Wednesday, November 24, 2010


So there he was in last night's episode of "Glee," Dave Karofsky, sitting next to his father, Paul, in Principal Sue Sylvester's (?) office, along with Mr. Schuester, Burt Hummel, and his son Kurt, after being particularly bizarre and menacing to Kurt. For those of you who don't watch "Glee"--shame on you--Kurt is the gay kid, Karofsky is his bully.  Recently, Karofsky blew away fans of the groundbreaking Fox show by kissing Kurt.  That's right, Kurt's most vocal and violent bully kissed him, fully on the lips, for longer than a second, in what can only be taken as a serious overture and not as another form of taunting.

Anyway, as the camera lingered on Karofsky's face, I discovered I...what, felt sorry for him? Are you kidding?  I, who was bullied nonstop for most of my grade school life, who had cooked up numerous fitting forms of sadistic revenge against those who bullied me, felt sorry for this asshole?  Yup. One and the same.  Guilty as charged.  I felt sorry for Karofsky.

As a testament to the skillful actor who portrays this role (Max Adler), I saw the pain in his face--the pain of knowing he's as gay as Kurt, but also knowing he can't be in the least open about it.  You could feel the tension in the principal's office.  At one point, Kurt said something that could have led to him outing Karofsky in front of everyone there (perhaps doing him a favor in the process).  But that didn't happen.

For some reason, Karofsky's character has become one of the most intriguing for me. I don't believe for a moment any of the idiots who bullied me were gay, don't get me wrong.  In fact, in my stalking of them on the Internet over the years--just once or twice; I'm not that sick--I've discovered the ones I especially remember (and could find) are married and have children (which, of course, means nothing; they could still be gay themselves, but I doubt it).  No, the reason why Karofsky has my full attention is because I relate to him.  I understand his pain.  I understand the pressure he's under, to be something he's not.  And I understand how difficult he must find coming face to face with Kurt every day.

See, initially, Karofsky bullied Kurt by helping to throw him in dumpsters like common garbage; by throwing slushies in his face; by threatening him and calling him unflattering names in the hallway; and, more recently, by slamming him into lockers.  The degree of bullying increased at the beginning of season two--obviously as a reflection of what happened in a number of U.S. schools late this past summer, leading to half a dozen or so suicides.

Like everyone else who was bullied, I found Karofsky, and his henchmen, contemptible, and every time Kurt was bullied, I was back in that place too, feeling all those old feelings, after all these years of being out of the public school system. And I didn't appreciate being reminded of how much my bullies hated me, and how much I hated myself--for knowing in my heart I really was gay, and for not having the balls to stand up to them.  

Then we find out Karofsky has a secret, a VERY BIG SECRET, a secret all of us who are gay relate to.  He's no longer a one-dimensional character.  Karofsky's drawn to bully because, surprise surprise, he's gay himself, and because he's a jock, and because he has an image to uphold, and because he can't be himself. In other words, because he's forced to be something he's not.  Thus, the bullying Karofsky inflicts upon Kurt isn't so much about Kurt being gay as it is about Karofsky's spirit dying a slow death every day he has to deny to himself and to others who he really is.

When Karofsky sees Kurt walking through the hallway, in one of his outlandish outfits, pronouncing his homosexuality unmistakably, he's reminded of what he can't be.  He's reminded of the courage Kurt demonstrated to come out and to be himself, despite all of the opposition he receives, which he doesn't have himself. He's reminded of the support Kurt's received, from his father, Burt--who's one of the coolest dads I've ever seen--Mr. Schuester, and the entire glee club.  To Karofsky, Kurt is a symbol of what he can't be.  And even worse than being gay, perhaps, is having thrown in your face what you don't have and what you never see yourself having, especially if the survival of your soul depend on it.

Karofsky is a sympathetic character.  He's become more complex and multi-layered over the past season and a half of "Glee," and I appreciate where the writers and the producers have taken him.  I feel for him, in fact, so much so, I wonder if this is finally, once and for all, how we make peace with those who bullied us--by seeing them as the multi-dimensional, flawed, and ultimately vulnerable individuals they were, complete with demons of their own they found no other way to deal with than to inflict pain and suffering on others?  Wouldn't it be nice if we human beings were all black or all white?


  1. Thank you!

    Thank you for helping to provide insight into a character who represents many of those we have encountered throughout our own lives. While it's much easier to say that they're purely demonic and soulless, that's rarely true. Of course there's those who get so much pleasure out of torturing people for the sake of torture, but they're the few.

    Thank you for showing that people aren't simple, and there's very little black and white when considering humanity. I suppose that's where religion, politics and ultimately, conflict stem from.

    While I was a bull-ee, not a bully, as a young child, while I'm maturing into the woman I am, I found that instances usually stemmed from their own stuff, not my own.

    Yes, it's hard watching people be something that you yearn with every FIBER and CELL of your being to be. It's impossible to see that others are seemingly 'rewarded' for the very thing you 'know' you'll be burned at the stake for.

    Alternatively, however, it's important to know that sometimes all that jazz is purely psychological. Society has done a very good job of breeding neuroses into us, and our own human condition can prevent our own success.

    I would love to see Karofsky on his own coming out journey eventually, but I don't want to see him come out tomorrow. Those of us who embarked on our own journeys know that it's just not that simple. Kudos to Karofsky's dad though, in pointing out that his son's behavior has changed. I read this as an attentive and potentially supportive parent, and also an opportunity for the storyline to move into a coming out process for him.

    Thanks so much for invoking thinking into something that can be perceived as pure entertainment. :)

  2. What a detailed and thoughtful comment, chaoticGRRL. Thanks for your interest in what I have to say and for your contribution to my blog.

    You are exactly right when you say you don't want the Karofsky story to be resolved right away. For me, he is one of the most compelling characters, not only on "Glee' but on network TV, because of the shadings we've seen in him over the last several episodes.

    I'd love if the writers and producers brought him out into the forefront more, because his story is that of so many young men. Sure, there are lots and lots of Kurts out there, but Karofsky? Now that's a character I can get into. I want to know so much more about him. I want to understand him better. And I really want to see what happens to him in the end.

    I think part of the fascination I have with him is that he's the jock I both despised and admired when I was in high school. I so wanted to be a jock because I guess I thought my life would be easier if I fit the athletic mould more (or, at least, I thought I would have been bullied less). But, at the same time, I hated many of the jocks I went to school with because they were my worst tormentors.

    I'd love to see "Glee" play around with the idea of not looking to the world like you're gay but knowing in your heart you are. I've always thought being gay would be easier if I didn't look like it or act like it, but I see through Karofsky he has his own particular pain and suffering, too.

    Maybe it's better or easier to be upfront in your appearance to the world as far as what and who you are. Maybe it's more difficult to have to live with the paradox of who you know yourself to be and who the world thinks you are.

    The potential to explore Karofsky as a character is limitless. I really look forward to future episodes of "Glee" to see how it all plays out. But I sure hope the show uses this opportunity wisely.

    Thanks again for your comment. I really appreciate it.

  3. First of all, I'm sorry for being an Anonymous on this comment.

    Well, I'm a 22yo gay dude. I am an Indonesian. And from where I come from, being gay is totally 'wrong'. I can't find a better word to describe it, but the point is living a gay life here is like living a hell of a life.

    Kurt Hummel and David Karofsky of Glee remind me of the time when I for the first time realized that there's something different with me. I felt in love with my classmate, but I just couldn't tell him because it was 'wrong'. Then I begun to push people away because I was too afraid to let them know about my sexuality.

    I made a confession once in my church, and I didn't get better. People were keep bad-mouthing gay people 'this' and 'that'.

    I come from a big family where all of them expect 'a lot' from me. They want me to be a bigger man in our family, the one who be the pride. I just can't tear them down by coming out of the closet. Especially after my beloved Dad died several months ago.

    I never had a relationship before, so I don't know about how it feels like. Honestly, I need someone to lean to. To share my feelings, my joys, and my tears as well. I am young but I am lonely. Slowly but sure, suicide is getting closer to me. I know it's a 'wrong' thing to do too, but do I have any choices here?

    I talked to the priest, someone that I thought was wise enough to give me some courage to keep struggling, and he gave me a greater sense of guilt. I talked to my friends and they gave nothing but 'Go to the hell, dude." words. I tried to talked to my family, and they wanted to find my future wife based on their taste instead. What else I could do? Where else I could run into?

    I am just hoping that my society will be more open-hearted to the LGBT people. It's getting harder, you know, since the idea of banning same-sex relationship was brought to the public several days ago.

  4. Anonymous, thank you so much for your interest in my blog, and for having the courage to leave such a wonderful comment. I am so grateful for that.
    First and foremost, I must tell you that you absolutely CANNOT consider suicide as an answer to what you are going through. Let me repeat that: YOU CANNOT CONSIDER SUICIDE AS AN ANSWER. You cannot. I hope that message has gotten through to you loud and clear. No matter how bad it gets, you must not commit suicide.
    I want you to take a look at the following links:

    Both of these websites are filled with life affirming videos for every LGBT person. You will find thousands of videos from people just like you who have made the chose to live, despite what they have gone through. Their stories will break your heart, but they will also inspire you. These are two of the BEST resources I know of on the Internet to help wonderful, loving, necessary people just like you. Promise me you'll take a look.
    Above all, I want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You may think you are, but you are not. I understand the situation you're in, because my own situation years ago was probably much like yours today. I understand your isolation, your loneliness, the feeling no one understands you. But we all do. Anyone who is LGBT understands you. And, if we can get through it, you can, too. I hung in there, despite all the bullying I took, all the hopelessness I felt, and my life is spectacular, in part, because I get to hear from people just like you, and I have the opportunity to share what I've learned.
    Since January of this year, I've written about twenty posts intended to help gay people just like you to recognize how they've allowed themselves to believe all the negative things said about gay people; to realize how our worth has been destroyed; and to learn how to begin loving themselves again. I strongly recommend you read some or all of these posts (as well as the attached comments). I know you will feel better if you do.
    Finally, I know you'd like to turn to your church during this difficult time, but you must know you will not get the support there that you need. Instead, please use the Internet as a lifeline. There are so many LGBT people out there reaching out to you at this very moment, through their blogs, stories, and videos. And please return to my blog often. It is my goal to help LGBT people to love themselves. I pray you will take that journey with us.
    Please keep writing me. I will help any way I can.
    Remember, IT DOES GET BETTER. Hang in there.