“This Kurt/Karofsky situation has gone too far,” Rachel tells the other girls in Glee. Kurt tells Principal Sylvester, “I can’t concentrate. I don’t feel like I’m a part of this school. I feel like I’m stuck in a horror movie.”
I would argue that in the past three weeks I have felt the same way. Kudos to Murphy for giving me conversion disorder because when I watch Glee nowadays I can’t concentrate, I don’t eat (I tried to fix a sandwich during “Furt” and failed to consume even a third of it), and I often left feeling like I’m trapped in a horror movie.
To explain the horror movie feeling, I would say that I feel like I do not trust the writers of the show (although I admire them greatly). Wes Craven once said that the only way to truly terrify people was to convince them they couldn’t predict or expect anything from their writers or directors because then if they could, they might start feeling “safe.” This technique is clearly in practice as we see that Karofsky can appear anywhere at any time, kind of like Michael Myers’ uncanny ability to unplug the landlines and hit the breaker switch on any building he initially enters. Practice a wedding dance in the choir room? Karofsky’s in the door. Take your books out of your locker? There he is stealing your wedding topper (what he’s going to do with it, I can hardly guess and am not sure I want to know). Eat a healthy meal in the cafeteria before a tator tot riot? Oops, there he is again. And he’s winking.
Yes, I don’t feel safe. Not only because Karofsky’s entrances resemble a slasher movie’s basic clichés, even though it’s always a bit odd for my muscles to feel the same way on Tuesday nights as they did when I watched Paranormal Activity. My main problem is that two weeks ago I saw Kurt defy his antagonist by screaming in his face until he was basically stalking HIM into a confrontation (it reminded me of that woefully underappreciated Halloween: Twenty Years Later film where Jamie Lee Curtis actually picks up the axe herself and screams “Michael!” at the top of her lungs before locking HERSELF in a school campus in order to end the reign of terror). I reveled in seeing this form of empowerment in a bullying storyline and was actually pleased that such a confrontation led to the famous kissing scene because even though that kiss was taken without Kurt’s consent, Kurt had clearly pushed Karofsky into such a vulnerable and emotionally helpless position that he wasn’t thinking clearly and acted on his most secret desires.
Now the show has taken a slight turn toward Deliverance territory, if only in tightly acted bits. Case in point: after Finn meets with his soon-to-be brother Kurt at his locker during “Furt” he then, in typical November fashion, leaves Kurt alone there (cue the scary music). The camera tilts slightly, and the bully materializes, seemingly out of nowhere, saying nothing, just leering.
Here we shockingly acknowledge that the Karofsky who ran his finger down Kurt’s chest and then took the wedding topper out of his hand is not the same Karofsky just one week prior who looked panicked and embarrassed when Kurt stressed, “You kissed me, Karofsky, and no, I haven’t told anyone because I can tell it’s bothering you.” Kurt clearly held all the cards here; Dave’s response of “I’m gonna kill you,” while upsetting to fans and to those who could identify with similar threats from their past, still made Dave sound pathetic rather than ominous.
But now? The writers are clearly placing Kurt in a terrible “damsel in distress” position of powerlessness; Kurt’s own choice of letting Sue nickname him Porcelain seems significant here. What I don’t understand is how just two weeks ago there was nothing “porcelain” about the guy who stood up to his tormentor and yelled “You can’t punch the gay out of me any more than I can punch the ignoramus out of you” and then felt confident enough to paste the word “courage” at the top of his locker door for all to see.
I can guess that the motivation behind Kurt’s abject terror in this last week’s show was to suggest, however implicitly, that Kurt is afraid of being sexually assaulted. The way Karofsky invades his personal space, stares down at him, and then touches him is simply unnerving. But mostly it is unnerving because it seems to come out of nowhere. Kurt makes a good point that we “don’t know what’s going on this kid’s head” or “what he’s capable of” as Dave struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality. But does that automatically mean we have to construct a sexual predator in order to make the threat more palpable for the audience and for Kurt to leave McKinley (perhaps because without this complication a sectionals competition seems too anticlimactic to view after last year’s regional experience)? Do all gay men in the high school halls who aren’t out of the closet deal with their confusion in such a manner? What a terrible stereotype to entertain.
Of course, if, as Karofsky’s father suggests, Dave is now failing school and lashing out, we can safely assume he’s probably on edge most of the time. What he was able to cope with just two weeks ago may not be what he can cope with now. Take away a hormonal teenager’s ability to sleep, eat, or concentrate and he may realistically transform into a creature of the night, and not in a warm and fuzzy Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of way.
I am in awe of what Max Adler has done. He has gone from being a guy we didn’t notice to being one of the most famous men in America within less than weeks. And he’s done that because he’s a fine actor, not just because he kissed Chris Colfer.
But I can only imagine the possible terror he feels when he opens his script every week. I’m sure the first few surprises were good ones. He’s already proclaimed repeatedly how blessed he’s been to receive this role and to reach out to so many people. But now? I’d worry that in my next scene there’s a butcher knife stuffed down his pants and that the lights in the hall are soon going to go out.
Getting serious and controversial in a musical comedy is unexpectedly great. But messing around with horror?
I think that next Tuesday I’d rather be able to concentrate and hold down a meal. I know Kurt’s locker isn’t the last one on the left. Actually it’s not the last one anywhere at McKinley. I use this title because I think the strange turn of events in which Karofsky has gone from sympathetic bully to crazy-eyed stalker seems largely random, although I acknowledge that the kid probably hasn’t slept since that kiss, and he’s strung out. But if he is now the resident would-be axe murderer of McKinley High (I would argue that last year it was Sue), I only ask that we get a little comedic mileage out of it, not because bullying is ever funny (oh but wait, we are talking about the same show that suggested dumpster diving was funny), but because it’s time to break the tension productively.
I think Puck’s recruitment of new Glee clubbers in the same famous boys’ locker room next week may give us just that. If anyone should be afraid of sexual assault or at least having his Eggos stolen against his will, it’s Noah Puckerman.
Noah may just be the key to resolving this whole mess. Look at how Sue Sylvester’s principalship actually paid off. I hope Puck’s time in “juvie” will do the same. I’ve been waiting for Mark Salling to get his time in the spotlight. From the look of hate on his face every time he swallows his pride and can’t punch something to release his anger due to his probationary status, I feel like we’re getting really close to something important. It clearly tortures him to watch Artie, Mike, and Sam take hits for Kurt when he couldn’t intervene last week. And what an amazing journey they’ve given him from being the homophobic football player to being what I argue is possibly the true heart of New Directions. I don’t think it was accidental that between the “Never Been Kissed” trigger scenes we saw Puck lash out in pain and horror over his own bullying experience in a manner that deserved much more attention than we were able to give because we were too busy watching Biest and Karofsky struggle with their own appearances and sexual preferences. But whether his story will pan out? I have no idea. It’s anyone’s guess, as always.
Because I’m this invested, I will continue to admire and worship Murphy like I do Wes Craven.
I just don’t trust him.