Glee's 'Shooting Star,' TV Censoring, and Gun Control Policy

Being a fan of Glee has its ups and downs.

Some days I finish an episode thinking:

“These actors are really talented.” OR “I applaud the writers for tackling such topical and controversial issues.”

…And many times I am in awe of the choreography and cinematography.

Other episodes I find myself thinking:

“That sounds auto tuned.” OR “Why did you even attempt to cover that?..the original will always be better.” OR “Why did you write it this way?…it’s so out of character, they would never do that.” OR “Have you ever heard of continuity and consistency?…you just contradicted tons of things established from past seasons.”

Whatever the opinion, I continue to watch because I have always loved (and been in) musicals, and I enjoy using music to better express life.  Also, I fully support a show that promotes the message of being and loving yourself to young generations, because I know times can get rough, having experienced bullying myself for a decent part of my childhood. It is good that kids and teens have a source that says, “It gets better.” and “Screw them. You have a life to live and if you work hard and believe hard enough, some day you’ll be successful. All your bullied days will be a faint memory, and those who tormented you will end up peaking in high school and pumping your gas.”

And trust me…from a college student perspective…those jerks get their just desserts. Karma’s a B, isn’t it.

You can fault Glee on many things, but denying that cranking out hour-long musicals every week isn’t impressive, or saying they haven’t made some impact in the strides against bullying and anti-LGBTQ rights groups…is ridiculous.

Glee has addressed a lot of topics, including bullying, teen pregnancy, hate crimes, eating disorders, college, popularity, sex, the LGBTQ community…and now with last night’s episode: Shootings.

Whereas this school shooting turned out to be an accident, the knowledge of this was not revealed until the very end of the episode. It started off like any other…silly, crazy, and unusual, just like McKinley High’s resident head cheerleader, Britney S. Pierce. This little world was shaken to the core when, midway through the episode shots rang out and it displayed the very real, chaotic situation of what it is like to be a victim of a mass/school shooting, in a ten minute scene.  Through this it portrays all the obvious accompanying fear, tears, hiding and getting the word/warning out, displays of heroism and rescue, and making parting goodbye messages to their loved ones in case they don’t make it out alive.

It was absolutely gut-wrenching to watch, and had me in tears at one point. I even thought, “Am I watching American Horror Story? I thought Glee was supposed to be a comedy?” The acting chops shown by this young cast were truly astounding and completely on point.

For many of us it would be hard to imagine…Being in that kind of life-threatening, traumatic danger. Glee put us in the shoes of the terrified student and helped us gain perspective.

In the wake of the Newtown, Virginia school shooting, the Aurora movie theatre Dark Knight “Joker” (James Holmes) attack, and countless school and college campus shootings over history, from Kent State to Columbine to Virginia Tech and beyond, mass shootings are becoming less of a rarity.

With Newtown being fresh in the minds of our country, some are saying the Glee episode is “too soon,” that it’s just a ploy for ratings or that it’s a trigger. But, I think it does a good job in helping others understand horrid atrocities of mass shootings, without actually having to go through the experience yourself.  And I hope those of you reading this, never have to experience the disturbing loss of your sense of security and innocence by going through such a terrifying, life-changing event.  

Also, it is important to address these issues with kids today.  This type of stuff is becoming more and more prevalent, and parents need to make sure their children are well-informed about how to stay safe and what to do in that situation.  

In this case ignorance is not bliss.  There is sheltering your children, and then there is unknowingly harming them.  Rather than make your kids believe that nothing can happen to them, and they are perfectly safe, perhaps watching this episode together could spark a conversation, where the information shared could end up saving a life.

Those in Newtown’s anti-gun group urged Sandyhook residents not to watch, calling the subject matter “too fresh,” stating their kids and residents watch the show too, and demanded that Glee at least have given them a “warning.”  

Really?

Let’s consider what the audience of this show SHOULD be. This season Glee moved itself to Thursday nights at 9.

9PM. A whole hour later than previous seasons, later than certain kids’ bedtimes, and enough into primetime to get away with more heady content.  Also, Glee’s rating has been upped this season. You know the little box in the top left-hand corner than tells the estimated viewing age. Have you read it? Because last night I saw it at its highest ever…14 DLV…which is one step below MA, nighttime cable and HBO.  

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Sandyhook elementary is for K-4 age children.  So, K-4 age children were the ones directly affected by the shooting along with adult faculty.  Therefore, if they are good parents, those of Sandyhook should not be letting their 9-years-old-and-below watch the Glee show. Not just this episode. But, all of them. Period.

Also, if you noticed, there was a 20-second black screen that appeared before the episode started. Text and a voice-over stated that “the content of this episode is emotionally charged, shows traumatic events and violence.”

“VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.”

If all of this isn’t enough of a warning for you, then I don’t know what is, but let’s gather more evidence, shall we.

Now you may be saying, ‘what about my 14-year-old who watches the show,’ or ‘what about all the older teens whose families and community were affected my the Sandyhook shooting.’

If you are a fan of the show then you would know that Glee promotes and reveals information as to the plot of their episodes, song previews and sneak peek videos at least a week ahead of every episode.  Each show gets a promo, and countless spoiler blogs pre-release juicy details in advance. If your child is a fan of the show, and you are worried about the content they will be exposed to, you might want to do your research ahead of time before plunking your youngster in front of an electronic babysitter. You know educating yourself and your children, influencing them, raising them right. That promise you entered into with this little life when they were born, to love, protect and guide them…You know…what’s the word?

Oh Yeah, Parenting.

Do your job and let other people, ie TV show content producers, do theirs.

I even read some talk of banning the episode.

In my mind, there is no excused for “banning” TV shows, written works, art, film, etc. You can censor certain things for children’s sake, sure. I mean nobody would want to have their 10-year-old watching Saturday Night Live at, say, noon on a Saturday. But, getting rid of something, boycotting and name-calling doesn’t solve anything.

You cannot stifle free creativity, broadcast/film/TV and First Amendment rights just because you deem something upsetting or in poor taste. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “give an inch and they take a mile.”  If you prohibit one message or idea from being shown, just because you don’t like it, you run the risk of the government limiting one of the greatest freedoms we have: Speech.

We may hate the KKK and think that they are all whackjobs…but we are not allowed to deny them peaceful protest. Neo-Nazi groups holding a rally in a Jewish-centralized community is disgusting…but the law won’t stop it. Westboro Baptist Church yelling anti-gay slurs at military funerals is despicable…but by limiting the rights of one, we limit rights of free speech to the many.

…Free speech…a beauty and a curse.

In the end, I think Glee shed a great light on the topical subject of the horrors and aftermath of school shootings.  And I think they raise a lot of great points, out of the mouth of Sue Sylvester, in the current debate over gun control policy within our government.  All of which I wholeheartedly agree.

“It’s a different world,” says Sylvester. “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.”

Have you ever heard of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

We need to focus more on the root of the problem, ie. the state of our national mental health, rather than the surface, ie. gun control.

In the end, if we take only one thing away from this raised awareness and heated debate, it should be…

To hold your loved ones close. Say what you need to say. And live everyday like it’s your last.