On Sunday night’s episode of Glee the episode “Shooting Star” featured a school shooting – although being Glee it was not quite as it seemed. I had read some articles about the episode in advance of watching and I was interested to see how a show which is usually light and fluffy would deal with such a dark subject matter. The answer was confusingly.
Firstly you’ve got the balance of making an episode of a show set in a school and dealing with a shooting being screened in the US less than four months after the horrific events at Sandy Hook. Should they have made it all was the question many asked – especially many families of those involved in the school shooting in December. Personally I think there were elements that were dealt with very well and resonated but there have to be questions about the way it was played out. The fact that it was an accidental shot by a pupil who had taken a gun to school because they were scared of leaving didn’t sit very comfortably as an excuse to do this kind of episode. Then there has been outcry that Lauren Potter’s character Becky was the one to have the gun – many thought it inappropriate to use a Downs Syndrome actor, but to me that is irrelevant and actually took away from the potential drama.
I don’t think that TV or Film should shy away from tackling these types of subjects no matter how recent scars may be, because as one of the teachers that died’s partner said “as long as it keeps a spotlight on the issue” which I think is relevant. However I’m not convinced that in a show like Glee that this kind of story fits or is actually helping the issue.
The other thing that jars with me is that Lauren Potter is a great actress and deserves more than this kind of crowbarred storyline. The relationship with Sue is one that would be great to see developed and make a Downs Syndrome actor at the heart of a show. The episode “Funeral” from the second series shows Sue coming to terms with the death of her sister Jean, also a Downs actress & character, and how she reacts to Becky in the school. The series has dealt with gay, race and body image issues it would have been good if this kind of storyline had built to this crescendo rather than shoehorning it in to suit. The two actors and the relationship had a lot to offer its audience and Becky would have made a great addition to the glee club but they never developed that storyline either.
The potential was there to speak directly to a teen audience about issues surrounding guns, the laws around them and the fallout from even an accidental firing of a gun in a school – instead it was a muddled mess of relationships, singing, comedy and a school shooting. The result was at times tense but ultimately anti-climactic and I fear that this will be brushed over to get back to the song and dance routines and shallow relationships the show does so well. Wrong platform, wrong tone and done on the wrong show.