In recent weeks, my social media accounts have been flooded with posts from Buzzfeed and other sites of a similar nature about significant pop culture moments of the 2010s. Everything that impacted us as a society in film, music, celebrity news, and more.
As one might expect, Fox’s mega-hit sensation Glee is featured in a lot of these articles. Some take on a nostalgic take reminiscing about favorite musical numbers or standout lines. Others start questioning the logistics of the show and the dynamics between characters.
Among my personal favorites are posts where people name songs that make them glad the show ended back in 2015.
Let’s be glad there isn’t an entire Hamilton-themed episode. Or one for the Spongebob musical because they would’ve found a way.
There totally would have been an episode about the dangers of vaping that would have only skimmed the surface and ended with a group performance of The Platters’s Smoke Gets In Your Eyes during a school assembly.
If you’re sad Glee isn’t on anymore, imagine how quickly they would have tried to do something with “Old Town Road” or “Truth Hurts” and be glad it’s gone.
But really, imagine Mr. Schuester performing “Seniorita” with a student because he totally would have jumped on that at the first opportunity.
Mr. Schu, as he is affectionately known, is being also called out for a number of things in general.
Isn’t weird how Mr. Schu didn’t have any adult friends? Am I the only one who thought it was weird that Mr. Schu had a student as the best man at his wedding? Remember how Mr. Schu blackmailed Finn (a student) into joining the glee club by hiding pot in his locker after having heard him singing in the locker room shower? Really, how was Mr. Schu NEVER arrested for any of this? Wasn’t he the Spanish teacher at McKinley High? Why does Mr. Schu like Journey so much? Remember that time Mr. Schu slept on a mattress in the school that was technically payment from the commercial the glee club did for a local store and because he more or less accepted said compensation he couldn’t watch the kids perform at their competition because of conflict of interest (and again why didn’t he have any adult friends he could crash with that night after learning his wife was faking her pregnancy all along because she actually had a phantom pregnancy and didn’t want him to know)?
It’s a loooooooooooooong list.
Nobody said Glee was perfect. It was flawed but, like so much of its devoted audience of Gleeks including yours truly back in the day, its flaws and quirks were its charm all the same. For what it’s worth, the show did try to tackle a lot of issues in the 2010s and started many much-needed conversations.
However, there was one story arc that really didn’t work for me. Even back when those episodes first aired, I was feeling like the writers were not doing enough with it.
Belated as I may be, in the spirit of a time-honored Festivus tradition, it’s time to air out some grievances.
I’m just going to come out and say something that’s been on my chest for far too long.
Quinn Fabray should have died.
I don’t say this out of hatred for the character. In fact, Quinn grew on me as the seasons went on and became one of my favorites.
However, as Mr. Schu took so many opportunities to remind New Directions and the show’s audience, it’s about the journey.
And Quinn’s journey took a turn I couldn’t agree with.
Let me give you a quick recap.
Glee is a convoluted mess of a teen drama so try to follow along as best you can because it’s a lot to digest at once.
Quinn Fabray (portrayed by Diana Agron) is introduced as an archetypal mean girl and member of McKinley High’s cheerleading squad called the Cheerios.
Quinn, along with fellow Cheerios Santana and Brittany, joins the glee club to spy on her boyfriend Finn because of his recent interactions with the club’s most passionate member and rising star Rachel. Upon hearing this, the Cheerios coach Sue Sylvester tasks her with bringing the glee club down.
A few episodes later, Quinn discovers she is pregnant and (somehow?) convinces Finn he is the father despite their never having a sexual encounter; her “logic” is it happened via premature ejaculation and that sperm swim faster in hot tubs.
It’s revealed that the father is actually Finn’s best friend Puck, and the baby was conceived after a drunken one-night stand (an issue in itself). He finds and offers his support, but Quinn him rejects for his irresponsibility.
This is one of the things Glee took on and did sort of well with. Quinn is shown to be going back and forth about whether to keep the baby or put it up for adoption. Quinn’s parents are very conservative, and her father proceeds to kick her out of the house upon learning of the pregnancy. She is cut from the Cheerios once the news starts spreading around the school.
Meanwhile, she starts finding a family with the glee club members, who accept her when no one else does.
After a bizarre scene of her going into labor after a competition performance interspersed with shots of the rival glee club performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Quinn gives birth to a girl who she and Puck decide to put up for adoption.
The child is adopted by Rachel’s biological mother Shelby (Rachel herself was adopted) who is also the coach of the rival glee club and, per Puck’s suggestion, is named Beth.
At the beginning of the new school year, Quinn is reinstated as head cheerleader, but after being made to choose between the Cheerios and the glee club, she decides to align herself with the latter.
There’s still plenty of drama in her love life when she starts dating a new club member but has a fling with Finn, and her vying for and ultimately losing Prom Queen. Finn breaks up with her soon after, having realized his feelings for Rachel run so much deeper.
Going into her senior year, Quinn reinvents herself with a punk makeover and refuses to go back to either the glee club or the Cheerios.
Shelby resurfaces and extends an invitation to Quinn and Puck to see Beth. Puck accepts, while Quinn does not.
Quinn later sees a picture of Beth and Puck, so she dyes her hair back to blonde and rejoins the glee club, though she tells Puck her doing so is only out of her own intentions to pursue full custody of Beth. Puck informs Shelby, who tells Quinn to stay out of Beth’s life.
After some time, Quinn reaches a point where she can leave the past behind and applies for and is accepted at Yale. She is allowed back on the Cheerios.
Meanwhile, Finn and Rachel have gotten engaged, though Quinn does not support their getting married. She eventually changes her mind.
Heading to the wedding, Quinn is texting and driving, responding to a message from Rachel. While looking at her screen, she fails to see a stop sign and drives into an intersection where a truck crashes into her side of the car.
In the following episode, Quinn is seen in a wheelchair. The accident left her with a severely compressed spine, but she tells the other club member not to feel bad because she’s happy to be alive and is making it her goal not only to walk again but be able to perform with them in the next competition.
When prom rolls around, Quinn is nominated for Prom Queen and proceeds to campaign for it while hiding the fact that she is able to stand and even walk a few steps unassisted in order to gain sympathy votes.
By the end of the season, Quinn no longer needs her wheelchair and has recovered quickly enough to perform with the rest of the glee club at Nationals before she graduates.
And that’s what you missed on Glee.
A Quinntessential Redemption Arc
On the whole, Quinn’s storylines throughout the first three seasons of Glee follow a rise and fall pattern.
She starts off as a queen bee mean girl whose entire world is turned upside-down after cheating on her boyfriend leads to her becoming pregnant. She loses all of the popularity that was what she believed determined her identity. But in that fall, the glee club had her back and helped her back on her feet. Seeing her mature as she’s wrestling with trying to make the best decision for her and her baby is an arc that resonated with viewers and made her become one of the show’s most likable characters.
Which is why seeing her fall again in the third season had more than a few Gleeks seriously worried about her as they watched Quinn inch closer and closer to going off the deep end in her efforts to get custody of the child she gave up for adoption.
When Quinn does reach that point of being able to move on with her life, it’s a moment viewers were hoping for.
Having Quinn die in the accident would have been crushing to fans, but that is also why it should have happened.
Sending a Message
It goes without saying that Glee is among the most-watched and most-talked about shows of the 2010s. Though it had massive viewer counts across demographics, it was especially popular among viewers in the teen and young-adult brackets.
I was in the eighth grade when the first season of Glee aired. I remember that being around the time more and more of my peers started getting their own smartphones (I myself still had a flip phone, and got a kind-of smartphone in high school with the slide-out QWERTY keyboard later on).
The third season aired when I was a sophomore in high school, so I was about two years younger than the characters.
PSAs and presentations about the dangers of drinking and driving had been prevalent for a while before that time, but texting and driving was a newer concern. Adolescence is generally a weird period in our lives because we’re all trying to figure out who we are and who we’re meant to be compared to who everyone else thinks we should be and what the hell is happening to our bodies. With all of that also comes a sense of invincibility. What do adults know? We’re so much smarter than our parents and teachers. Rawr XD.
I think a lot of people in my age range were shrugging off the potential hazards of texting and driving back then, in part because it was sounding like the same old had as those messages advocating against smoking and drinking and unprotected sex, and because those messages often came from the sort who would say things about how bands like My Chemical Romance or Fall Out Boy were the devil’s music.
There’s also the idea of “that won’t happen to me” compared to “that could happen to anyone.”
Quinn’s accident came as a shock. Glee itself is this dorky, goofy show, but it did dive into a number of serious topics like teen pregnancy, mental health, bullying, and eating disorders among others (even if those portrayals were sometimes handled poorly if not questionably or the consequences were played down). Having it be the result of texting and driving which, a relatively newer issue at the time, that really put it in terms younger viewers could connect with.
Rather than seeing a brief story on the news about a crash on the other side of the country or having a police officer come in with a Powerpoint presentation in the school auditorium (or, as it was in my high school, the gym or health class), Glee made a considerable impact with an incident happening to a character so many of us cared about as though she were a real person we knew.
But to this day, I don’t think the impact was big enough.
I get why the writers didn’t want to kill off Quinn. Glee isn’t like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead where characters die all the time. Quinn’s death would have come out of nowhere and could have hurt the show moving forth. I myself have given up on watching shows if a character I liked got killed off without fair reason (or if the storyline failed to do them justice in the end).
Having Quinn die in a car accident that was the result of distracted driving would have been a powerful move, but also a risk in terms of ratings.
But having seen how much Quinn had overcome, how far she had come and how bright her future had become after everything, only to have a crash be the one thing she was not able to walk away from, that would have really made it clear that no one is immune from the consequences of distracted driving, and that accidents such as hers really can happen to anyone.
What Could Have (And Should Have) Been
With the episode following the crash, there is a scene where Quinn tells Rachel not to feel bad for her and that the accident was not her fault.
When I first saw this episode, and the way Quinn was talking about the accident as though it was not a big deal, that scene had me thinking it was going in a different direction, and it was instead Rachel thinking about what could have been.
I predicted the episode was going to end with a scene of Rachel and Finn. He would have found her somewhere taking some time to reflect on what could have been, saying something about blaming herself because she was the one Quinn was texting in the seconds leading up to the crash. She might say something about how Quinn wouldn’t have wanted her to feel that way, as well as how unfair the situation was because Quinn had already experienced so much so why did this have to happen to her? At that point Finn would comfort her and they’d go to join the other glee club members, which would then cut to something like Quinn’s funeral or a school assembly or vigil where they would sing a ballad in her memory.
This, to me, would have been the more impactful version. Instead, while there is certainly an inspirational end to this story arc, the whole thing felt glossed over. While there were scenes showing Quinn having to adjust to using a wheelchair (which in turn leads to a stronger friendship with fellow glee club member, Artie, who is handicapped) and giving her an awareness of how difficult everyday things might be for people in wheelchairs because of things like accessibility in certain spaces, but her attitude towards the whole situation almost felt like she wasn’t taking it seriously, that this would only be a temporary thing (yeah, I’ll be walking around in no time, but I’m going to wait until prom so I can win Prom Queen and do a big reveal when I walk up to get my tiara) while so many people are left permanently paralyzed after accidents like this if they survive.
More to the point, the writers essentially did away with the matter by having Quinn fully recovered before graduation and the season finale.
The Difference Between Quinn and Finn
This is something I anticipate being brought up in the comments, so I want to address it here and share my thoughts.
As you may recall, Glee did tackle the death of a character in Season Five, though the reasoning behind it was different.
In 2013, Cory Monteith, the actor who played Finn, passed away unexpectedly.
Glee aired a tribute episode to him titled “The Quarterback,” in which characters were able to say their goodbyes to Finn.
The thing about Finn’s death on the show that made it so special was the way it was handled. Rather than try to write in an explanation about what happened to him and make up some excuse like saying he was the victim of a hit-and-run or drowned in a pool after a diving injury, they instead honored his memory.
As Kurt says in the episode, “Who cares? One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived.”
The episode itself focuses on how Finn’s loved ones are coping with the loss and mourning him, rather than focusing on how he died.
The difference here is that with Finn, the episode was a tribute to Monteith’s life whereas Quinn’s death would have been a deliberate move by the writers.
One Final Note
I realize this post might be controversial. Even back when the episode in question aired, I remember being in my high school music room before Chamber Choir rehearsal and sharing my opinions on this only to be disagreed with.
Quinn’s fate is something that’s been bugging me for years and in my opinion was one of the poorer decisions the writers made regarding Glee (though definitely not as bad as some). It was a storyline that didn’t work because it felt so much like a missed opportunity, like there was so much more they could have done with the dangers of distracted driving while not being overly-didactic about the subject, but instead glossed over the consequences and let Quinn instead walk away from it in the end.
For another opinion piece in which I shared my thoughts on a character that I think should have died but didn’t, check out this post on Telltale’s The Walking Dead.