By now, everyone has heard about the infamous “Shooting Star” episode of “Glee” that premiered on Thursday, April 11. If not, this article has some huge spoiler alerts ahead.
Strangely named, the description given of “Shooting Star” was just “a horrific event happens at McKinely high school and causes the glee club to sing about last chances.” Probably the most vague show description ever. Brittany comes out within the first few minutes of the episode and says a meteor is heading to earth, meaning everyone is going to die. While the Mr. Schuester and the rest of the glee club thinks Brittany is just being her … normal self, Mr. Shue takes Brittany’s prediction and turns it into a project for glee. If you only had one last chance to tell the ones you love how you feel about them, what would you say?
This queues up very sappy songs for the rest of the episode. Ryder sings Elton John’s “Your Song” to the girl he thinks he’s been flirting with while Brittany sings Extreme’s “More Than Words” to her one true love, Lord Tubbington. Mr. Shue’s plan is going swimmingly until one morning, gun shots are heard being fired on or near McKinely High School. The kids who were in the choir room — the whole glee club minus Brittany and Tina — immediately take cover and wait for the worst to pass.
The rest of the episode focuses on the glee club locked in the choir room. A couple of tear-filled video confessions and an attempt by Sam to rescue Brittany later, the situation has been declared diffused and no one has been hurt.
The next day of school rolls around and everyone is asking who and why. In swoops Sue Sylvester with her typical snarky (read: bitchy) charm and tells everyone to quit their belly achin’ and get on with their lives. When Mr. Shue tells her everyone is going to be interviewed Sue does something surprising that every “Glee” viewer rarely sees: she shows compassion.
Sue rushes to Principal Figgins’ and confesses the gun was hers; she was merely cleaning it and the gun backfired in the process, hence the shots from the previous day. Figgins has no choice but to let Sue go and must find another Cheerios coach.
Now, everyone’s heads are spinning with the next montage. In a flashback, the audience learns it wasn’t Sue’s gun, it was Becky’s gun. Becky brought her father’s gun to school because she was afraid of the future and wanted to be prepared. In a message to Figgins and Mr. Shue, Sue tells them that she kept a gun at school for safety because the state of mental illness in the U.S. has made people go haywire in the past year.
So, why am I ranting about this episode? “Glee” typically offends someone in one way or another in every episode, right? Well, just the aside comment Sue made to Principal Figgins is enough to offend most people in today’s world — and especially after the many shootings that have happened in this past year.
Let’s look for a moment at the wonderfully hilarious Becky. Becky has Down syndrome. From Merriam-Webster, Down syndrome is “a congenital condition characterized by moderate to severe mental retardation, slanting eyes, a broad short skull, broad hands with short fingers, and trisomy of the human chromosome numbered 21.” In case I don’t have a proper handle on the English language, I didn’t see the term ‘mental illness’ anywhere in that definition. Conclusion: Becky does not have a mental illness; Becky has a congenital condition.
While some have praised “Glee” for tackling a controversial subject that is very relevant with December’s event the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the simple comment of saying Becky suffers from a mental illness is insulting to everyone — including those who are affected by Down syndrome. Yes, the events at Sandy Hook were tragic and so was the shooting in Aurora, Colorado last July, however, the way “Glee” presented this topic could have been done a bit more tactfully.
Mental illnesses affect a wide variety of people in a wide variety of ways. Down syndrome most likely occurred at birth, or was noticed at a young age. Both groups have ways of “dealing” with these so-called “setbacks.” Saying Becky has a mental illness is leading many young viewers to believe that Down syndrome is a mental illness and has a causation of leading people to believe it is OK to treat people with Down syndrome similarly to people who have mental illnesses. This, this not OK.
Alas, I could go on forever about how treating Becky or anyone who has Down syndrome like they are suffering from a mental illness is dehumanizing and just plain wrong. Since you’ve all gotten to this point, I’ll leave on these words: “Shooting Star” shows that “Glee” creators Brian Murphy and Brad Falchuk have no capacity for understanding the difference between a congenital condition and a mental illness.