5:00 pm EDT, May 31, 2012

What’s happened to Kurt Hummel? How the ‘Glee’ writers lost the plot of their breakout character

When interviewed about Kurt Hummel, a groundbreaking character created for Chris Colfer on Glee, producer Ryan Murphy once said…

I am not interested in seeing that kid be gay bashed. I’m not interested in seeing that kid be picked on. I’m interested in him winning, and being popular, and a survivor. And him being a role model to so many gay kids who watch that show who can see that character and say ‘I can be that’…. He’s going to have a boyfriend who is going to be very different but equally as fabulous…and I want them to become the power couple of the school, and they will be.

This interview was at PaleyFest in February 2011.

There was a time when Kurt was a vibrant, saucy, determined character who was highly praised, and often very well rewarded for his stubbornly individual take on the world. In the first season, Kurt Hummel auditioned for the role of kicker, and ended up being a very good, if rather unorthodox, football player. He won the big game for his team, and found the courage to come out to his father at the same time. If he failed at something, it was at least partly through his own choices; he botched that high note on “Defying Gravity,” yes, but he did it on purpose to protect his father, and he finally got his big chance to shine as a performer during the National Cheerleading Championship as lead singer for the Cheerios.

That assertive character who enjoyed triumphs and successes as well as setbacks earned an Emmy nomination for Chris Colfer in his very first season as a professional television performer. That character vaulted out of the ranks of the minor characters to become one of the show’s biggest stars, arguably eclipsing even Finn and Will as the show’s most effective male character.

What happened to that vision for Kurt Hummel? When did he become the official Glee punching bag, and why?

Since then, Kurt has been bullied so badly he had to leave the school. He was exiled to Dalton Academy for three months, and ended up being a sidekick in his own storyline as the writers focused more on writing excuses to showcase Blaine’s singing. Once he finally returned to McKinley, he was named Prom Queen by enemies who wished to humiliate him. He did get his boyfriend, but I don’t think anybody could really call them the power couple of the school.

Season Three was even bleaker. The second episode of the season, “I am Unicorn,” showed characters who said they celebrated Kurt’s unique personality, and yet he was laughed off the audition stage by the directors of West Side Story. Deemed too effeminate to play the male lead, he was given no singing role at all; the panel of directors deemed him fit only to play the non-singing, non-dancing role of Officer Krupke. He spent the entire year trying desperately to cobble together enough accomplishments to create an acceptable resume for his admission to NYADA, a competitive fine arts college. In the process, he was beaten in a contest for Class President by a girl who had a 0.0 grade point average, and nearly got suspended when Figgins wrongly accused him of stuffing the ballot boxes.

All his struggles appeared to pay off when he got his exclusive NYADA audition, and nailed it. NYADA Dean Carmen Thibideaux praised his audition very highly, and it appeared that his story would have a satisfying ending. This was the sole triumph of his entire year. Then… he got his rejection letter, and that single triumph was completely obliterated. Kurt’s very last words of the entire season are “I didn’t get in,” and then the writers simply dropped his story completely. As of right now, he is the only graduating senior of Glee who did not get a resolution to his storyline, as if the writing staff didn’t even think it important enough to warrant comment from the other characters.

Ryan Murphy said that he wanted his revolutionary gay character to be an inspirational role model, a vision of hope for the future of kids like him who are watching the show and think themselves to be outsiders. But the way he’s being written now seems to reinforce the idea that the very effeminate boy is going to be overlooked, written off and mistreated at all times by everybody he meets, and they aren’t offering a lot of hope at the moment.

At least one story in the mainstream media is questioning the loser direction they’ve taken Kurt; E.W. Com recently ran a poll asking readers to name the weakest plot twist in a season finale, and Kurt’s rejection to NYADA won a whopping 42% of the vote. At least some segment of the Glee audience is getting quite tired of seeing the iconic gay character as a perennial pitiful loser. Here’s hoping that in season 4 the Glee writers will recognize the degree to which they have strayed from Ryan Murphy’s vision, and make Kurt Hummel regain his status as a character that a gay kid watching the show can see, and say, “I can be that.” He doesn’t have to win every audition, or succeed at every turn, but a little balance might be nice. Who knows? If Kurt isn’t forced to fail all the time, maybe he might actually be able to be funny every once in awhile, as he was in that first great season when hopes for him ran so high.

I have written recaps for every Glee episode in season 3. Read them, and posts about other television shows, at this link.

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