Something to Tell your Kids (and Yourself) about the Passing of Cory Monteith

Sunday July 14, 2013

Like so many Glee fans, Steve and I were stunned this morning when we learned of Cory Monteith's passing. Of course the sadness felt by his fans will be nothing compared to the pain and grief of  his family, friends, and colleagues, and my heart goes out to all of them.

But I also keep thinking about the younger fans of Glee. For many kids and even teens, this could be the first time they have to deal with the strange experience of trying to mourn for someone they feel a deep connection to, yet have never met. And as Glee: The 3D Concert Movie makes clear, Glee can have a special appeal for young people who feel lonely or excluded. But even for perfectly happy fans, Monteith's death could be very hard to process.

Drumming on things from the kitchen.
A screen grab from Cory Monteith's
Glee audition tape.
I'm not a parent or educator; I don't have any young Glee fans in my life. But if I did, I think I'd tell them the same thing I've been telling myself...

We don't yet know what ended Monteith's life at only 31 years old. But we do know that he had trouble early on, and that he only discovered acting in his 20s. As his first acting teacher was quoted as saying in this fantastic article about Monteith from Maclean's magazine:
“Cory was like an orphan showing up, wearing five hoodies and three black coats, and really shy,” says [Andrew] McIlroy. “I thought, this is a kid who is trying to save himself.”
One of the main themes of Glee is discovering yourself and embracing the things you're passionate about in life. Monteith struggled for years before finding his passion, then when he finally did, he continued to do things his own, charming way. Have you heard the story of his unorthodox audition tape? Here it is (his story starts at 2:25):

You must be some kind of optimist to send in an audition tape for a television musical without any singing or dancing. You must have a good sense of humour to use tupperware for drums. And you must have a special level of determination to be making any audition tapes after spending years in and out of trouble, school, and minimum wage jobs.

It's tragic that Cory Monteith passed away so young, but it would have been even more tragic if he had never tagged along to an acting class, never worked to change his life, never taken a chance, never found his way. There are many young people who die lost - we just never hear about them.

For those who want to mourn for Monteith, I think it's certainly appropriate to put on some Glee recordings, watch your DVDs or look for interview clips on YouTube. But to actually honour the memory of Monteith it seems more fitting to take whatever the next step is in following your passion and finding your way; always taking a chance and then taking another, with optimism, humour, and humility.