A Very Special Glee

Last night’s Glee was amazing. That’s right. I said it was amazing. Actually, it was fucking brilliant. It was one of the best episodes I have ever seen of any show. And you want to know why? Because it was real.

Yes, I said that it was awesome because it was real. I know it is a work of fiction, but it was so realistic. It reminded me of a time in high school, just about five or six months after Columbine, when there was a lockdown at my high school because someone thought they saw someone walking toward the school with a gun. The panic that ensued in the episode reminded me of what everyone was like when the words “Mississippi Red” came over the intercom. The crying and anxiety that the characters experienced reminded me of what my classmates and I were like when we waited to find out if we were safe. And the relief when it was over reminded me of what it was like when we found out that we hadn’t been in any real danger. (If I remember correctly, the guy didn’t have a gun and he wasn’t even really heading toward the school.) We didn’t know that until afterward, so the anxiety that we had was real. The fear we had was real. And the fear and anxiety portrayed in the writing and acting on last night’s episode was very realistic. Even the way that it seemed like they were in lockdown forever, when it was really just a few minutes, was realistic. When you’re in that kind of situation, every second feels like an hour. That they were able to portray that on a sixty minute episode amazed me.

I know that people think that it is exploiting Newtown and Sandy Hook, but I don’t really think it is. Think about this little fact: within one month after the Sandy Hook tragedy, there were 5 other school shootings. Five. That was in one month. School shootings don’t belong to just one school. They belong to every school, everywhere. Blaming Glee for having the episode “too soon” after Sandy Hook isn’t fair. When would it have been acceptable for the school shooting episode to take place? Should they have waited until there hadn’t been a school shooting for a few months? Chances are that that, unfortunately, won’t be happening anytime soon in this country.

As for people upset by it being Becky (played by Lauren Potter) that brought the gun to school and thinking that this is Glee‘s way of demonizing people with Down Syndrome, I just want to shake my head at you guys. Becky didn’t bring the gun to school with the thought that she was going to hurt anyone. She did it because she was scared that she would need to protect herself. This is the kind of thing that causes a lot of kids to bring guns to school–most of them are not ones who have Down Syndrome or any form of disability. And, for the people who are jumping on the anti-Glee bandwagon for this without seeing the episode, they should know that Becky didn’t shoot anyone. The gun discharged twice accidentally. She didn’t hurt anyone. And she was just as scared by it going off as everyone else in the episode.

Would it make people feel better if the person who brought the gun in was someone who had a history of mental illness? Or would they feel better if it was someone with a history of violence? Would it be okay if it was someone who was poor? Or should it just be a some random white boy who happens to be a loner? Is it just because she has Down Syndrome that people are thinking that she shouldn’t be capable of bringing a gun to school? That doesn’t seem very fair. Lauren Potter’s mother, Robin Sinkhorn, commented on the outrage about Becky being the shooter, “The shootings are still fresh in all of our minds. If Becky’s going to be fully included on the show — which they’ve done such a good job about that and giving her these juicy stories — then why not Becky? Whether she has Down syndrome or not, it doesn’t matter … Why wouldn’t it be somebody with Down syndrome because she’s a kid. She’s a teenager. She makes stupid decisions just like other teenagers do.”

Another thing to think about is that Glee is not the first television series to have a show with a school shooting in it. In 1999, there was an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “Earshot” and it was originally scheduled to air the week after Columbine. (Obviously, they didn’t know Columbine was going to happen when they came up with that episode, but there had already been quite a few well-publicized school shootings in the year or two before Columbine.)  Buffy fans didn’t get to see it until September. Degrassi: The Next Generation had a shooting in 2004. (This one is rather well-known since one of the victims of the shooting was played by Drake Aubrey Graham.) In 2006, One Tree Hill there was a school shooting episode where a main character ended up dying. There have been so many more with shootings at schools. So this is not just some thing that only Glee did. This is something that has become a very prevalent part of television shows that are marketed to younger audiences.

School violence is reality. And we can’t expect for fictional outlets, like television, movies, and books, to completely ignore this facet of reality. This is the reality that kids face when they walk into school everyday, even if they don’t realize it. This wasn’t an exploitation of a single event, but a wake-up call about what life is really like in a society like ours. If the episode made you uncomfortable, good. No one should feel comfortable with the idea that, one minute, their child can be laughing and joking like a child should do and, the next, they’re on the floor of a room in their school, terrorized by the thought that someone could come to where they are and end their life. This wasn’t an episode that was supposed to make people feel happy or joyous or anything like that. It was one that was meant to make you think and feel. It was a reminder that this culture needs to change in significant ways if we expect kids to have safe environments to learn and grow up in.


About Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.