RIP Cory Monteith (1982-2013)
Cory Monteith, the male lead and heart and soul of of Fox’s ‘Glee’, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room yesterday. He was 31.
Authorities haven’t yet released a cause of death and in a perfect world this would remain unknown. But this is Hollywood and Vancouver Police had to hold a press conference to announce the news. My frustration with how this was announced is trounced by the pain I feel as a fan of Cory’s, but I take comfort in the fact that right now Cory’s family, friends and fans can process the shock and sadness of his passing without it being tainted.
When ‘Glee’ first premiered and Monteith was launched into stardom, I found his sincerity in interviews refreshing. He was always kind to reporters and he didn’t shy away from questions that brought up his past as a troubled youth in Canada. In fact, Monteith’s willingness to talk about his past troubles made it easier to identify with him and see him as more than just a ‘Glee’ star. His comments often came off as more of a PSA than as damage control and it made him human and relateable. He was a walking, talking, breathing It Gets Better video for those who struggled with substance addiction. Unfortunately, it was revealed earlier this year that he had voluntarily checked himself in to rehab once again (he previously went to rehab at age 19). He was released without incident in April.
As shocking as it is to see the star of a family show like ‘Glee’ openly talking about his addiction problems, it was my hope that his popularity would show impressionable youths that they can get the help they need and come out on the other side. In Hollywood, so many young stars are plagued by addiction and so many people enter rehab for one thing or another that it’s easy to forget that it’s a real disease that affects millions of people, not just the rich and famous. But the hardest part about addiction is to not become desensitized to it. When Amy Winehouse passed away in 2011 at the age of 27, the world had already watched her slow descent into drugs and alcohol addiction and was unsurprised by her sudden death. We should not accept or write off her death, or Cory’s if it’s eventually ruled to be the result of his own addiction, simply because they had a disease. Both were too young and too talented to die this young and it’s immeasurably sad to watch this happen to someone whose work you’d admired for years.
Though I eventually removed myself from the mess that is now ‘Glee’, there was a time in my life that I considered the Fox show to be a favorite of mine. It was must see TV. I’d download the newest songs the second they were released. I’d DVR the show and save episodes for weeks, going back and re-watching my favorite musical numbers over and over again (“Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Somebody to Love” and “Faithfully” are true stand outs). I’d listen to the soundtracks at the gym and my Tumblr was full of pictures of the show’s cast and Cory rocking some seriously good sweaters.
Many of my favorite TV critics today are pointing out that Monteith was often the best part about the show that launched him to worldwide super-stardom. While he would never win any awards for his dancing skills, Monteith was often at the center of the show’s best moments and his on-screen relationship with Lea Michele’s Rachel Berry (Michele would eventually go on to become Monteith’s girlfriend in real life), was the bedrock of a show that often found itself down the rabbit hole in terms of cracked out storylines and abrupt shifts in tone. But underneath all of the dropped plots and poorly structured stories, Monteith remained the emotional center.
Though much older than the teenager he was playing, Monteith managed to bring a certain sense of fumbling naivete to his character, Finn Hudson, a jock who also enjoyed the glee club, a boy whose father was killed in Iraq and who was being raised by his single mother in Lima, Ohio. While Lima is just a fictional setting to most of the world, I grew up two and a half hours away in Columbus, Ohio and can tell you that the fears Finn and the rest of the characters faced, fears about never leaving their hometown, never reaching their dreams, those are very real fears for many millions of children across America and the world. Sure, plenty of people escape their small town lives, but even more do not. And though I quit watching the show the moment Santana slapped Finn for accidentally outing her (sorry I’m not sorry) in season three, I kept up with the storylines through friends and Twitter and Tumblr. Monteith’s performance continued to be one of my favorite things about a show that often abandoned common sense and quality for shiny and cheap rarely funny laughs.
It’s heartbreaking to lose a talented young man like Monteith at such a young age when he had so much life yet to live. Last night, as my Twitter feed began filling up with messages alternating between shock and disbelief and expressing condolences to his friends and family, my only thought was back to five years ago in January 2008 when Heath Ledger was found dead in New York after an accidental intoxication from prescription drugs. The world lost another great one yesterday and I can’t even begin to express how deeply this death hit me as a fan of Cory’s, but I hope this post can at least serve as a tiny representation of the people he touched through his work, his kindness and his open and willing personality. I never met Cory, I never spoke to Cory, but my thoughts are with his family, friends and the millions of people across the world who consider themselves to be fans of his. May he rest in peace.
Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images