of hand, then refused to answer his phone calls. And when he tried to hit on a guy during this episode, he was flatly dismissed because he happened to be overweight, and was even told to just stay in the closet. High school football linemen in Lima, Ohio can't run to their parents asking for help with this dilemma, because they will be told they have a disease that hopefully can be cured.

On the other hand, there's always the Hollywood risk that issues will be resolved in one neat, 30-minute episode, and life will go on. Here, everyone felt remorse, shock, all the appropriate emotions. Kurt went to the hospital to atone for the sin of turning Karofsky down when he asked him out, then not returning his (nine!) phone calls. But in the eyes of Glee, apparently all it takes to make yourself feel better after a suicide attempt is to click your heels three times, say "there's no place like the future," and imagine yourself there. Cue holding hands, smiling through tears, and pledges to be friends, and...scene. (I can't be totally cynical about it though...that scene did effectively wring a few tears from me. And yes, people in that scenario need all the help and hope they can get. But it should be a bit more realistic. Oh...except this is Glee. GAAAH!)

The "peanut butter" scene was also too trite and set the stage for the aforementioned tidy ending. Schu's admittance that he had also tried to commit suicide did have some merit: yeah, it was simply for being caught cheating on a test, but that was his weak point; everybody has one, and they should be respected.

And the music during sectionals? Not much really hit me, aside from the madrigal singers...I'm such a sucker for polyphony. Seriously. Also, I gotta give it up to Amber Riley for some great acting during "Stronger." I'm biased, but bitch can do no wrong in my eyes.

So...on to the next hot topic of 2012: teenage texting while driving! Again, wielded with the grace of an elephant attempting pliés.

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