By JAMILA RIZVI
It seems a bit silly to be crying because of course I didn’t know Cory Monteith.
But having watched him perform in hit TV series Glee for four seasons, giggled quietly at his goofy dance moves, and sung along with his rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing more times than I care to admit: I feel like I do.
There is an outpouring of grief on social media sites tonight for the loss of a young man who most of the mourners have never met. Monteith played Glee’s leading man Finn, a teenage football star turned singer/dancer whose tumultuous relationship with leading lady, Rachael, has no doubt been the stuff of infinite snap chat conversations amongst the show’s teenage fans the world over.
And while it can be easy to smirk and scoff at these die-hard fans’ dramatic pronouncements on Twitter and Facebook – the truth is that the cult of celebrity leaves nobody untouched. The result being that we can feel uncommonly connected to a person we do not know, to whom our only exposure has been through a TV screen, where they are in fact, pretending to be someone else.
I suppose that’s why the tears have fallen freely tonight. I am genuinely saddened to hear of this young man’s passing because I was attached to the character he played and the spirit he brought to what is both a remarkable role and a remarkable television series.
Being a musical theatre devotee, the Broadway inspired style of Glee had me hooked from the beginning. Any television show that can mash together Katrina and the Waves with Beyonce and then follow it up with an even better combination of Usher and Bon Jovi, deserves some attention.
What kept me coming back to Glee was the very emotion that its name evokes because the show is joyful to watch. The vocal gymnastics are gobsmacking, the choreography is clever and the talent of the young stars is outstanding, yes. But it’s the pure and unadulterated joy that the actors bring to their roles and most particularly to the music they perform, that makes the show special.
The role of Finn has been played to perfection by Monteith. He is utterly likeable and you find yourself on his side from the very first episode. The relinquishment of his cool-kid persona and acceptance of dance and singing as creative pursuits was believable and even, dare I say it, a little bit inspiring.
I remember being at school and watching how easy it was for the girls to take up roles in musicals or rock eisteddfods. It was expected and it was accepted. But it’s so different for boys and sadly, a lot of teenage boys won’t give creative pursuits a go because it’s not socially encouraged.
Monteith made it okay for a boy to dance. And that’s no mean feat.
Glee has pushed boundaries that teenage dramas simply haven’t managed to in the past. I know the show has its critics but by putting issues of homosexuality, race and disability front and centre, this teen drama has covered territory that had previously been foreign to the glossy, stereotypical ‘perfection’ of the genre.
And Monteith’s character Finn, has been an incredibly important part in that. Following Monteith’s portrayal of Finn’s journey from unempathetic jock to the creative, enlightened, supportive brother and friend he became, has been a privilege.
31 is far too young to die and if the reports of a drug-related overdose are true, then his death is not just a tragedy but a terrible, terrible waste. His talent and his warmth were captivating and there is a reason he gathered so many adoring fans with his role in Glee.
Vale Cory Monteith.
I’ll be having a glass of red in your honour and singing along to a recording of your beautiful voice tonight.