Glee, "Never Been Kissed": pretty on the inside

Quick Take: Glee, "Never Been Kissed"
"I'm going to have to go to the wound care unit.  Look at some wounds." - Sue Sylvester

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Review: Glee, "Never Been Kissed"
(S0206) Sometimes I have a really hard time deciding whether I love or hate an episode of Glee.  This was one of those weeks, which is a large part of the reason this review is so late.  I tend to like an episode in its immediate aftermath, but then it seems like the longer I have to think about it, the more I find things that bother me.  I’m not really about plot holes or contrivances that can probably be overlooked, but thematic inconsistencies that really kind of hurt the message.  Here was my basic thought process for each of this week's Glee stories:

First impression: Kurt’s story, where he is finally sick of being bullied but meets a young gay mentor of sorts at a rival school, was pretty powerful overall.  Bullying is a bit of a hot topic nowadays, and no show is in a better position to tackle it than Glee.  Darren Criss is well cast as Blaine, and the Dalton Academy’s a cappella version of “Teenage Dream” was one of the better songs the show has put out in a while.  Chris Colfer always nails his dramatic scenes, and this was no exception.

The more I think about it…:  While I’m glad Kurt found someone he can relate to (and a potential love interest), the Gay Teen Utopia that was Dalton was a little bit too convenient.  No level of “zero tolerance harassment policy” will make a whole school of boys rally around a song about skin tight jeans.

But my real concern was with the reveal that Karofsky, Kurt’s primary harasser, is actually gay, when he forces a kiss on Kurt.  Sure, it’s a compelling (if a bit predictable) twist, but I think it muddies the bullying issue in a way that will undermine the message.   Unfortunately, there are a lot of bullies who are just plain bigots, and I think it would have been more interesting to see how Kurt and his classmates combat that.  But now what?  Should we feel sorry for Karofsky, who is just acting out to repress his true feelings?  Is Kurt expected to sympathize with him now, and try to aid him in coming out?  It just feels like a bit of a cop-out, but we’ll see where they take it going forward.  I’d also like to see the staff and other glee members attempt to get a little more involved.  Will sees Kurt getting shoved, and all he does is wonder why Kurt doesn’t shrug it off anymore?  Real helpful, Mr. Schuester.

First impression: I really enjoyed the pairing of Artie and Puck, as Puck used Artie to get his community service.  They made for a funny odd couple, and I hope the friendship continues to grow.  Puck revealing his true feelings about his time at juvenile hall was a nice bit of character depth, something that Puck has been really lacking this season.

The more I think about it…:  For a show that rallies so strongly against homophobia and intolerance, there are often some uncomfortably sexist tendencies.  Puck’s treatment of Santana and Brittany, and their doe-eyed responses, was a bit demeaning.   It fits Puck’s character, but it wasn’t presented as a flaw.  There was no lesson learned; Artie didn’t even object to Puck’s antics until he tried to dine and dash.   It’s not the first time I’ve felt the show has poorly written its female characters; I think they would be well-served to hire a female writer or two.

First impression: The story with Beiste (Dot Jones) was touching and well-acted.  It was nice to see Will acting like a compassionate adult for once, and it was a nice parallel to Kurt’s bullying arc.

The more I think about it…:  This story is inherently hypocritical.  The students get chided for privately making fun of Beiste’s appearance (and using it to “cool off” during make-out sessions).  That’s all well and good, except that the show itself used her appearance for humor throughout the episode.  You can’t use a person’s image for laughs (“Look, now she’s in a tutu! Now she’s carving meat!”) and then get all moral about laughing at someone’s appearance. 

Also, I thought it was super patronizing that Will kissed Beiste.  She made it pretty clear how much she felt a kiss meant (beautiful delivery here, by the way), so he goes and kisses her out of sympathy?  She didn’t seem to mind, and his intentions were obviously benign, but I didn’t really like it.

First impression: I liked the Boys vs. Girls mashup contest last year, so I was glad they brought it back. The twist to have the girls sing a guys’ song and vice versa was interesting, and the songs, while not amazing, were pleasant enough.

The more I think about it…:  This “opposite day” idea could have had some really fun potential, but it was only granted a few lines.  The mashups weren’t horrible, but they seemed kind of thrown together.  I love “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and I’m super disappointed that they blew it in a lame combo with “Start Me Up” (though Jimmy Fallon more than did it justice with “6-Bee”).  Cool outfits though, especially in the girls number.

I suppose the lesson is that I shouldn’t think so much about a show like Glee.  On the surface, this was a perfectly enjoyable, well-paced episode.  The problem is that I feel like the writers want us to take it seriously, and they’re certainly exploring some serious issues, so it’s bound to get some serious thought, and it doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny.  If it wants to make statements and take moral stances, it needs to be much more consistent.   

But that’s probably enough complaining from me for this week.  What did you guys think?

Video: Glee, "Never Been Kissed"
Check out the episode in full from Hulu, while available: 

By Adam Wattenbarger

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