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Glee's Artie Controversy Explained (& Why The Backlash Was Justified)

ScreenRant logo ScreenRant 3/25/2023 Gina Wurtz
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Glee was wrong to cast Kevin McHale as Artie in the musical series, and the showrunners deserved the backlash they received. The 2009 comedy has received a lot of criticism for some of its storylines, and many fans of the show agree the series would never succeed today. The show made a lot of offensive jokes and had some inappropriate moments, like Mr. Schuester twerking with his students. The series has also faced criticism for not utilizing Amber Riley's talent and always pushing her to the background to allow Lea Michele to shine instead.

In recent years, there has been a lot of drama surrounding Michele, with former Glee cast members accusing her of being a bully. Many of these accusations came to light when the Glee actress was cast as Fanny Brice in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl. However, aside from individual controversy, Glee is most talked about for all the things it got wrong and should have never done. One of these was casting McHale as wheelchair user Artie when the actor himself is capable of walking.

Glee Cast A Non-Wheelchair User As Artie

McHale is able-bodied, and some were shocked at the time to find out the actor wasn't in a wheelchair like his character. This upset disability rights activists who felt McHale had taken the opportunity away from a disabled actor who could have represented his community on the series. At the time, a Glee producer tried to justify the choice saying the show's main priority was to cast someone who could actually act and sing, which was supposedly hard to do if they wanted to specifically cast someone who is in a wheelchair in real life.

In hindsight, this is a pretty ridiculous claim and seems more like an attempt to cover their mistake. There are plenty of disabled actors and singers who could have played the role of Artie, suggesting the show just didn't look hard enough. To make matters worse, one scene in Glee featured Artie dreaming that he can walk, highlighting the discrepancy between the actor and character. Given the understandable backlash, it's evident McHale should have never been cast as Artie in the series.

Kevin McHale Is Right About Artie In A Glee Reboot

Luckily, McHale is aware that his casting was problematic, which is why he would never return as Artie in a Glee reboot. Glee fans would love to see Ryan Murphy revisit his show, and the creator is open to the idea. However, McHale says that if there were a reboot, he would only consider coming back if he could play an entirely different character. He understands and agrees with the criticism, and while he can't take back playing Artie in Glee, at least he vows to never make the same mistake again.


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