On Thursday, Fox aired a controversial episode of Glee, its musical comedy-drama television series, called ‘Shooting Star,’ which depicted a potential school shooting in progress.
But – spoiler alert! – there was no deranged shooter or gun-wielding sociopath.
Instead, the culprit was a Downs kid who brought a handgun to school for self-defense only to have it accidentally discharge, not once, but twice.
This accident put the school on lockdown and had everyone – students, faculty and staff – believing that there was an active gunman on the loose.
For example, upon hearing the gunshots, glee club coach Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) tells his students to find secure places in the choir room and take cover. The students then hide behind desks, speakers and in the corners of the room.
“Start texting, tweeting, let everyone know what’s going on but don’t tell them we’re here. Alright? Shooters have smart moves too,” Schuester tells the terrified teens.
“I love you guys,” he adds.
Toward the end of the show, once it’s revealed that little Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter), the teen with Down syndrome, brought the gun to school, she offered up this explanation to cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch).
“I was scared coach, about graduating, being out in the world. With no one to protect me,” Becky says, showing the gun, which belongs to her father, to Sylvester. “I wanted to be prepared and protect myself. I need help.”
Instead of turning Jackson over to the authorities or the principal, Sylvester decides to take the fall for the incident.
“I’m sorry, but in light of recent events, I feel more safe with it in my office,” Sylvester tells the livid principal.
“Look, Sue, I’m not going to argue the merits of armed teachers right now,” the principal responds, prompting Sylvester to then take the following swipe at the gun community.
“It’s a different world from when you and I started teaching…the safety net of the public mental health system is gone,” she replies. “Parents with troubled kids are too busy working three jobs to look after them. And the gun yahoos have everyone so worked up about Obama taking away their guns, that every house has a readily available arsenal.”
Putting those political threads aside, the episode’s gritty rendering of an emergency situation had Newtown community members questioning the producers’ decision to air the episode so soon after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and without a heads up to boot.
Andrew Paley, whose twins attend Sandy Hook, told NBC that Fox has every right to air the episode, but a warning to the Newtown community would have been nice.
“We’re going through a healing phase right now and without giving us any kind of warning, it’s going to open up wounds we’re trying to close right now,” Paley said.
Another parent, Tricia Muzzio, who watched the episode with her daughters, former Sandy Hook students, echoed Paley’s thoughts.
“It was so realistic that I couldn’t believe it,” Muzzio told NBC. “This close to the tragedy without any warning, I believe was inconsiderate.”
“I said to myself. ‘Wow, this is really how it happened,” Muzzio she added.
Fox did include a disclaimer before the episode started, which read: “This episode of Glee addresses the topic of school violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” But apparently, to some, that wasn’t enough.
What are your thoughts? Should Glee producers have warned the Newtown community about the episode? Also, what did you think about the plot of the episode and its treatment of gun owners?