Thoughts on the death of Cory Monteith

What a way to start the morning, finding out that a young man whose work I respected, just a little older than I am, has died, suddenly, unexpectedly, and, so far, without explanation (and I will refrain from pointlessly speculating). Now I will continue, keep right on getting older, while Cory Monteith will be forever frozen at 31 years old, and remembered as playing a confused but earnest kid. Finn had yet to really find peace. I’m not sure if Monteith did or not, though I know he struggled. But he’s at peace now, one way or the other.

From the beginning of Glee, much of it was centered around Finn (see Why do I like Glee anyway?, in which I discuss how “Pilot” is about Finn and Will more than anything else), and Monteith’s performance was a big part of what made both the show and the character of Finn work. Finn’s awkwardness was believable because it was Monteith’s — he was famously an uncoordinated dancer, a struggle that was written into the show. Finn’s reluctance to sing was Monteith’s as well — he did not sing on his original audition tape, and had to be cajoled into it by the producers. He was not a great singer, and if his numbers were a bit abused by autotune in the first two seasons, he made up for it with his fearless performances, and he had some fantastic numbers, including the best number of season three and, of course (with the ensemble), the best number of the series. Monteith’s weak singing was eventually written into the show as well, as Finn in season three struggled with his own lack of star power, realizing that his voice might be able to take them to a national championship in high school, but would never take him to a professional career.

Monteith almost built Finn out of his own weaknesses, his own fears, his own awkwardness, never shying away from putting himself into a character who was not always appealing. Even if he didn’t have always have star power, he had that essential part of the soul of an actor.

Glee will go on without him, but there will be a time to talk about that and what it may entail later. For now… RIP Cory Monteith, an actor as earnest as Finn Hudson.

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the death of Cory Monteith

  1. Last night I dreamed about Cory Monteith. In the dream he had already died and the Glee cast was on tour in a bus. I was with them and was told I had to take Cory’s vacant seat which was above the luggage rack, just under the roof of the bus. I needed a ladder to get to the spot and when I was finally up there I realized it was a Procrustean bed. Procrustes, a figure from Greek mythology, would invite people off the road into his home to sleep saying that he had a bed that fit everyone. But it was not the bed that fit everyone. Instead, everyone was made to fit the bed, either by being stretched on a rack or having their legs chopped off.

    When I awoke I thought how very much like the Procrustean bed is the cult of celebrity: The actor, the artist, becomes altered to fit the fantasies of his or her fans. The human being can easily become lost. And if he was lost to begin with disaster can follow.

    My first encounter with Glee was to watch it with one of my Italian English students. His teacher had assigned the class with watching the show to report on it the next day. The student in question was 12 years old and I found myself horrified at having to translate for him that a teenage boy had ejaculated in a hot tub and the girl with him (already pregnant by another) later claimed her baby was his. And that the wife of a teacher was pretending to be pregnant and wanted the teenage girl to hand over her baby the minute it was born–all to deceive her husband.

    I suggested to the boy’s mother that she have a word with the teacher who obviously had no clear idea of the show’s content.

    I then went home and began to watch other episodes on my computer and to my chagrin, was soon and quickly hooked. Addicted, you might say. I watched the first 3 seasons one episode after another and it became clear that the true star of the show was the character Finn Hudson, the actor Cory Monteith.

    Curious, I Googled him and learned his back story–that he was basically a lost youth from Vancouver who found himself through acting classes and was now a major star. Well, good for him I thought at the time. Nice story. There was no information included at the time about drug addiction.

    I understand the part about finding yourself through acting. It happened to me in college and I went on to pursue it in New York and later in LA, Hollywood to be exact. I had some success and was approached by managers who took me on. They were excited about my future “career” and saw me as “the next Sally Fields.” But…they insisted upon changing my name as Elena Latici was too ethnic. For a brief moment I became Elena Lacey. But when I saw my head shots sprawled upon the floor with the strange name I became anxious and uneasy. I called my managers and told them my name was Elena Latici, period. They said they couldn’t “sell” Elena Latici and I told them I wasn’t for sale. I was told I was being self-destructive and throwing away my chances for great success. But was I?

    Hollywood is a nasty place. A famous actor with whom I was friends told me to get out of town. “Take a look around you at the people who have ‘made it’ ,” he said. “They’re animals.”

    At just about the same time Freddie Prinz committed suicide. Those of us who worked at the Improv on Melrose knew Freddie a little. He came often into the club but would get a drink at the bar and then come hang out with the waitresses in the kitchen. He never ventured into the performance area of the club where he might be recognized by members of the audience. I left town shortly after his death, scared out of my wits.

    Though my background was not as bedeviled as Cory Monteith’s it was far from stable. Any sense of self worth I’d had was pretty much taken from me early on. And though I didn’t understand this at the time I instinctively knew that Hollywood was a dangerous place for me and getting out was not self-destructive as my managers insisted, but self-preserving. I never looked back.

    But what if I hadn’t left? What if I had stayed and found that success foreseen by those two men who had signed up every aspect of my life? And what if that success had turned unexpectedly to celebrity and fame, neither of which I was seeking? I never did hard drugs, but you don’t need addiction to become completely separated from your real self.

    Cory Monteith’s death is a sad and sorry loss. A young and exceptionally talented young man with years ahead of him to grow as an artist he fell prey to two all consuming monsters–drugs and fame. Who knows what he was thinking that last night in Vancouver when, allegedly hanging out with old friends, he decided to take heroin again? Maybe he wanted to prove to them he was still the same old Cory, that fame and success hadn’t changed him. Those friends are now being questioned, but we may never know what happened or why. You have to have your shit seriously together to survive in that environment. And if you don’t, you can easily risk death one way or another.

    • That was a lovely post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

      I don’t know to what extent Monteith’s wealth and fame affected his addiction, whether it helped or hindered his recovery, but it certainly allowed him access to the world of drug abuse to an extent he never had as a kid. With so much money, free time, and job security (Montieth was apparently a high-functioning addict, and could not be easily replaced on the show), he could do almost anything he wanted. Temptation is a horrible thing in any case, but when the consequences are so apparently small, how much harder it must be to resist.

      Death is an awful consequence, of course, but you never die until your last time.

      And the worst part of this tragedy to me is that Monteith apparently tried as hard as he could to beat his addiction, and still failed. If he’d never achieved fame, could he have beaten it for real? I don’t know. But I do hope that addicts and potential addicts, both famous and not, take some kind of lesson from this event about how destructive addiction is even on someone who is fighting it tooth and nail.

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