So last night’s Glee has definitely been the most controversial episode of the show that I’ve ever seen.
Now the show has always dealt with topical and sometimes controversial issues in the past: LGBT issues, suicide, bullying, teen marriage, teen pregnancy, texting and driving, spousal abuse, mental illness and well you get the picture.
However, “Shooting Star” (season four episode eighteen) is definitely the most controversial episode to come out of the show yet. With the Sandy Hook fresh in our minds, many people had out cried that it was “too soon” and that glee was not the appropriate place for this to take place.
Before I express my opinion on this issue, let’s get the necessary stuff out of the way first.
As always all of the views in this post is based on my own observations and conclusions drawn through a rewatch of the television show Glee. This is just MY opinion. If you agree fantastic if you don’t then I respect your opinion too.
(This post contains spoilers up to episode eighteen of season four “Shooting Star”.)
Now when it comes to Glee, I tend to spoil myself horribly with this show. (And if you want the really good spoilers check out GleekOutBrasil, they’re always right.) So I knew that this was coming for months.
When I first heard the subject matter that Glee was going to be tackling, I cringed internally. Glee, as I have mentioned in the past, has a hit or miss track record when it comes to topical issues.
For instance the Bieste abuse storyline in season three, that one was not good at all. First off they put it in an episode full of other emotional drama with the NYADA auditions. Bieste’s plot was just kind of shoved it to the B-plot status in “Choke” (season three episode eighteen. It should have been in a different episode or the storyline should have been used with all. The dialogue was written clumsily. It was brought to our attention by way of a Chris Brown-Rhianna joke. I was offended by that. I really truly was offended by it. The only thing I could even praise about it was the acting of Dot Marie Jones who plays Coach Bieste on the show. She took a lot of shit writing and rose above it with her acting style.
However, this is an instance of where Glee takes an issue and portrays badly. Really, really, really badly. I plan on doing “Choke” in Bad Glee Theatre one of these days. So I’ll delve more into detail then, this is just the summary about what offended me about the plot.
Another instance of poor handling of a topical, controversial issue is “On My Way” (season three episode fourteen). Karofsky’s suicide attempt in “On My Way” was heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching. It reached its way into your heart and made you feel about what this former bully was going through. I cried. I cried hard for a character that had grown to have my empathy and my sympathy. However, I also hated myself for crying. Yet again Karofsky’s plot was pushed off to the side in light of Regionals and a Finchel wedding. Instead of having a whole episode to really discuss the issue, it had a few scenes and then was done. It even took place during a song sequence. Again I am not faulting the acting here. Max Adler delivered one of the best guest performances of season three. The scene between him and Chris Colfer in the hospital room again grabbed me in my feeling place and made me feel things. I even don’t really hate the song sequence. It made it’s way onto my list for Best Songs In Season Three because of how powerful it was. Do I think it was inappropriate for a song to play? Yes. But ultimately, the song conveyed something and was more of background music than a performance.
What offended me about the plot was again how it was handled. When someone commits suicide, it does seem to come out of nowhere. It makes it all the more shocking for the people around them when it occurs. I still think that there should have been a better build to it though. I also, again, think that it should have been the central plot of the episode rather than having to be juggled in with Regionals and the whole stupid fucking wedding.
Now with these thoughts in mind from how “Choke” and “On My Way” handled the topical and controversial subject matter in their episodes, let’s take a look at “Shooting Star”.
One way this episode is improved over “On My Way”? It had a warning right before the episode.
Everyone in the Glee online community was a little bit wary for the episode. Again this is due to the subject matter, Sandy Hook is still fresh in our minds. However, if this was aired pre-Sandy Hook it still would have been controversial. Why? Simple. There is never really a “good” time or place to talk about school violence on television with a high school based show. I remember One Tree Hill got flack when they tackled it. Shows in the 90’s who decided to tackle this issue probably faced criticism for tackling it.
Television, especially a show like Glee, is supposed to be escapist. It’s a comedy musical and a weird one at that. However, I think that is why I liked this episode.
As I said in the past, Glee isn’t a cerebral show. It doesn’t have consistent plots or characters. The writing is all over the place. I will rant and I will rave. I will curse and I will bang my head against the wall. I have been legitimately pissed off at the show. However, I can’t be pissed off for it trying to tackle a legitimate fear all kids have today. There will never be a “good” time for a television show to talk about a school shooting. It will always be “too soon”. Always. So they either pretend that the reality of it doesn’t exist for teenagers today. Or they tackle it in a mature, adult fashion. People will get offended. People are offended.
Heather Hadley in her recap for AfterElton.com sums up my feelings best: “And it’s always going to be too soon after a school shooting if we don’t do something to stop school shootings. Sandy Hook wasn’t the first. And it won’t be the last. If you wait three months to tell this story, or six months, or a year, who’s to say how many more school shootings will happen between now and then? No, the time to open a dialogue about a horrific thing is when there’s momentum to change the horrific thing. That time is right now.”
I was moved. For that long hour, I couldn’t breathe. There was such a dissonance in the episode. All of the silly, weird stuff was done in the first twenty minutes of the show. When that gun shot cracked, there were no jokes. It happens on Glee which teenagers and young adults watch, then hopefully it will get them to start up a dialogue about it. I think the goal tonight was to bring it up and have people discuss it.
People have been discussing it. The tactic, for the most part, worked.
Was I uncomfortable watching it? Yes. I was. I just wasn’t mad at it.
However, I wanted that uncomfortable feeling while watching a Glee episode that tackles a relevant issue. I don’t want to breathe during it. I want to be choked up. It was claustrophobic. It was awkward. The world was McKinley and it truly felt like it was all narrowed down into the school and those hallways. The direction in this episode invoked that feeling of claustrophobia. The writing in this episode was just a spring coil waiting to just snap. The acting in this episode just tugs at your heartstrings. It didn’t “manipulate” me into feeling. I don’t cry that easily actually. Glee is just a show that makes me feel emotions so much.
It moved me. I cried during that shaky cellphone camera footage that was shot. I cried when Marley cried about no reaching her mother. I swallowed when it cut to Mrs. Rose in the kitchen away from her phone and hiding all along. I sobbed when it cut to Brittany all alone in the bathroom stall. I held my breath when the phone started ringing in the choir room. I wrung my hands when Tina was alone outside and couldn’t get to her friends. I held my breath as Sam desperately tried to get out. Writing about it now, I am still tearing up.
This is what good storytelling does. It invokes something within us, strikes a chord and makes us really truly feel.
That didn’t manipulate me into feeling something. Those feelings were genuine feelings. I was genuinely sad. I was genuinely wrecked. Even though I knew that it was going to turn out with no one getting shot.
Glee gives us doses of reality. It’s a comedy musical drama. It has no real set category. It’s an emotional show.
I think they handled the episode in a true adult fashion. What began as a ludicrous episode of the show turned into something adult and real.
In an interview with JustJared.com, Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) said this about her feelings on the episode: “At first I was a little shocked that we were actually going to go there, because it’s just something that is very touchy as of late. I was nervous and excited all at the same time that we were actually going to do something so big and with such an impact on something so real.”
Glee approaches social issues because the show wants to discuss it. Is it always successful? Again see my complaints for “Choke” and “On My Way”. If they want to do a social issue then they need to focus on it. They choose something here in “Shooting Star” and when it was time to focus on it. They focused on it. They showed the aftermath of it. They showed the fear and the emotions of everyone involved with it. No school really thinks about this happening. In the land of Glee they were all worried about what they were usually worried. This shook them up. This shook us up because we though McKinley was a safe place (er…not safe-safe but you get what I mean).
Then there’s who the shooter actually is…Becky.
People could get angry over this. I think people already are angry over this. I understand WHY people are angry over this.
I’m confused by why Becky is the shooter. Not angry.
Look Becky (played by the fantastic Lauren Potter who I want to meet in real life) has always been tough as nails. The fact that she has Downs Syndrome was there but I never defined her character by it. She was just Sue’s sometimes sassy but tough assistant who happened to have Downs Syndrome. I pointed this out in my own recap of the show for PopWrapped.
But Becky being scared of graduating? That seemed to come out of nowhere. She brings it up in a nice scene between her and Brittany. The reason she brings the gun to school is because it makes her feel safe about facing the scary outside world.
What it also does is raise a good questions to be discussed. Kids can get guns really easily. They can also bring said weapons into school just as easily. How do we fix that? I don’t know. This scene brought up an interesting question.
Ultimately the shooting turned out to be the gun accidentally firing. Sue took the blame for Becky and is fired. She doesn’t want this mistake to affect Becky’s entire life. Why? Becky is a teenager who felt fear.
When teenagers are scared, they do stupid shit.
Now again I’m on the fence because this just doesn’t fit Becky as a character. She has her identity. The only time I saw her shaken up was in “Funeral” but that’s because she felt like she didn’t belong anywhere after Sue got rid of her. I think after building up her confidence on the Cheerios, Becky can face the outside world. Maybe I don’t really get it. I just think that fear could have been built up a little better.
Lauren Potter (Becky) and her mother, Robin Sinkhorn, did a joint interview about “Shooting Star” for Huffington Post.
Sinkhorn addressed the issue like this: “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.”
“I hope it just opens up dialogue even more so. Lauren is acting the role of Becky Jackson. The writers and directors put her in that role; that’s not Lauren Potter,” Sinkhorn noted. “The main point I take away from this is, ‘Wow. What a great actress that she can do this dramatic role just like any other actor out there.’ And it kind of opens the door I think for more roles for people with intellectual disabilities … This isn’t Lauren at all! She’d never do that, but she can act it like you’ll believe it. That’s the thing. There’s always going to be naysayers, no matter what. The point that people should take away is, this is a timely subject and they chose Lauren Potter to act that role, not anybody else in the cast. And it’s not because they’re saying, ‘She has an intellectual disability so she’s the only one that would do that’ because I think most of the time that happens, it’s not somebody with an intellectual disability that does it. But they said, ‘You know what? Lauren’s been great on the show for four years and she can act this role, so let’s give it to her.’ That’s what I would say to those people. We know we’ll get [negative feedback]. You do for everything. We get it when she does little sexy things and says, ‘Hey, bitches.’ We’ll hear stuff. But then we hear other people saying, ‘That was perfect.'”
However, if you’re like me, and felt this was out of character according to Sinkhorn there will be a little more background shown for the events leading up to “Shooting Star”. However, I agree with everything that Sinkhorn said about Becky for the episode and the aftermath.
You know why? What’s done is done. It’s aired. It’s apart of the canon of Glee now. The episode, excuse me, “said what it needed to say”.
It got us talking. It pissed people off. However, the majority of the fans that I talk with said this was the best episode they’ve seen the show produce in a long time.
When Glee tackles social issues in the future I will hold those episodes up to the standard set by Quinn’s pregnancy (during season one), Kurt and Santana respective dealings with their sexualities, Karofsky and his harrowing journey and “Shooting Star”.
NEXT ON THE GLEE REWATCH PROJECT: I’m going to do something a lot happier. I promise. Uh…maybe do a Top Twenty-Five Songs NYC Cast Should Sing?
Follow Me: @GleeRewatch for the latest updates. If you want there is always my personal account if you want to hear my daily dose of random babbling! Also I am a contributor for PopWrapped and write glee-caps for the site. The lastest one you can find here.
Credits: Glee Wiki (glee.wikia.com)
Just Jared (Jacob Arist also did an interview about the episode you guys should check out)