First, let me be clear: I am saddened by the death of Cory Monteith. I feel for his family, for his friends, cast-mates, and of course his girlfriend, Lea Michelle. I think it’s sad any time a young person dies unnecessarily. And it’s especially sad when that person had so much talent, and touched so many.
So I’m not writing this because I think Cory Monteith didn’t deserve a tribute — I’m writing because I think he did. And I don’t think he got one.
Instead, the creators of the show gave Finn Hudson – a fictional character that Cory Monteith played – a farewell. I was moved by it. I cried with everyone else. But it felt hollow, because instead of using the tribute to fictional-Finn to give some meaning to the death of very-real Cory, this at times moving, at times maudlin, often oddly stilted episode, did nothing more than say goodbye to a character – not a person — a character.
Why? s it because Monteith died of a drug overdose? Because there’s a shame in that? I hope that’s not it. Drug addiction is a disease, not a flaw. And I don’t really think that’s it, anyway. Glee is a show that’s tackled teen homosexuality, bi-sexuality, and gender identification issues. Bulimia, bullying, teen pregnancy, adoption, divorce…. In fact, sometimes Glee felt a bit like a series of “very special episodes.”
So why, when a very real overdose killed real-life Cory Monteith, Glee chose NOT to discuss the issue, is a mystery. “Everyone wants to talk about how he died,” says Finn’s step brother Kurt, “but who cares? One moment in his whole life. I care more about how he lived.” Well, I care. And the parents of teenagers watching the show with their own addicted kids, hoping that maybe this week, this #rememberingcory episode would actually be a very special episode — would actually tackle a real issue, help their kid, save his life, even…well those parents cared a lot, I bet.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy for the cast, crew and creators of Glee to do this episode. The death of their friend is still raw and fresh. But I’m disappointed in them, nonetheless.
So what could they have done differently?
Well, given that the episode explicitly declined to explain how Finn died, it didn’t do much to advance the on-going story-line of the show. So why pretend? Why have a real memorial for a fake person? Why not just have the actors – as themselves – remember Cory? They could have remembered Cory as Finn — showing clips of favorite scenes and songs. They could have sung songs — as themselves — in tribute to Cory. I’m sure there are outtakes, stills of Monteith at parties and on set.
Or, they could have made an episode where Finn died of a drug overdose. “Not in his character” you might say. But the in PSA which followed the episode -and which redeemed it a bit – the show’s creators prove they know that’s not true:
The PSA – and it’s just one in a series – has already been viewed more than 250,000 times. So it’s done some good. But a whole episode that acknowledged addiction as a disease? It could have done much more. People will watch and rewatch the Remembering Cory episode. They won’t dvr a PSA.
At the Emmy’s this year, in a moving, elegant tribute to her young co-star, Jane Lynch said “Tonight we remember Cory for all he was, and mourn the loss of all he could have been.”
Glee, as far as I’m concerned, did neither.
I think the viewers of Glee could have handled a frank episode about addiction. I think – given the endless media coverage of Monteith’s own long struggle – it might have done some real good. But mostly, I think Cory Monteith deserved a better memorial than Finn Hudson. Don’t you?