Dec. 14th, 2010

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I watch Glee unfailingly, even though it frequently annoys me beyond measure. But this week (in New Zealand)’s episode was just too enraging to let pass without comment.

It’s obvious the showrunner has looked up from his script to discover that all that oh-so-hilarious bullying of the Glee kids, and the specifically homophobic bullying of Kurt, isn’t looking quite so side-splitting given the spate of US gay teen suicides. Never one to ignore an issue when he can elephant-footedly make it even worse, in he wades. The football player who’s been shoving Kurt over turns out to be closetedly gay himself. Kurt visits a private school, where they laugh, literally, in the face of homophobia. And Kurt calls Mr Schue to account and absolutely nothing happens.

There’s so much horribleness here it’s difficult to know where to start unpacking it all, but let’s start with the football player. Hey, it’s OK! He isn’t really bullying Kurt at all! When he slams into him, it’s actually just a love pat! What are we to learn from this?

1. Being gay is so terrible anyone not an obvious flaming freak like Kurt is likely to repudiate it as violently as possible.

2. Homophobic bullying’s nothing to do with straight kids’ prejudice and hate at all. No, no, no. it’s the gay kids, bullying the other gay kids! Problem solved.


Moving on: the private school. Where they don’t tolerate homophobia and all the kids are Grade-A welcoming and tolerant. This is a whole other level of obnoxiousness: what they’re saying is that homophobic bullying is a matter of class. Happens in the public schools, nonexistent in the private schools. First of all, ugh again, and second of all, what a complete load of bollocks. When my ex was a teacher at a private school, the stories he told made it perfectly clear that every ism you can think of flourishes at least as brightly, if not more so, amongst kids whose parents can afford to pay for private school as amongst those with parents less fortunate. So much for that.

But the absolute worst thing, the part that actually made my mouth drop open, is the conversation Kurt has with Mr Schue about the bullying thing. In the midst of a lot of straightsplaining from Mr Schue that somehow makes all of this Kurt’s fault, Kurt observes that Mr Schue is far too quick to excuse and overlook homophobia at the school. Yer darn tootin’, obviously. So there I am, waiting for the Hammer Of Clue to fall, at long last, on Mr Schue’s oblivious forehead, and what happens? They just leave it there. He doesn’t agree; he doesn’t use the remark as an opportunity for a bit of well-deserved self-examination; he doesn’t even reply. And that’s that. Utterly, utterly gobsmacking.

I dunno. Maybe they develop this further in future episodes in a way that redeems all of this crappitude. Even if they do, I don’t think it excuses it here. Bullying is a terrible problem. I was bullied as a child, but as I’m straight I’m not going to pretend for a second I know what it’s like to be bullied for being gay, except that I’m fairly safe in saying that it must be a lot worse. I didn’t know what to do about bullying then, and as an adult I still don’t. It’s a very difficult problem to solve. But I do know that offensive stuff like this, especially presented as it is in a way that purports to grapple with the issue when actually the opposite is happening, is very much Not Helping.


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