On Sunday, my husband of four years held me as I cried over the death of a man I’ve never met. That man was 31 year old Cory Monteith, who starred as Finn Hudson on the musical TV show Glee.
I’ve caught a lot of flack from friends over the years for watching the (at times) cheese-tastic show. I seem to be one of the only people in my age group watching Glee (or admitting to watching it, anyway) but I have been touched by the number of friends and acquaintances who have reached out to me upon hearing the news of Cory Monteith’s passing. They knew of my love for this show and my love for the cast, and even non-Glee fans/watchers have been saddened by this celebrity death. I personally didn’t hear the news until late Sunday morning – I was tossing and turning in bed trying to sleep in just a little later. I rolled over to find my husband reading something on his iPhone. He told me he was reading things on twitter that I wouldn’t want to hear… then he hesitantly spoke the words, “Cory Monteith is dead.” I threw one hand over my mouth, one over my heart and cried a woeful ‘No.’ The news struck me as deeply as I could imagine it would if I’d gotten the news of a close friend’s passing. My husband and I have been watching Glee together since the beginning- the preview of the pilot episode aired mere weeks after we got married in 2009. My sweet hubby knew the weight of this news when he shared it with me and I’m thankful to have heard it from him, rather than via social media.
I’ve spent the better part of the last several days fighting back tears as reports roll in on the internet and tv news outlets. I’ve cried, felt numb and sick to my stomach. I’ve checked twitter compulsively just hoping and praying that this news is somehow a big mistake, and completely untrue. Sadly, it is true – we have lost a young, talented, beautiful soul, and far too soon. I’ve always best expressed myself through writing, so this is my own personal account and explanation of why I am just not okay right now, in an effort to get my feelings out and help to heal my broken heart.
I’ve been an unapologetically obsessed fan of the musical TV show Glee since that first viewing in May 2009. I would say, for a 29-year-old married entrepreneur and owner of two businesses – I’m a rare breed of Glee fan. I’ve not only seen every episode at least 3-5 times, but I own every MP3 song they’ve released (yes, even Run Joey Run) and I follow each member of the cast (and many of the crew) on Twitter. I check in several times weekly on the popular gossip sites *specifically* for Glee news or news about the stars of the hit show. I even subscribe to several Glee-centric podcasts to listen to other rabid fans dissect episodes, speculate on the future of the show’s characters, and more. I’m basically one notch below fan-fiction reader status (cause ain’t nobody got time for that.) All this to say, I’m a loud and proud Gleek.
Personal texts and chats between my sister and I about Glee
Over the last four years I’ve watched countless interviews with the cast, was giddy with excitement to see the Concert movie when it came to theaters with my sister, Kim (the only friend I have who matches my devotion to the show). Kim and I, more often than not, spent the nights that Glee aired live-texting, tweeting, or chatting to analyze each episode, gush over the romances and jam to the songs. This weekly tradition is something that brings us together even though we live far apart.
Admittedly Glee has run off the rails at times with PSA & after-school special-esque story lines, but I’ve been hopelessly devoted to the show because of its underlying heart and message. The overarching themes of Glee are what have kept me tethered and unable to let go, even when the writing got sloppy, many of the characters acted– well, out of character– and the show seemed to have lost most of its original quirky spark. The idea of accepting yourself and learning to embrace your quirks and differences, and to never stop believing in your dreams- these are themes that have given me encouragement over the last four years while chasing my own dreams and struggling with my own insecurities.
But more than that, many members of the cast had their own underdog stories and I found myself fascinated by them all. The many interviews I watched and read with Cory really stood out- even with his boyish good looks and total heartthrob status, he was understated, kind, and you could just tell the guy had a heart of gold. Countless reporters have stated how genuinely nice and warm he was – in the sea of egotistical Hollywood types, Monteith was a shining star who often went out of his way to connect with members of the press. I read numerous accounts of fans meeting him on various travels and they all remarked at how gracious he was with his fans- always stopping to take photos, sign autographs, and share a warm smile. He just seemed like the kind of down-to-earth guy who didn’t let his own skyrocket to fame get to his head or change who he was as a person. He was a humble, kindhearted and decent human being. He lent his time and talents to charity organizations – specifically one in Vancouver called Project Limelight – a theatre program that gives creative opportunities to kids in the city’s poorest neighborhood. He was open about his own battles with substance abuse in his youth and spoke up about it. It was admirable and inspiring to see how someone who struggled through so much was able to turn it around and do something positive. As a person and an actor, he dared greatly by being vulnerable- he let us all in on his deepest pains and struggles- and it made such an impact on fans of him and the show.
Finchel & Monchele / photos: E! Online
I can honestly say I was elated when Monteith and his on-screen girlfriend and co-star Lea Michele went public with their real-life romance. I particularly carried a torch for “Finchel” – the show’s main couple, played by Monteith as Finn and Lea Michele as Rachel. I ‘shipped Monchele (their celebrity couple name) even harder than I shipped Finchel. As I watched the lovable, handsome quarterback fall for the musical theater geek on Glee, I also followed the plot mirrored in these people’s real lives: the underdog, high school dropout who’d overcome substance abuse problems and fell for the Broadway beauty – it was like a real life fairytale and, in many ways, even better than fiction. In a recent interview with Marie Claire, Lea Michele was quoted as saying “It’s safe to say there was always a spark between us. I don’t even remember a time when he wasn’t my boyfriend. No one knows me better than Cory. No one knows what it’s been like to go through this more than he does. Feeling like you have that net underneath you allows you to jump higher and go farther. He makes me feel like I can do anything. For the first time in my life I feel really, really settled and happy. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.” Their love, adoration, and affection for each other seemed evident in their many red-carpet appearances together and in paparazzi photos that often appeared on sites showing them engaged in adorable PDA. They were truly a couple I was rooting for in Hollywood- I felt personally invested in their story and their lives. Lea stood by Cory as he made the decision to enter rehab earlier this year – a revelation that shocked many fans and even his own friends. All of us were rooting him on and wishing him well as he entered rehab, and were so happy to hear when he had completed treatment. From the outside looking in, it seemed like he had done the responsible thing and was making good decisions to get himself back on the right path. He reunited with his love Lea Michele and the cute photos started to appear in my newsfeed again. It seemed as if these two would be headed to the altar in the near future – I was anticipating a ‘Monchele’ engagement announcement even more than the rest of the world was anticipating the Royal Baby. The fact that it can no longer happen is something that absolutely breaks my heart.
It honestly feels as if I’m grieving for two people. I’m mourning the loss of a bright, talented young man – a son, a brother, a friend, and a lover to a woman I deeply admire. I’m mourning the future that he and Lea Michele had in store, the bright career potential he had in front of him. I’m also mourning the loss of Finn Hudson – his breakout role – a sweet, good-hearted young man who wanted to help others and encourage them to follow their dreams. Although some aspects of the character are polar opposite of the man who played him, Cory Monteith– like his character Finn– was the heart and soul of Glee. I can’t imagine how the producers are going to handle Cory’s death in terms of the TV show, but I am certain that they are currently grappling with their own grief in light of this tragic loss. I’m upset that we’ll never see Finn achieve his dreams by becoming a teacher and paying forward what he got out of his years in the glee club. I’m sad for the Finchel wedding that my fellow Glee fans and I will never have the pleasure of ‘attending’ – we always wanted to see their happy ending. (As Finn told Rachel in season 4, “We are endgame.”) Heart = broken.
Whatever the actual cause of his death may be, it will not change my admiration for the person that Cory was, or how much he meant to me and the other Glee fans. He was honest and outspoken about his struggles and used his stardom as a platform to warn others about the dangers of addiction. I pray that he will be remembered for the kind-hearted, charitable, all around good person that he was, no matter what the reports might say caused his death. And, of course, the entire cast and crew of Glee, along with anyone who knew Cory, are in my prayers during this sad and difficult time. Rest in peace, Cory – we’ll never stop believing.
Two great posts about Cory from my favorite entertainment news reporters and fellow Gleeks:
Leanne Aguilera on Hollywood.com : ‘I’LL NEVER WATCH ‘GLEE’ THE SAME WAY AGAIN’: A PROUD GLEEK REFLECTS ON CORY MONTEITH’S DEATH
Kristin Dos Santos for E! : Cory Monteith: What You Might Not Know About the Beloved (Understatement) Glee Star
Sadie Gennis for TV Guide : Mourning Finn Hudson: What My Own Loss Taught Me and How Glee Should Deal