TAG | It Gets Better
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:
I know I’ve been lax with the posting lately, and unfortunately, I don’t have much time to comment here. But this is a big step that is worth making an actual post about rather than merely posting it on Facebook or Twitter (which, by the way, you should be following on both for more regular and quick updates!)
Anyway, several MLB teams have created It Gets Better videos. The video, shown below, is included on the MLB.com YouTube channel as from the Mariners. But most notably, it includes a message from all of the professional Seattle teams.
The Seattle Storm (WNBA), Seattle Sounders (MLS), and the Seattle Seahawks (NFL) joined the Mariners with players represented in the video.
The Seahawks and their wide receiver Mike Williams become the first from the NFL to join the campaign. Big news! (Follow him on Twitter @BigMikeWill17 and say thank you!)
The message also specifically mentions the LGBT community, which is appreciated as a couple of the team videos have merely used generic “anyone who is bullied” language.
Check it out:
The San Francisco Giants released their It Gets Better video today through the MLB on YouTube. (Transcript below the embedded video.)
The video begins:
“Hi, I’m Barry Zito of the world champion San Francisco Giants. We all know how difficult life can be as a teenager.”
The video continues with other team members continuing the script:
“We’ve all been there and have had to deal with the pressure to fit in and be accepted by our peers. It’s particularly challenging for LGB(T) teens who face adversity and intolerance in their daily lives.
“We speak for the entire Giants organization when we say that there is no place in society for hatred and bullying against anyone.
“There is no place for children and teenagers to feel isolated or like they have to end their own lives.
“To all the kids who are struggling—and we know it may seem hopeless right now—but please know, you have an amazing future in front of you and an entire community in your corner.
“We promise you, it gets better.”
The final product, which is amazing, I must add, all began when a simple fan started a petition for the team to make the video. I can’t thank him enough for doing so, for the Giants for recording the message, and for MLB for promoting the video through their own distribution channels.
Several other petitions are going for other professional teams, and I encourage you to sign them all as you see them!
Gareth Thomas has spent the past couple weeks gracing the American soil with his presence, first with a visit to the San Francisco bay area for New Years and then most recently to Los Angeles for business: appearing on The Ellen Show, filming an “It Gets Better” video, doing interviews with Outsports and The Advocate Magazine, and meeting with the production team for the movie currently in development about his life, to be played by Mickey Rourke.
(And no, I’m not a stalker; I just follow his Twitter and keep up with these things.)
Here are his various appearances with my commentary, as usual.
The Ellen Show
Gareth tells about how he became an expert at playing the straight guy and an amazing story of coming out to his parents: they popped champagne 3 weeks after he told them to celebrate the start of the rest of his life.
The most compelling part of the interview, from my perspective, is his view on the power of sports and athletes coming out (around 4:30 in the video). Although he properly recognizes that every athlete has an individual situation so he will not offer a broad proclamation that they should come out, he does say, “The power and the influence that sports people or famous sports people on have on the world in general – children and on adults – is such an amazing thing. If they come out and show such a positive story and such a positive message, it changes the world. It really does. Sport is something that can change the world.”
It Gets Better
This video from Gareth is one of my favorite in the It Gets Better series. He is so honest and open in the video talking about how the stereotype of being gay did not match with growing up in the masculine world of rugby, how he has felt like a fraud, how marrying his wife may have ruined her life too, and his own thoughts growing up wishing he could just die to escape having to tell the truth.
My favorite bits:
Thomas (at 2:18): “So I realized, if I couldn’t do this – if I couldn’t die – then I had to start living. And by start living, I had to start telling the truth.”
Thomas (at 3:18): “I always thought I was born to play rugby. Rugby was in my blood; rugby was who I was. But what I realized, it’s not what you do when you’re here; it’s the legacy you leave behind. So I decided to stand up for the rights for the people who are in the same position that I was in, and to try and show people that it does get better.”
Outsports Interview and Article
The boys at Outsports sat down with Gareth for an interview passing on questions from their readers. While you may not get these questions from more traditional news sources, they did confirm that he is in fact single – a question he says he has been asked millions of times – and got him to lift up his shirt to show a tattoo on his abs and reveal some black underwear that Ellen gave him. You can see that for yourself.
In the interview and also in a follow-up article, he mentions that a few American college football players have contacted him about being in the closet and pursuing sports instead of being open. Thomas also answers many of the questions people have about Mickey Rourke playing the part, as Rourke is 20 some odd years older. Gareth’s response: “I don’t give a fuck about that. He’s the perfect person to play me.”