Powerful episode last night on Glee for gay football player Dave Karofsky
I had to put some generic title on this post because of …
SPOILER ALERT: if you have not seen the Glee episode from last night (Season 3, Episode 14) titled “On My Way” and if you do not want to be spoiled, stop reading.
In making the usual rounds through my Facebook and Twitter feeds this morning, I quickly found out that I had missed something big on Glee yesterday—and it involved Dave Karofsky, the former football bully that we all discovered was gay in the early part of season 2.
I have not kept up with the show, but I do know the Karofsky character, played by Max Adler, has had a recurring (though, not consistent) role on the show and that he has gone through quite an evolution since his days of being a slushy-throwing bully. He had apologized to Kurt, tried to reform, faced the pressures of being in the closet, transferred schools (I think), and was started to get comfortable in his skin (at one point he discovered and announced that he was a “bear cub”). [If any Gleek wants to correct and/or fill in those details for me, let me know.]
Fast forward to this week’s episode. Knowing a bit of the background and that something worthy of blowing up my timelines involved Karofsky, I had to check it out.
I was treated to one of the most intense few minutes of a television show that I’ve ever witnessed. Juxtaposed against Blaine, played by Darren Criss, belting out a version of “Cough Syrup,” originally performed by Young the Giant, Karofsky is outed, confronted by his entire football team, and then, well, just watch.
Watch the segment [you may need to authorize a Windows Media plug-in to do so, and if that doesn’t work, you can download the clip]:
The looks on his teammates faces. The shoulder check into the lockers. The proverbial option of fight or flight. Cyberbullying. Depression. Feeling helpless. Attempted suicide.
All of that packaged into just over 3 minutes of the show.
And all of it being the consequence of a homophobic athletic culture (in this context) and repeated in so many others throughout society.
I believe the show did a masterful job handling the discussions following the attempt. In fact, I do not know how they could have done this any better.
The brief scene of his dad finding him, and as Sue describes, “the helplessness of that feeling.” Too often, the discussion around bullying and gay suicide is in statistics or religious freedoms. I bet that not a single legislator or advocate that promotes things like the religious exemption to allow bullying has ever imagined that sort of emotion or truly tried to sympathize with the struggle. Real people (or actors portraying issues that I promise you are real) need to become the issue more than any statistic or nuanced interpretation of some legal statute. Real emotions, real pain, real struggle, real inequality.
Continuing on, to presumably ease a bit of the guilt for the faculty, the principal suggests, “it wasn’t our job to know.” But the response is the better one: “then whose job was it?”
That “job”—the one that asks us to be there for our peers, for the youth, for anyone—belongs to everyone. I will be the first to admit that I need to do a better job of it. We all need to do a better job of it. How many have witnessed bullying and stood idly by? How often have we not leant an ear to someone that just needs to talk? We all get caught up in our agendas or obligations; we are scared to open up to others or to allow others to open up to us.
I love how the episode had a group of faculty meeting followed by a group of students. The issue affects both, and the perspective offered by each is incredible. The guilt that Kurt feels is something that everyone who knows anyone that has attempted suicide feels. Could I have reached out to them? Did I ignore them once recently? It is so, so tough.
After much song and dance—of course, it is Glee after all, and it was the “regionals” episode—there was another particularly powerful scene near the end of the episode where Kurt goes to visit Karofsky in the hospital [or download]:
Okay, this scene probably tore me up more than the average person because that scene that Kurt describes and Karofsky envisions—the one being an openly gay sports agent with the partner and the adorable boy—was, for a time, my dream. While I worked for Leigh Steinberg, I would ask myself two competing questions: (1) could I stay in the closet to pursue being an agent or (2) could I be out and still work in sports. While my career path has changed somewhat (not that I’d turn down option #2!) and needless to say, this scene affected me quite a bit.
I also heard that this PSA from Daniel Radcliffe and The Trevor Project aired during the episode (and of course it is awesome):
And continuing with the theme of how great a job Glee, and its characters, are doing on the subject of bullying, here are the “It Gets Better” videos from Max Adler and Chris Colfer: