Top 10 Times Glee Tackled Serious Issues

Top 10 Times Glee Tackled Serious Issues

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Kim Mabee
It may be a musical, but sometimes "Glee" tackled serious issues. Our countdown includes "On My Way," "Choke," "Glease," and more!

Top 10 Times Glee Tackled Serious Issues

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times Glee Tackled Serious Issues.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the episodes when this normally lighthearted musical show addressed serious, controversial, and /or sometimes shocking topics.

If we missed any of Glee’s heavier moments, let us know in the comments.

#10: “Rumours”

In the “Rumours” episode, the New Directions perform songs from the famous Fleetwood Mac album as they navigate the rumor mill at their school. One of the many rumors that circulates through the glee club is that Sam is hooking up with Quinn and Kurt after he is spotted with them at a motel. It turns out that Sam and his family are actually homeless, and living in that motel because his father is now unemployed, and Kurt and Quinn were just there helping him out. After the glee club realizes how hard the situation has been on Sam and his family, they buy back his pawned guitar and sing one of the biggest Fleetwood Mac hits with Sam and his siblings.

#9: “Transitioning”

When this character returned as “Unique” in season 6, it was a huge moment for the show. This was one of the first times that a visible transgender character was portrayed on a primetime network show. In the past, “Glee” hadn’t shied away from addressing issues that Unique faced, like which bathroom to use at school. Later in the same episode, we also see the newly-transitioned Sheldon Beiste and the mistreatment the coach suffers, which ultimately results in one of the most powerful musical moments in the show. Alongside an assembled choir of transgender people, Unique performs “I Know Where I’ve Been” for Coach Beiste. This is a song from “Hairspray” that’s synonymous with overcoming adversity.

#8: “Wheels”

There’s no denying that “Glee”’s cast and characters could be considered diverse - for its time, at least. Most notably, the show featured characters with disabilities, such as wheelchair users and those with genetic disorders. We see this in “Wheels,” which addresses some of the strife that Artie Abrams encounters as someone who has paralysis in his legs, like transportation, ramps, and feeling left out of activities. Meanwhile, the episode also introduces us to Sue Sylvester’s eventual sidekick, Becky Jackson, as well as her older sister, Jean, both of whom have Down syndrome. With Becky’s storyline, we see how the student finds her confidence through Sue’s help, as well as how Jean seems to be the only person that Sue cares about.

#7: “Lights Out”

When the lights literally go out at McKinley High, the glee club decides to unplug - first their instruments, then their feelings. Ryder sings “Everybody Hurts” before revealing to the glee club that he struggles with trusting girls because he was taken advantage of by his female babysitter. Much to his dismay, some of his classmates are unsympathetic because they think that his experience would be every young boy's dream. Kitty reacts to this by confessing that she had a similar experience with her friend's older brother, showing a rare, genuine moment as the two bond through their shared trauma. Even though “Lights Out” is one of the show’s lowest rated episodes, it is undeniably powerful in its message, as these two glee club members realize they’re not alone.

#6: “Glease”

Though we eventually come to love Kitty Wilde, she definitely starts off on the wrong foot. After joining the Glee Club, the cheerleader tries to convince fellow newbie Marley Rose that she is fat by encouraging her to binge and purge, and by secretly sewing her costumes in “Grease” smaller and smaller. This causes Marley to develop an eating disorder, which culminates in her fainting during sectionals. This isn’t the first time there was a storyline like this on “Glee,” as Mercedes has similar struggles with her body image in the first season when she skips meals in order to drop weight for the Cheerios. Luckily, Quinn helps her to realize that she is beautiful - a message that Mercedes shares through song with the entire school.

#5: “Preggers”

One of the biggest storylines in the first season of “Glee” centers around Quinn’s pregnancy. The head cheerleader discovers not that she’s pregnant with her boyfriend Finn’s baby, but with the future child of his best friend, Puck, in this episode. To top it off, the teen is president of the celibacy club, which means that her reputation as the wholesome, good girl is in trouble. With Quinn being 16 at the time, she struggles with what to do throughout the entire first season, flip-flopping between keeping the baby or giving it to Will’s wife, Terri. Quinn grows up a lot however, and ultimately delivers a baby girl in hospital while their rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline puts on an epic performance of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” In the end, she and Puck make the difficult decision to give Beth up for adoption.

#4: “On My Way”

In one of the most gut-wrenching episodes of the series, we see reformed tough guy Dave Karofsky dealing with the aftermath of being spotted with Kurt on Valentine’s Day. His teammates at his new school mock him by writing offensive words on his locker, resulting in him being ridiculed online. When he’s unable to take the taunting anymore, Dave makes the decision to take his own life. The montage of this is set to the soundtrack of Blaine singing “Cough Syrup,” and needless to say it is difficult to watch. Dave ends up in the hospital, but ultimately recovers, and Kurt encourages him to envision his future, helping him to realize that his life will be very fulfilling.

#3: “I Kissed a Girl” & “Bash”

Homophobia has been a central issue on the series more than once, and it has been shown and dealt with in various ways. For instance, Blaine and Karofsky experience several hardships because of their sexuality. Then there’s Santana, whose grandmother doesn’t accept her after she decides to come out. Kurt Hummel is the first out gay character that we see on “Glee,” and he experiences a lot of tough times in high school. He’s picked on by members of the football team, particularly Karofsky, and so much that Kurt feels forced to switch schools. While Kurt and Karofsky eventually make amends, it’s heart wrenching to find out that Kurt continues to experience prejudice and violence later in life, which we see when he is badly beaten in an alley in New York.

#2: “Choke”

Coach Beiste often comes off as tough and no-nonsense, but this episode shows a more vulnerable side. After some of the glee girls make fun of Beiste’s black eye by suggesting Cooter hit her, coach Roz Washington steps in and tries to teach the girls about the severity of their joke. In response, they sing “Cell Block Tango,” and it’s during this performance that it is revealed to the audience that Beiste is in fact in an abusive relationship. The football coach later confides in Sue and Roz and initially lies to everyone about leaving Cooter. Thankfully, Beiste does eventually leave him after some self-discovery about the coach’s own self-worth.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“All or Nothing”
Ryder Lynn Discovers That Unique Adams Has Been Catfishing Him, Even Though Marley Rose Initially Took the Fall

“Grilled Cheesus”
Will Schuester, Sue Sylvester, & Principal Figgins Discuss Religion & Spirituality in Public Schools

Artie Abrams Discusses His Sexual Health with His Friends

“Born This Way”
Emma Pillsbury Starts Treatment to Deal with Her OCD

#1: “Shooting Star”

After Brittany tells the group that she thinks an asteroid is going to hit, the glee kids start thinking about how they would spend their final days. Right as the kids are about to start one of their lessons, gunshots are heard and the school swiftly goes into lockdown. With many of them trapped in the choir room, the students film farewells for their loved ones. After the lockdown is lifted, the glee club sings about the importance of saying what they need to say, since you might never get another chance. “Shooting Star” is as important as it is undeniably hard to watch, as the actors’ convincing performances are very emotional. Perhaps above all others, the episode showed that “Glee” is not afraid to address serious issues that are also relevant to our world today.