The Almost-Redemption of David Karofsky


I realize that I’m behind on my Glee, and rather than this being a live-blog of the last two episodes it’s a recap — however, given what I’ve seen so far that may actually be a good thing.

Ryan Murphy is exploring some very strong questions and topics, first among them in my mind the question of David Karofsky and his homophobic bullying. For those living under a rock or else not interested in the finer plot points of Glee, Karofsky — a football player — spent the first half of season two terrorizing Kurt in the hallways of McKinley High, making anti-gay remarks and shoving him into lockers. Things reached a head when Kurt followed Karofsky into the football locker room to confront him…and Karofsky planted a huge kiss on him.

In episodes that followed Karofsky’s behavior became more violent toward Kurt out of anger, yes, but also desperation that Kurt would tell his secret. Karofskyy was suspended by Sue (acting as principal in Figgins’ absence) and almost immediately reinstated by the school board — prompting Burt and Carol to use the money they set aside for their honeymoon and enroll Kurt in the private Dalton Academy, where he would be safe and (hopefully) happier.

The post-Super Bowl episode ushering in the second half of the season featured a New Directions-driven halftime show at the state football championship; Coach Bieste, in an effort to eliminate the ongoing hostility between the football team and the glee club, drafted her players to fill out the halftime show. *SPOILER ALERT* Karofsky gets some serious encouragement from Mr. Schuester and begins to really get into the performance preparation, but a slushie attack by the hockey team (really, Murph? Hockey?) causes the first of a few 180-degree changes in Karofsky’s perspective. He predictably refuses to go on and storms out of the locker room.

Karofsky’s second 180 is equally predictable: his other teammates, swayed by a blunt and completely accurate tongue-lashing from Puck, rejoined the halftime show and Karofsky refuses once again but is so overcome by the performance that, mid-“Thriller”, pulls on a jersey and runs onto the field to join the dance.

Cue a commercial break, and the third 180 (by this time, I was rather dizzy). Finn naively but understandably thinks that this has marked a turning point in Karofsky’s relationship with New Directions, and that his enthusiasm for the halftime show may compel him to join New Directions full-time, so he suggests a trip down to Westerville to see Kurt at Dalton and clear the air. How do we think Karofsky responds?

That’s right; he gets angry. “This changes nothing,” he growls with a furrowed brow.

Okay. By the middle of the episode I was grinning from ear to ear, sitting on the edge of my seat in eager anticipation of Karofsky’s redemption. Yes, he is a bully, and yes, I advocated just as strongly for a sustaining punishment for how he treated Kurt and others who attempted to defend him. However, the plot line has made it clear that Karofsky’s hostility is born of an internal struggle to reconcile his true identity with his beliefs about homosexuality. Redemption is possible, as is the revolving door of attitude that Murphy portrayed in the episode, but it is a story arc that should have carried over a few episodes and should be more thoroughly developed.

After all, Karofsky is a conflicted teenager. It is completely legitimate that he would be resistant to performing, and that he would respond positively to positive reinforcement. And it’s typical to see bullies who are unable to take their own punishment when it’s meted out to them (that’s why there’s a platform for shows like Bully Beatdown on MTV), so I wasn’t even all that surprised when all of the non-glee football players backed out after a slushie to the face.

But Karofsky’s magical moment on the sidelines? It’s a typical climactic moment that really robs him of authentic redemption and merely sets him — and the audience — up for disappointment. It was completely unrealistic to assume that Korofsky had changed so dramatically from two weeks of rehearsal and performance that he would suddenly be a star in New Directions, so for Finn to act on that assumption made Karofsky’s denial even more painful to watch. I mean…I’ve never been in his shoes, but I can imagine that it was just as hard to say “no” as it would have been to say “yes”.

I believe that David Karofsky deserves redemption, if only out of an idealistic belief that every teenager should be able to embrace his or her identity without fear of reprisal or worries about lack of acceptance. The reality, however, and the very likely scenario on Glee is that Karofsky has a longer path along the downward spiral before he can make peace with himself and others.

To end on a higher note, check out the “It Gets Better” video by Max Adler, the actor who brings Karofsky’s angst to life.

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One comment

  1. […] The Almost-Redemption of David Korofsky (shanshantastic.wordpress.com) […]

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