OK, Gleeks, I went into tonight’s episode with bullying on the brain, courtesy of Ryan Murphy’s interview about the subject with The New York Times‘ ArtsBeat. So take the slant how you will — and pardon the divergence from what is usually a happy-go-luckiness of our Gleekiness here at BuddyTV — but as a result, watching tonight’s episode of Glee, “Never Been Kissed,” it made me ask myself: Are we all just bullies? Or at least living vicariously through other bullies by laughing at — or at least getting some sort of entertainment value out of — watching other people being bullied?

Warning: Incoming Soapbox Speech
Just this week, Puck made it clear that he conned his way into having his community service being to help Artie, not because he liked him, but because he didn’t want to pick up trash (because as he said, “It’s ghetto … I’m not a garbage man” — perhaps bullying words against garbage men? OK, maybe I’m being too sensitive). Brittany and Santana were stereotyped as being “typical” women, who essentially just hang around guys begging for an ounce of attention (“You only have to be a fraction as nice to them as you are mean to them to get them to like you again,” according to Puck). Beiste was made to feel bad about herself for — in the kids’ minds — being the antithesis of what turns someone one, and Will told her not to take it personally (Sue meanwhile said she’d have to “go look at some wounds” to get the image of Beiste out of her head). On the other hand, Kurt finally reached his own form of a breaking point for — in the eyes of some — being too feminine and for being gay — and the bullying wasn’t just coming from the oaf of a jock. It comes in the form of throwaway comments from his own fellow glee clubbers in most episodes.

As Kurt told Mr. Schue, “You and everyone else at this school are too quick to let homophobia slide.” For that matter, I think they’re also too quick to let comments about Artie being in a wheelchair slide (“Have fun riding the short bus home.” – Puck) or too quick to let comments about Brittany having multiple sexual partners slide or comments about Beiste being masculine slide. I mean, are we as viewers not quick to let it slide too when we’re the ones tuning in and, if not laughing, at least being amused?

I Digress …
I was grateful, after a somewhat slow season story-wise thus far, that we did see some movement with the revelation that sectionals are approaching. The team’s competitors are the Dalton Academy Warblers from an all-boys school and The Hipsters, a group of elderly students getting their GEDs. To get the kids in the zone for sectionals, Mr. Schuester suggests a boys vs. girls competition a la last year’s mash-ups. And once again, Kurt is made to perform with the boys despite his druthers.

What Kurt does get instead is way, waaaaaay better: Blaine! Upon a little spy mission — mostly a mission to check out what it’s like attending the all-boys school after another bout of bullying by the mean, homophobic jock, who doesn’t even deserve a character name — Kurt finally (I say, finally, because to us Gleeks, who’ve been reading about Blaine’s imminent arrival, it felt like forever) meets our man Blaine, a student and glee clubber at Dalton. And not only is he super-dreamy and a great singer, but he’s also sensitive, well-spoken, intelligent, charming — ah, I was swooning.
Back at school, Will verbally vomits all over Beiste by coming clean about the fact that some of the kids in the club have been thinking of her in lingerie in order to “cool down” when making out. She, in turn, quits, and Sue has a confetti party, thankful that the kids “just got mean” to get rid of Beiste.

kurtkiss1.jpgThe Kiss

glee-thekissaftermath.jpgMine and Kurt’s expression after the kiss

And then there was the kiss heard ’round my living room — actually it was the sound of my jaw popping. In a bout of boldness, Kurt stands up to his jock bully, who surprises him — and me — by planting one on him, Kurt’s first kiss, we later learn. Once I recovered from the surprise, though, it made me wonder if people watching were going to see this as some sort of just deserts — like, ha, the bully’s gay; that’s his punishment. Regardless, this jock isn’t coming out of the locker anytime soon, as Kurt and Blaine prove when they try to have a mature dialogue with him about the difficulties of coming out.

Elsewhere, Will convinces Beiste not to leave and, in turn, gives her her first kiss as well, which actually made me feel like both she and Kurt were robbed of their first kiss experiences by being kissed by people with whom they had no romantic inklings even. The boys later seal the deal of Beiste staying at the school by serenading her with their mash-up. And to further wrap things up with a bow, Puck and Artie make up by agreeing to be each other’s community service (Puck gets the good influence of Artie and Artie gets to feel cool by hanging with Puck).

And, you know, even with all the storylines seemingly resolved, for this episode anyway, and the image of the word “courage” in Kurt’s locker with a photo of Blaine — right before Kurt gets pushed into his own locker, that is — I didn’t actually feel hopeful. I felt sad. And it oddly made me look forward to seeing Gwyneth Paltrow in next week’s episode, if for nothing else but to mix it up and give me a distraction from the meanness of high school and bullies in all their forms.

The Music

Glee8.JPGOK, so there were some bright spots to tonight’s episode for me: the tunes!

Bob Marley’s “One Love” sung by Puck and Artie
The rendition of this song sums up exactly how I wanted to feel after tonight’s episode: sunny, happy, relaxed, content. I loved the harmonies and the simplicity of the arrangement. Oh, and the steel drums out of nowhere.

Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” sung by The Dalton Academy Warblers
I actually got goose bumps during this song, but not because of some weird penchant for Katy Perry songs — it was because sweet Kurt finally looked like he felt at home and belonged, which warmed my little heart. But eventually the club’s dance steps made me feel as uncomfortable as the days of Will’s boy band.

Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” and The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” mash-up sung by the girls
Super-fun, super-energetic and loved the black leather, but I’d say it paled in comparison to the girls’ “Halo”/”Walking on Sunshine” mash-up from last year. Sorry, gals.

The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love” and En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” mash-up sung by the boys

I think the fellahs had the ladies beat in terms of the mash-up competition this year, though, the blue suit jackets definitely couldn’t hold a candle to the girls’ badass ensembles.

What did you guys think of tonight’s episode? Did I read into the bullying theme too much? Am I taking this whole thing too seriously? Or are we still not taking bullying seriously enough? Sound off in the comments below!

(Images courtesy of FOX)

Jen Harper

Editor, BuddyTV