Review: FOX's "Glee" tackles school shooting

Season 4 of FOX's hit show "Glee" tackled the aftermath of a school shooting, yet the show seems to have lost its original, core fanbase (photo courtesy of FOX).
Season 4 of FOX's hit show "Glee" tackled the aftermath of a school shooting, yet the show seems to have lost its original, core fanbase (photo courtesy of FOX).

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who feels that the most recent season of “Glee” lacks the thunder the show had in its previous seasons. Many fans were skeptical that the show would even continue to be that great, when last season saw the departure of more than half of the show’s original “golden” cast.

Others were hopeful and continued to stick around to watch season four. Anyone who has been watching this season and was a die-hard fan probably isn’t one anymore after seeing what “Glee” has had to offer recently.

The show’s downhill descent is a result of a few things: the characters are so melodramatic making them no longer relatable, instead just plain annoying; the plotlines have become so theatrical and over the top that they’re no longer interesting; and even some of the original characters have changed so dramatically from their original portrayal that they no longer resemble the characters fans first fell in love with.

Despite how many reasons I can list off about why “Glee” has completely lost what little magic it had left, I was hopeful and continued to watch. I figured, “why not?” After watching episode 18, titled “Shooting Star,” however, I may not watch the show ever again.

Before the episode begins, there is a warning that reads that the following episode of “Glee” will address the issue of school violence and that viewer discretion is advised. This intrigued me—the show has tackled some pretty dark and heavy topics before, such as teen pregnancy, attempted suicide, and issues of homophobia. Yet, I had never seen a warning listed at the beginning.

The episode starts out with another ‘end of the world’ scare (I say another because they already did an episode for 2012… a fact that one character points out early in the show)—Brittany (Heather Morris) declares that there is a meteor heading towards earth that will wipe out all of mankind. Although the rest of the New Directions crew is skeptical about the idea of the world ending, the scare prompts Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrisson) to assign the students with, in typical “Glee” style, a lesson of “Last Chances.”

The idea behind this lesson would be to encourage students to sing the songs they would sing if they lived like it was their last day. This includes making amends with the people they’ve hurt. Many of the “Glee” kids use this idea as encouragement to take steps forward in whatever issue they’re dealing with—Ryder (Blake Jenner) confronts a girl he thought he had an online relationship with someone who may have never really existed, Brittany makes amends with her overweight cat, and Coach Beiste (Dot Jones) confesses her feelings to Mr. Schuester only to be turned down.

The set-up isn’t anything out of the ordinary for an episode of “Glee,” and left me wondering where the school violence was going to come in. Soon after all these events take place, it turns out that the world isn’t going to end. And just as the characters prepare to break into song, two gun shots are heard.

For a full ten minutes, “Glee” simulates the motions and reactions of being in a school during a shooting. The lights turn off, the doors close, and the characters spend a large portion of the following scene in the dark, crying and revealing their deepest secrets to one another.



The whole time, I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling while I was watching this. I was stressed out, anxious, disturbed, angry and to some degree, disgusted. I realized I didn’t feel this way because of what the episode was showing me, but more because of the idea that someone wanted to make this into an episode almost four months after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. In the past, “Glee” has showcased other heavy issues but none of those issues compare to the horror that descends as a result of a school shooting.

What followed after the next commercial break was the show’s simulation of a school in the aftermath of a shooting. Metal detectors and cameras have been installed, half of the students don’t show up the next day. No one was hurt, but the faculty is left pondering what will happen next.

It’s at that time that Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) admits that the gun belonged to her and the episode showcases the debate that the entire nation has been contemplating: the legality of teachers bringing armed weapons to school as a way of feeling safe and, in certain situations, to be used for self-defense. She explains that the gun went off by accident; however Sue is still required to be fired for her actions. Sue states that, despite the success she has brought to the school as the champion cheerleading coach, this incident is all that she’ll be remembered for.

The episode later reveals that Becky (Lauren Potter), a Cheerios cheerleader with Down Syndrome, was actually the one who fired the gun and that Sue was only taking the fall in order to protect Becky from being expelled. I’m sure this was supposed to, in some way, make me feel empathetic towards Sue’s situation but I still found myself sitting down and feeling nothing but rage towards the creators of the show.

“Glee” is a show that likes to make statements. For years, I commended it for being so forward about bringing attention to issues involving homosexuality, teen pregnancy, and, more recently, transgender issues. But to take something as serious as a school shooting and use it as a basis for an episode is too much.

At the end of the day, “Glee” is a TV show about singing and dancing, and the fact that the shooting ended up being a misfired gun trivialized the issue.

Displaying crying students in a choir room, I also felt, mocked and belittled the sadness of the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook Elementary. It’s good to bring attention to issues as a way of instigating change, but school shootings don’t need any more attention. I felt as though having this episode air on television does exactly what people fear is the biggest problem with shootings: it glamorizes it.

The fact that “Glee” thought this should be the basis for an episode disgusts me because at the core of that thought process lies the fact that someone thought this would make good television. They thought this would get people to watch a dying show and that is truly disturbing. There may be a lot of reasons to no longer watch “Glee” but by far this is the number one reason why I will not longer be watching it.

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