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The Story Behind The Controversial Shooting Star Episode Of Glee

In its six-season history, "Glee" was never one to shy away from hot-button subjects. From bullying, gender identity, and teen pregnancy to eating disorders and drug addiction, it gave its take on many a subject (whether done well or not). But no topic was quite as controversial as how it tackled school shootings.

In the 18th episode of season 4, "Shooting Star" (yes, really), a gun is fired in McKinley High's halls and the members of the glee club all must take cover. The episode aired on April 11, 2013 — barely four months after the very real shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. While some appreciated the show's handling of a difficult subject (one that is still a very real issue today), many did not, or at least felt it could have been better. 

Sources such as The Washington Post felt it was a crude ratings grab, as Glee's modest but decent 10-million-viewer fanbase from Season 1 continued to dwindle, and this episode brought ratings up to 6.67 million, per Zap2It, from 5.91 million the week before. Vulture and The Atlantic both felt it could have been done more thoughtfully and with more depth, with the latter calling it "an insulting, slapdash waste of time." The A.V. Club, who called the series "half-PSA anyway," said it was "trash," and even worse, the people of Newtown felt they should have received some warning from producers that the episode was happening. Yet there was another aspect to the episode that was even worse.

Glee made a terrible choice for the perpetrator

The shooting in the "Glee" episode was ruled an accident, as ostensibly mean but ultimately soft-hearted coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) claimed responsibility for the gun going off. She was quickly fired, begging questions about Lynch's departure from the show — though considering all a spokesman could tell The Hollywood Reporter was "stay tuned," that arguably gives weight to the "ratings ploy" suspicions. But Sue was instead taking the fall for her favorite student Becky Jackson (Lauren Potter), who had brought her father's gun to school out of fear and wanting to be prepared for post-graduation life by being able to protect herself.

Many people were rightfully insulted that the one character with Down syndrome would be the one to bring a gun to school. It was an even more careless decision, given the shooter arrested for Sandy Hook, Adam Lanza, was said to be on the autism spectrum. Even now, almost 10 years later, mental illness is still the first accusation many people make following incidents of public violence.

But Potter and her mom Robin Sinkhorn saw it as good representation. "I felt like they trusted me as an actress," Potter told HuffPost. Her mother agreed, saying it was just right that Becky got weighty storylines. "Why wouldn't it be somebody with Down syndrome, because she's a kid. She's a teenager. She makes stupid decisions just like other teenagers do," Sinkhorn said. "I hope it just opens up a dialogue even more so."