Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

WHEN Glee had its pre­miere in 2009, cyn­ics sus­pected it would be lit­tle more than a High School Mu­si­cal rip-off. The Ryan Mur­phy-cre­ated mu­sic drama, how­ever, has be­come a world­wide cul­tural phe­nom­e­non that is play­ing a ma­jor part in shap­ing at­ti­tudes to­wards self-em­pow­er­ment, gay rights and the scourge of bul­ly­ing.

Glee’s im­pact has been so pow­er­ful that the cast was in­vited to meet US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Mur­phy says that he pur­pose­fully in­creased ‘‘ the out­sider fac­tor’’ for the sec­ond sea­son, end­ing tonight on Chan­nel 10.

That was never more ap­par­ent than in the Never Been Kissed episode, where Kurt (Chris Colfer) was bul­lied be­cause of his sex­u­al­ity and de­cided to stand up to his tor­menter.

The episode struck a chord be­cause it aired shortly af­ter a se­ries of teen sui­cides in the US where bul­ly­ing was a ma­jor fac­tor.

Colfer sub­se­quently was named one of the world’s 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple of 2011 by Time mag­a­zine.

He won the 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tor in a Tele­vi­sion Se­ries for his per­for­mance.

‘‘( Bul­ly­ing) was one of the sto­ry­lines we had al­ways planned on do­ing, and then it be­came na­tion­wide news — peo­ple who are pun­ished for their sex­u­al­ity or pun­ished for be­ing dif­fer­ent, which I think is a real epi­demic in schools,’’ Mur­phy says.

Colfer, who is openly gay, says film­ing Glee has been ther­a­peu­tic. He was fre­quently bul­lied at school.

On Glee, Kurt got tired of the ha­rass­ment and the bul­ly­ing and joined an­other school.

‘‘ The feed­back (from TV view­ers) has been quite a buzz,’’ Colfer says. ‘‘ I think peo­ple are just so thank­ful that this topic is fi­nally be­ing talked about. I was bul­lied in high school, so I’m very happy that there’s a voice for it now and it’s be­ing por­trayed and it’s be­ing seen as the very nasty, ugly thing it can be.’’

Colfer says he coped with bul­ly­ing at school by ‘‘ hav­ing very witty come­backs’’.

‘‘ I learned to run very fast af­ter say­ing things — but it only pro­voked them,’’ he says.

‘‘ Some­one would scream, ‘ Fag’ at me in the hall­way, and I’d say back, ‘ Yeah, but can you spell it?’. They’d say, ‘ Hey, your voice is high’, and I’d say, ‘ Yeah, so are you most of the time’.

‘‘ They thought it was a game and they thought I was play­ing along. I was not play­ing along.’’

The irony is that some stu­dents who bul­lied Colfer now want to be friends.

‘‘ One of them ac­tu­ally sent me a mes­sage on Face­book, say­ing, ‘ Do you re­mem­ber how much fun we used to have?’,’’ Colfer says.

‘‘ I would be ly­ing if I told you I did not write him a 10-page letter back say­ing how much he made my life mis­er­able in high school. I wanted to send it, but I didn’t.’’ Glee, Chan­nel 10, 8.30 tonight

Taunted: Chris Colfer faced up to bul­lies

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