Last week, we lost a talented actor and friend and ally to the LGBT community. Cory Monteith, who played Finn Hudson on the hit show Glee, passed away from an overdose on Saturday in a Vancouver hotel room.
I haven't watched Glee in a while, mainly because I feel as if the show has kind of gone off the rails in recent seasons. But I used to be a rather huge "Gleek." And Monteith played one of my favorite characters on the show: a lovable (but not that intelligent) football-player-turned-glee-club-member who personifies the straight ally on the show. Maybe it sounds silly, but as somebody who watched the show religiously for quite some time, Finn felt like a friend to me. Monteith's death is pretty surreal, not just because he was so young, but because his character felt so real to me.
I'm sure it's indicative of demographic trends, but to my knowledge Monteith's name has not even been mentioned on Daily Kos. I feel he deserves, at the very least, one tribute diary given the importance of his onscreen character and real-life advocacy to the larger struggle against bullying and toward LGBT acceptance, so here goes. Follow me below the fold.
But First, A Word From Our Sponsor:
|Top Comments recognizes the previous day's Top Mojo and strives to promote each day's outstanding comments through nominations made by Kossacks like you. Please send comments (before 9:30pm ET) by email to email@example.com or by our KosMail message board. Just click on the Spinning Top™ to make a submission. Look for the Spinning Top™ to pop up in
Make sure that you include the direct link to the comment (the URL), which is available by clicking on that comment's date/time. Please let us know your Daily Kos user name if you use email so we can credit you properly. If you send a writeup with the link, we can include that as well. The
Please come in. You're invited to make yourself at home! Join us beneath the doodle...
From his very first appearance when he holds the openly gay Kurt Hummel's jacket while other jocks throw him in a dumpster, Finn Hudson proves himself to be different from the other bullies on the football team. There are bumps along the way--like when he uses the word "faggy" against Kurt and gets a tongue-lashing from Kurt's father--but Finn's character progressively becomes more and more accepting of those who are queer or otherwise "different" and despised. Once a typical jock, he finds a home in the glee club among queer kids and other social outcasts deemed unimportant by the high school's student body. Although Finn doesn't get much credit on the show (and he's certainly overshadowed by much better singers), he occupies an extremely vital place on a show that has been so uplifting for so many teens who can identify with the social misfit label. The Atlantic really nails it on Finn's importance, not just on the show but to the show's audience, queer and non-queer alike:
Because Monteith wasn't a natural-born singer or dancer, Finn was a vicarious performer for the majority of viewers who can't hit musical notes like Lea Michele or bust a dance move like Harry Shum. Watching back the iconic "Don't Stop Believing," it's clear that Michele outsings him, but Monteith sells the small-town aspiration (his arms and gaze reaching for the stars) and his chemistry with Michele is electric (the two were involved off-screen). In an era of macho antiheroes, Finn countered that being a man didn't have to include physical strength or objectifying women, but could instead be defined by expressiveness, vulnerability, and compassion. He failed as a quarterback, a soldier, and a boyfriend, but he succeeded in glee club, where he sang and danced and hung around with a bunch of queer kids.Appropriately, a couple of the scenes mentioned in the piece above happen to be my favorite Finn moments on Glee. The Atlantic really gets it right in how it describes Finn's performance of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
Monteith never got a lot of credit for his performance, and that's a shame. He played straight (literally and figuratively) on a show where almost everyone else was colorful and theatrical. It's a thankless role, but Monteith made some interesting choices. He never strutted confidently, instead walking with a slight hunch or hesitation that undermined the solidity of an Everyman, and he generously allowed his costars to have the bigger reactions. In several confrontations like this beautiful scene in "The Breakup" (where Rachel poses the question of what makes a man), he often looked away from his scene partner, which made him seem uncertain and childlike. And whenever Finn had to act like a fratboy, Monteith delivered those lines with comic timing, thereby reassuring us that bro behavior was an affectation. These were conscious acting choices that deconstructed the jock character. In Monteith's portrayal, masculinity was a performance, and a leading man was just a boy pretending to be a man.
Consider too that Finn is both a point-of-entry character and an object of desire, and what that means when he defies the Everyman archetype. Audiences saw Finn embracing various queer and outcast figures, and that made him important to an entire generation of young viewers all across Glee's international fandom (Tumblr seems to have been invented solely for Gleeks and the couples they "ship"). It sent a powerful it-gets-better message to LGBT kids and a message of inclusiveness to all the other kids. Finn also constantly reminded Rachel that she was destined for Broadway stardom while he feared he'd never escape Ohio--the Everyman saw himself as a loser and the outcast as a winner. Finally, the image of Finn serenading Kurt with "Just the Way You Are," turning its hetero-romance undertones into a gay-acceptance anthem, is the most uplifting thing I've ever seen a straight character do for a gay character on TV.
Another of my favorites is his rendition of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," which he sings about his own religious transformation on the show.
But I think my very favorite Finn moment is when he's playing the role of the homophobic asshole in what I consider one of the most powerful moments I've seen on television. I watched the following scene when it first aired, and by the end, it had me in tears. Even if you ignore the other clips in this diary, this one is a must-watch. And it's much more powerful when you consider the size of the audience and the importance of watching this scene to countless LGBT youth. For context, this scene takes place after the aforementioned openly gay Kurt and Finn find out they're going to be living together, since Finn's mom is moving in with Kurt's dad. Kurt's dad, also in the below scene, undergoes a transformation of his own when it comes to his son's sexuality. The clip quality isn't the best, but trust me, the scene is well worth watching:
But not to worry, Finn changes, and the story has a happy ending. Another tearjerking scene involving Finn and Kurt at their parents' wedding:
Monteith not only played a straight ally onscreen--he was a straight ally in real life, as well. From GLAAD:
We mourn the loss of our friend Cory Monteith, whose support of LGBT youth and his work to end bullying served as an inspiration to countless young people," stated GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. "Losing such a strong ally at a young age is heartbreaking, but we are thankful for the many lives he touched through his work and advocacy. Our hearts go out to his family both at home and on the set of Glee.Here is one such PSA:
The young star was part of a powerful storyline from the beginning of Glee. His character, Finn Hudson, showed animosity towards fellow New Directions group member Kurt Hummel, bullying him and using an anti-gay slur towards him during an argument but eventually, the quarterback apologized and stood up for Kurt against bullies. As the show progressed, Finn and Kurt became close friends and brothers when their parents married. Following graduation, Finn returned to co-direct the New Directions glee club with Mr. Schuester.
The actor continued his advocacy off screen by partnering with several organizations and showing his support of the LGBT community. The young star recorded PSAs for Straight But Not Narrow and The Bully Project, attended events for The Trevor Project and hosted the 23rd annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York City alongside co-star Naya Rivera. The actor also received an award in 2012 from Do Something for his advocacy work.
We not only lost an amazing and important television character--we lost a real ally to the LGBT community. Monteith's tragic death leaves a void.
Predictably, the Westboro Baptist Church is planning to picket Monteith's funeral. But their hate and bigotry cannot extinguish the tremendous, immeasurable good Monteith accomplished for a generation of LGBT and non-LGBT youth.
Rest in peace, Cory. Excellent work.