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[personal profile] guest_age
It seems to me that there are four basic categories viewers tend to fall into when it comes to Karofsky's storyline on Glee. First and foremost, you have the apologists: Karofsky is a big, misunderstood teddy bear who deserves love. These people are confusing Max Adler, a perfectly charming and kind person as best as I can tell, with Dave Karofsky, a lifelong bully who torments not only Kurt but the entire glee club--and who sexually assaulted Kurt Hummel in the boys' locker room. Then there are the indifferents--those who really don't care one way or another; their focus is on other characters, other storylines, or they simply don't think about the implications of his storyline. Then there are those who violently hate the character--who want his story resolved as soon as possible so he can be written off the show, who wish it had never been done to begin with, who judge anyone who falls into the fourth category by lumping them in with the apologists.

If you are in the third category, then this post is aimed at you. Because I fall in the fourth category and I'm tired of it.

The fourth and final category is a middle ground. It's the group who believes Karofsky is a bully who should be punished (re: not "cruel and excessive punishment" but an appropriate level) for what he's done, but also acknowledges that he is, whether the third group wants to think about it or not: a human being who is going through something extremely difficult and made a slew of piss-poor decisions about how to handle it.

Let me tell you something, fellow Glee watchers. I have been bullied my entire life. I was bullied so badly in the sixth grade that my mother put me on temporary home school and transferred me to another district for seventh. My grandmother drove me to school every day for six years because I couldn't ride the bus due to the other student's behavior toward me. I was also raped at age eight by my older step brother. So while I can not speak for every person who has been bullied or sexually assaulted, I do speak for myself, and with experience. So if there is anyone on this planet more predisposed to hate Karofsky, to wish him dead or off the show or whatever your personal choice for his exit might be, it's me.

But I don't, and the entire point of this post is for me to share with you why. Because while I am absolutely not a Karofsky apologist, I also know how incredibly important it is to not only show bullying of teen gays and show us how Kurt rises above it, but to show us the story of internalized homophobia.

When I was in high school, I was just beginning to reconnect with my mom after several years of distance. She lived about an hour away from me and managed a fast food place inside a gas station. All of her employees were boys about my age and they became better friends to me than anyone I actually went to school with. Among this group of merry men was a guy my age who, for his privacy, I will call R. R was a good-humored guy who was taller than me and wore glasses. He was well-spoken, intelligent, and wanted to become a lawyer. His father was a Muslim from Jordan who had abanoned his family (R, R's sister, and American mother), which sent his mother into a spiral of depression that lead to her mentally checking out and R having to basically raise his sister on his own. R was also, as I'd find out later, gay.

Why didn't I know at the time? All the obvious reasons. It's small town West Virginia, he was already a non-practicing Muslim who'd been getting hell for years after 9/11; adding one more reason to be bullied to his list would've only made things worse. His friends were the typical boys club, the kind where, "That's so gay," is thrown around all the time without anyone realizing it's actually very homophobic (and where most of them wouldn't care if someone pointed it out to them). His life pretty much sucked when not with his close-knit group of friends. But here's the thing about R. He also threw around, "That's so gay," and one of my earliest memories of him is him complaining about a conversation with his father in which his father scolded him for letting his sister "dress like a whore" and "go out with boys." Then he added, "Whatever. It could be worse. She could be going out with girls."

R's best friend was a boy named C. C came from a Catholic, military family and had more siblings than I could keep count of. I only ever met two of them. Of those two, was A. A was about a year younger than R and C, and had just returned from being sent to military school--not to continue the family tradition, but as punishment. He was heavy into drinking and drugs (so were the other guys in this merry band, but at the time they were better at impulse control than A) and his parents had sent him away. A few months after I started hanging out with them, A returned from the school and fell right in with C and his friends. In particular, R and A began to hang out a lot due to their mutual love of drinking and drugs. After awhile, A had replaced C as R's best friend.

And then one day, A disappeared again and R started looking pretty damn fucked up. At first, I didn't connect it, but finally I realized the things weren't happening in a vacuum and I started asking questions. And then I found out what had happened. As it was explained to me, R and A had been really messed up. I mean really messed up, on drugs and drink and whatever else two teenage boys can get into, and R had long had a crush on A.

Over the course of the night, R ended up performing oral sex on A. To this day I don't know if A was more high than R, or if it was just a mutual thing that went horribly wrong or what, but suffice it to say, they were messed up and R went down on A.

A tried to kill himself. He "disappeared" because he'd been put in a psych ward for observation. Because he'd enjoyed getting a blow job from another guy and that made him gay and he couldn't handle it. In the wake, R turned to drinking and drugs more to cope with the way he felt about A and the guilt he felt about what A had done to himself, eventually began dealing them, and last I heard, he'd been arrested.

So to recap: R was full of internalized homophobia and expressed it via external homophobia against others and A was so full of hatred for himself for what he'd let R do what he had that he tried to end his own life.

These people weren't characters on a TV screen, or writing that was nitpicked from here to the ends of the earth. They were my friends, for all their faults, and I loved them both. They were both, in their own ways, guilty of bullying, and depending on how you feel about two people who are both inebriated engaging in a sexual act together, it's possible to see what happened between them as sexual assault, especially given A's reaction to it.

They're not exactly the same as Karofsky. But what happened to them is close enough that when I look at what he's going through, I see shades of them.

People like Karofsky exist in the real world, whether you like it or not. They do terrible things from a place of pain and fear and it's not an excuse, not now, not ever, but it is a mitigating factor. There's a difference between wanting to see Karofsky's storyline end with him walking off into the sunset with Kurt and wanting to see it end with him getting the psychological help he needs and hopefully, the support of his family. I don't apologize for what Karofsky has done because frankly, there's no forgiving it. But he's a human being (as much as any fictional character ever is), and that means he's capable of change. That means it's possible he can seek help and become a better human being.

Some people find that comforting. Not all, and as I said, I am not speaking for anyone but myself here. But for me, the moment I was able to start shedding the pain of being raped by my older step brother was also the moment I was at my lowest--I had a shot gun in my hand to end my life and he took it from me and got my mother involved to get me help. And I realized that the same person who had caused me to pick it up was also capable of being the person who made me put it down. He was capable of change. People weren't the horrible creatures I made them out to be. They were just...people. Capable of horrible things and capable of good ones, and they could choose to move forward on a better path.

I want to see Karofsky get help. I want his story to end with him transferring to a new district to start over with the support of his family and psychological help. I don't want everything to be magically fixed, but I want to see that he's capable of being a better human being.

This doesn't make me an apologist. It doesn't mean I think what he's done is okay, or even forgivable. It means I think he's a human being, because he is. Because my friends were. Welcome to the real world, fellow Glee viewers, where people do terrible things and the best they can do is try to do better.
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