“Glee” episode tackles driving while texting and bullying

Every so often a television show proves it can make an impact on viewers that goes beyond entertainment, and last night’s Glee episode hopefully struck a chord with its younger fans that will ultimately save hundreds of lives.

Far too often, the producers and writers of Glee come across as preachy, and whatever message they are trying to send gets lost in the ridiculous plots and lavish musical numbers. That was hardly the case last night. Instead of merely talking about the ramifications of subjects like driving while texting and bullying, we were taken there visually with lasting images that can’t help but wake up teenagers to the real-life issues they are dealing with daily.

Glee has always been about representing the underdog since almost all of the members of the high school singing group are outcasts in some way or another. And that underlying theme has oftentimes led to storylines involving bullying, including everything from verbal abuse (teasing) to public embarrassment (slushies to the face) to physical violence (being thrown into a locker).

But until last night, there was never any real ramifications for the abuse other than a slap on the wrist. When football player David Karofsky (played brilliantly by Max Adler, pictured) was outed for being gay, he went from being the one doing the bullying to the one being bullied. Unable to cope with the very behavior he was imparting on Kurt (Chris Colfer), he tried to take his own life by hanging himself. Fortunately, unlike many real-life bullying victims, he was unsuccessful.

All of a sudden, the teasing wasn’t just about kids being kids, but a life-and-death situation that magnified the ramifications that words and actions can cause. FOX to its credit followed the very heavy scene with a PSA featuring Daniel Radcliffe on bullying and suicide prevention. Ensuing scenes discussed the importance of looking past difficult moments to realize that happier times are ahead.

The lessons didn’t end there, though. In the final scene, we see Quinn (Dianna Agron) driving to the wedding ceremony for Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith). While she is driving and texting simultaneously, she is hit side on by another vehicle. End of scene, end of episode. Very powerful stuff. And because new episodes of the show don’t begin again until April 10, we are left wondering if Quinn’s poor decision was fatal or not.

I’ve been on record in the past as saying that Glee can be too full of itself, often coming across as sanctimonious. And that criticism is still valid at times. But last night was one of those rare shows that got in your head without hitting you over the head. This episode did a great service if one less kid is bullied; it served its purpose if one fewer teen commits suicide; and it made an impact if teens and adults alike think twice about texting or talking on their phone while driving.

People often debate whether art imitates life or life imitates art, but one thing we learned from the topics addressed by Glee last night is that “life” is the common denominator. Kudos to creator Ryan Murphy and his team for making that abundantly clear.


© 2012 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Adam Rose