'Glee' School Shooting Episode: Why It Was Offensive, Jane Lynch Could Be Gone
Disclaimer: This article contains major Glee spoilers.
I'm turning 25 this year, but Glee is still one of my favorite shows. The series I always wanted but never had growing up, it covers everything from school bullying to sexuality, and it's a shame there weren't any programs like it while I was a teenager and stuck with shallow, fashion and boy crazy, airhead TV characters like Lizzie McGuire and Mary-Kate and Ashley. Glee smoothly handled Kurt's coming out in earlier seasons, but really screwed up with Thursday night's installment, which was all about a school shooting, or so we're led to believe.
The episode begins with Ryder figuring out that his internet love interest, Katie is not who she said she was. As one student puts it, he gets "Catfished." The person he was interacting with behind the screen sent him a picture of someone else, a beautiful blond girl who is apparently new to McKinley High. Ryder is disappointed, as he revealed a lot to this person online and wants to know who would trick him like that. He feels he's lost someone he opened up to, albeit on the internet.
Shortly afterward, while the glee kids are all together in class, a gunshot goes off somewhere in the building. Everyone scrambles to different corners of the room, staying quiet at first but eventually losing it, whether through sobs, questions, or the need to embrace a student across the room. Sam, who has a history with Brittany, attempts to find her in the girls' restroom, where she is alone and terrified. Marley is hysterical and worried sick about her mom, the lunch lady tearfully hiding in the kitchen, staring at a pot boiling over on the stove. Mr. Schuester is doing all he can to be the calm in the storm but finds himself restraining a frantic Sam, who will stop at nothing to see whether Brittany's all right. There's pure silence for a while and a ton of waiting, sending viewers to the edge of their seats. The camera angles are shaky as well, and when one student busts out a personal video camera, the film quality decreases considerably.
After the students choke up and nervously tap at their phones, they film a video in case they don't make it out of the building. Marley confesses she's written a bunch of songs, which are stashed away in her bedroom. The usually abrasive Jake reveals he loves his brother Puck and mom, and a few others join in. Sam doesn't want to and tries to flee the room. Mr. Schuester covers his mouth with the help of Ms. Beiste, and shortly afterward, Mr. Schuester slinks out of the room to retrieve Brittany from the bathroom. They hug and cry, and soon there's no need to be afraid anymore.
Once everyone returns to school a couple of days later, a chipper Sue Sylvester tries to make light of the situation, quipping, "I haven't seen this level of overreaction since Janet Jackson showed her saggy funbag on the Super Bowl." You can't help but laugh at her unbelievably flippant response ... until she says she was the one with the gun.
Sylvester tells Mr. Schuester and Ms. Beiste that she's had a gun in her office for a while in light of recent events.
"It's a different world," Sylvester says. "The safety net of the public mental health system is gone. Parents with troubled kids are too busy working three jobs to look after them and the gun yahoos are have everyone so worked up about Obama taking away their guns that every house as a readily available arsenal."
Sylvester claims the gun accidentally went off while she was checking up on it in her cabinet. She attests the gun also fell, setting off the second shot that everyone heard. The staff is stunned, and she loses her job.
If you're anything like me, you would find this anti-climactic. Perhaps that's why Sylvester was not, in fact, the real gun owner. Becky, the cheerleader with Down's syndrome, was. We learn she walked into Sylvester's office in a panic, stating she got the gun from her dad.
"I wanted to be prepared [for the real world] and protect myself. I need help," she says, pulling out the weapon.
It goes off once or twice, and you hear the commotion that ensues outside Sylvester's office. Sylvester covers her mouth before hugging the girl, assuring her, "Don't worry, I'll take care of this."
And so Sylvester, whose own sister was disabled, takes the fall for Becky, who brings the gun to school out of fear of what was ahead. Earlier in the episode, Becky reveals to Brittany that she wants to remain in high school forever, as life as an adult seems scary. That's what apparently inspired her to take the gun to McKinley High, and look at the trouble it created without even physically harming anyone.
As Sylvester herself says, the only thing people will ever remember from her long and fulfilling career will be the gun incident, which we as viewers know was not something she brought upon herself. It happened because she wanted to protect Becky, who surely didn't intend on hurting her classmates. She just freaked out as some young people do, and it cost everyone. As Mr. Schuester says, the entire student population is in fear and feels violated. Their innocence is gone, even though no one was ever shot.
Alas, Sylvester packs up her stuff and leaves the school. It's unclear what this means for actress Jane Lynch, who perfectly portrays the tough but surprisingly caring teacher. As Wet Paint points out, the celebrity is signed on for another series, so perhaps she's moving on for good.
After the episode ended, I couldn't help feeling upset about the fact that Becky had been the one to take the gun to school, and I know I wasn't the only irked viewer:
Sure it was admirable of Sylvester to take the blame for a student who more than likely meant no harm and just needed some guidance, but given recent events, such as December's tragic Sandy Hook shooting, this felt wrong, especially since the person who carried out the Newtown massacre reportedly had Asperger's. The media's obsession with Adam Lanza's Asperger's hurt and maligned the autism community, as some tried to find a connection between the condition and his unspeakably evil act.
That was less than four months ago, and while Glee should definitely broach the subject of school violence in today's world, pinning the gun on Becky was not the best way of going about it. I adore this show even though many would agree it has decreased in quality in recent years, so hopefully it can survive this uncomfortable plot twist and Lynch's possible permanent departure.