I wrote a little bit about Cory Monteith yesterday (has it only been a day???), but I’ve seen some things minimizing fan reaction and it made me think about the ever shrinking crossroads between the internet and the ‘real world’.
And to be quite frank, I’m still shaken up, completely wrecked over this loss. Not many people know, but I spent a lot of my daily time devoted to this actor, the character he portrayed, and the couple he was part of on and off screen. It gave me something to do between job searches and soon became a bigger and bigger part as time wore on. And now that Cory’s gone, a lot of that is gone or means something else now too. And it is a loss for me, whether I met him or he knew me. We all have different relationships with celebrities, just like we have different relationship with people. And I know fans have grieved for their favorite celebrities before the internet and before social media, today I am made acutely aware how close I felt and how much social media was part of that relationship and how it shaped my perception of this person.
We interact with our favorite ‘celebrities’, creators and actors, musicians, on social media. They feel real. Those messages which are seen by millions still seem personal. It doesn’t feel completely one way. I’ve wanted to write about how this affects the creation process, especially in relation to television, and shows with rabid fanbases (see: Glee), but maybe another time. Fact remains, I spent hours of my day watching, editing, reading about this man and his projects. I learned more about him, and about myself .
He indirectly introduced me to some of my closest friends. We’ve shared tears and laughter, albeit over a screen, but those emotions don’t feel any less real because of that restriction (even though some days, like yesterday and today, all I wanted to do was hug them close to me and I was unable to).
It feels real. It is real.
And I know it’s real because these are the only people who truly understand the loss, who don’t belittle the experience because they too ‘interacted’ with this kind, gentle, inspiring man every day too. Even more of us invited into our homes every week.
There have been some insulting comments left on articles, on facebook, and other places around the internet made by people who didn’t follow his career and want to generalize addicts as awful and selfish. From all the stories pouring in, and his general disposition, I have to adamantly disagree. He was beloved by all; friends, fans, reporters, and even paparazzi. He constantly went above and beyond for strangers, shaking drivers’ hands before getting in a car, stopping for the homeless, asking fans if they wanted more, talking to extras who the other actors never talked to, there are endless stories about his seemingly endless attention. His struggle started when he was a child, around 12 or 13, when he was dealt a poor hand and was unable to handle it properly as a child. There is nothing disparaging about this. There is nothing but sadness. Yet he radiated nothing but positivity to others, shielding them from his struggles. He was nothing if not selfless as he continued to better himself. It’s nothing but a shame to say otherwise.
And this particular tragedy is undercut by his openness and willingness to seek help and his growing career. I have no doubts he would’ve only grown and embraced more challenges. (He told James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio he wanted to direct.) This is the same guy who auditioned for Glee with no singing experience, not even karaoke. Who drove from Vancouver to LA in one night to make it on time because he couldn’t afford a plane ticket. He shot two films last season while also shooting Glee. Two great departures from his affable jock persona on Glee, McCanick and All The Wrong Reasons. (Some information here, here including clip of McCanick, here and here with clip from All The Wrong Reasons.) And his storyline for Glee is left unfinished as well. So I celebrate his achievement and feel proud that he was able to add to his legacy more than just Finn Hudson (as much as I loved Finn), but I mourn for all those untouched projects he was meant to do, and all the lives he had yet to touch.
On a personal level, he was a beloved son and brother, and in a loving relationship with co-star Lea Michele. A relationship we watched bloom over four years, from co-stars, to friends, to lovers. She continued to support him during his rehab stint in April, and for all intents and purposes, seemed to be starting to build a life together. I am not often impressed by celebrity couples, but this one touched me and I believe they were planning on making it. They shared so much learning to deal with stardom together. I watched them fall in love onscreen and off, and I feel intimately part of it. I can’t begin to imagine her pain at this moment.
My heart hurts for all these reasons. And that’s not immature of me. He was a hero, an inspiration, a human life cut short.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have another relationship with a celebrity that reaches this level of intimacy again. The loss of it as his career was still climbing is utterly devastating to me. He had a lot more to give, to learn, and to experience. In one of the clips, director Carl Bessai said “Glee was the beginning.” That he, and we, will not be able to experience his growth as an artist is tragic.
Grieve, don’t grieve, but don’t belittle someone else’s emotions in the process.