Why Quinta Brunson’s comments on an Abbott Elementary school shooting episode are so important

Written by Morgan Cormack

Abbott Elementary series creator Quinta Brunson has responded to requests to feature a school shooting after the tragic incident in Uvalde, Texas – but this is why her response is so important. 

We may be counting down the days till Abbott Elementary finally comes to the UK, but it seems as though the popular comedy series is garnering attention for an entirely different reason right now.

After the devastating mass shooting that took place in a Texas elementary school on Tuesday 24 May, social media reactions ranged from disgust, outrage and calls to action for urgent American gun reform.

But it seems as though Abbott Elementary series creator, writer and star of the show Quinta Brunson was bombarded with requests of a different nature. Brunson took to social media to express her confusion at being asked to feature a school shooting in her sitcom.

She wrote: “Wild how many people have asked for a school shooting episode of the show I write,” she began.

“People are that deeply removed from demanding more from the politicians they’ve elected and are instead demanding ‘entertainment’. I can’t ask, ‘are yall ok’ anymore because the answer is ‘no’.” 

Instead, she had a simple request: “Please use that energy to ask your elected official to get on Beto time and nothing less. I’m begging you.”

She then explained: “I don’t want to sound mean, but I want people to understand the flaw in asking for something like this. We’re not OK. This country is rotting our brains. I’m sad about it.”

Brunson included one screenshot of the many school shooting episode requests she’s received: 

While Brunson’s Twitter thread is just a small insight into the life of being a series creator, it remains deeply troubling to think of the way viewers have grown accustomed to thinking that it’s TV’s responsibility to comment on every social and political situation.

Abbott Elementary is a sitcom that has amassed a legion of loyal fans for its fun, light-hearted nature. Yes, it deals with topics of underfunding and overcrowding in the American public school system, but if you’ve watched the show, you’ll know that it handles all subject matters with the comedic ease that fans have come to expect (and love). It’s taken ABC’s primetime comedy spot (from Modern Family) for a reason, after all.

Brunson has been outspoken in the fact that she views Abbott Elementary as the kind of comedy that the world needs more of. In an interview with The New York Times, she admitted that the “the world is in a crazy place” and so to help push against that, she “wanted to make a feel-good comedy that was 22 minutes long, that families can watch together but wasn’t corny, and could still be for everyone.” 

Quinta Brunson stars as optimistic second-grade teacher Janine Teagues in Abbott Elementary.

She says that her comedy sits in the middle ground between talked-about shows like Succession and network TV “made for the people”. She’s also been clear in the fact that shows like Abbott Elementary weren’t being made because, for a while, there wasn’t anyone like her on network TV. For that reason, she sought advice from Insecure creator Issa Rae.

Brunson didn’t want to make a comedy all about race. She’s previously said that “people were tired of seeing their Twitter regurgitated back to them through their viewing” and so, wanted to give people “slice-of-life stories”. “We’re not talking about being Black all day. It’s a show about these people’s lives,” she says.

In a world where TV can be so hard-hitting and gritty, we’re collectively crying out for more slivers of joyous television. Brunson’s sitcom seeks to resolve that, but even so, fans are left wanting. Where does that insatiable need for political commentary on the small screen come from? Brooklyn Nine-Nine has faced similar requests to cover police brutality. 

We may have recent series that have dealt with close-to-home issues – Netflix’s Anatomy Of A Scandal dealing with parliamentary privilege or BBC’s Time discussing the downfalls of the British prison system – but these are dramas that have set out their agendas to confront these topics. 

Brunson is the star and series creator of Abbott Elementary.

As Brunson suggests, in the case of the Texas elementary school mass shooting, gun reform is a long-debated political issue. Its place is in Congress and the White House – not within a 13-episode mockumentary about loveable teachers.

Brunson’s response highlights the overarching feeling after this recent disaster – that seeking action and change is something that should continue to be fought for but through the appropriate channels (ie politicians that can enact change) rather than sitcom creators.

Abbott Elementary will be available to stream on Disney+ on 1 June. 

Images: Getty; Disney/Star

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