Bullies for you

Last night saw the broadcast of Glee’s much-anticipated episode about bullying, “Never Been Kissed.” I could go on at length about it, but I think I’ll confine my remarks to about a paragraph. I didn’t find it dramatically or musically successful or useful in a sociological sense. In fact, at a time when a show of Glee’s profile and audience demographic could really have modeled some behaviors that would be useful to kids who are at risk and the classmates who might be persuaded to stand up for them (Glee’s precise demographic, for all intents and purposes), it seemed to choose instead to write for the nostalgia of people who’ve come through those kinds of bullying crises, which is not useful at all to kids who are actually being bullied. Now, you may argue that Glee is under no obligation to model positive behaviors, but I would counter that the show’s creators are more than willing to accept praise for the show’s inclusive, empowering message, so, yes, there’s a certain onus in place for them to actually craft those messages with care. Also, Mr. Schue is an idiot.

I agree with this spoiler-filled review by Monkey See’s Linda Holmes in most particulars, if you want to see a more detailed examination of the episode.

6 Responses to Bullies for you

  1. TWWK says:

    That’s a terrific review – I read it earlier and she pretty much hits it on the head. The things that stood out to me most was when Kurt confronted his bully. What started out as a terrific scene, and what could’ve been a great one, went to an unnecessary place with a kiss, and a sense of realism was lost. It was like the writers got together and one said, “You know what would be great? The guy KISSES Kurt. Yeah, yeah, and then he’s closeted!”

    • davidpwelsh says:

      I’m really surprised that people see that as some amazing plot twist. It strikes me as the most hackneyed, stunt-driven direction they could have chosen.

  2. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    I think you, and that review, are spot on. I admit the kiss caught me by surprise, although as soon as it happened, I realized it was exactly what WOULD happen in this show (the whole episode, even though Ryan Murphy didn’t script, had a particularly weird Nip/Tuck vibe–just on a tamer scale–largely I admit because of the Beast story but also the odd mix of tones–even including that odd, nostalgic, slow mo run through the boys school hand in hand). There were a few lines and moments I liked, but they seemed tyo be immediately negated by something else.

    And yeah, why has Mr Schue become more and more juvenile, and, well stupid? I know Sondheim’s fave quote is Hammerstein’s King and I lyric “From your pupils you will learn”, but seriously, Schue doesn’t seem to be learning anything from being a teacher except how to behave in increasingly self absorbed, and naive ways. There were other more basic problems for me–even down to doing another boys vs girls mashup–which seemed to be something they went to by default (and they even admitted in the episode it had already been done) but that didn’t excuse it.

    I did liek that they finally addressed the casual bullying Kurt gets in nearly every episode (I know the show seems to be an equal opportunity offender, with at least as many Jew jokes as gay ones, but it feels like a very strange mixed message to allow audiences to laugh at some gay term one segment, and then try to teach them the casual cruely and pain that can cause 2 minutes later). Overall, I think it as pretty much a fail, good intentions aside.

    (How ironic that we’re meant to feel bad for Kurt that his first kiss was one he didn’t welcome, from a bully, and that’s also the first, and so far only, male/male kiss we see on the show–though I guess I would have rolled my eyes if New Gay Guy–does this show have a contract with every company and tour of Spring Awakening to cast their actors?–had kissed Kurt after…)

  3. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    One more random thought–the mix of the, even by Glee standards, almost surreal heightened stuff (like Kurt finding some sort of midwest, idealized boys school that wouldn’t look out of place in one of the more light hearted Yaoi manga) and then ending his story with him on the floor still bullied, is just… Odd. Mercedes aside, I kinda wonder why Kurt would not be trying his hardest–working some weird jobs, getting scholarships, to get into that haven. And I don’t need messages from my tv, but Murphy seems to feel Glee needs to provide them, and I have no idea what this was meant to imply. “There are places where you’ll feel accepted, happy, and yourself, and not have to spend all of your effort explaining and defending yourself–which is somehow meant to make one heroic. But, ultimately, they’re inaccessible and one shouldn’t forget their real place in society–at least not until they’re a grown adult?”

    • davidpwelsh says:

      My husband is an educator, and he really, really hates Will, because there’s virtually no education institution in the world that doesn’t require a teacher or staff member to take action if they know or even suspect a student has been threatened, much less physically assaulted. And, while that’s obviously a liability matter, my husband very much considers it a moral responsibility to make sure students feel safe in a learning environment. So, heightened or no, Schue looks crappy and ineffective, the school looks corrupt and indifferent, and the message to the audience is that you can’t really rely on what should be trusted adults to protect you when you’re in physical danger. They’ll just say you seem crabby and wondering what happened to your thick skin.

      I hate Will Schuester.

  4. Eric Henwood-Greer says:

    Come on, the poor guy is just too busy mounting productions of Rocky Horror to impress his equally ineffectual guidance counsellor… I definitely agree with your husband, and (again I hate to stress messages, but) it doesn’t send a good message to the young gay kids watching. (It’s also largely done away with the crush I had on Matt Morrison after seeing him on stage in Hairspray).

    It is important to have gay people on tv, just the exposure, etc. But I remember when I saw the big gay kiss on Melrose Place when I was 11 or 12 (well they pulled away from the actual kiss, but). My reaction wasn’t about how great it was to finally see that on TV, or relief–it was about the negtive, shocked, and hatefilled reaction from all the other characters, and fear what that meant for myself. Yeah that’s in manyw ays more realistic, and I tired of endlessly positive gay portrayals on TV (mainly cuz it usually equals boring characters and stories).

    But I can’t help thinking that a gay kid watching this episode would ultimately feel similarly–that while there are other people like him, he’s in for a horrible time in high school, and a horribly hard life. Again, I guess there’s truth there too (some–I had a great time in High School–less so Jr High, but…), but in a fantasy show like Glee I really don’t knwo the benefit. (Again, I guess it’s just the oddly mixed messages the show seems to portray that really bug me).

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