Glee and Cory Monteith
The angsty high-school sing-along Glee has one of the most devoted fan fiction communities on the internet, and its devotees write lengthy, sometimes multi-part narratives that pick at hidden plot threads and invent entirely new ones. The characters pair off, develop eating disorders, crash their cars, have children, and have sex. Especially that last thing — the archives of FanFiction.Net feature 9090 ‘Mature’ rated stories about gay kid Kurt, and a further 62 about his husky mechanic dad. (Burt Hummel gets me seriously hot under the collar, but that’s a whole other thing for a whole other time.)
When news broke yesterday of the untimely death of young Glee star Cory Monteith (who played Finn Hudson on the show), fans took to the internet in a mass outpouring of grief. Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room, after ongoing struggles with substance abuse, and while few other details are known at this point, his name is still trending on Twitter, as fans offer condolences to his co-stars and to one another, and squabble over who is the MOST grief-stricken.
Of course, Glee’s fan fiction community was quick to react. Numerous stories appeared on FanFiction.Net overnight, some of them are set within the world of the show, as Finn’s friends and relatives deal with the news of his death, and some are about the actors themselves. Some are maudlin, some are strangely poignant, but together, they offer a fascinating insight into the ways that people process their grief for a beloved character and a person they’ve likely never met.
‘Goodbye, Farewell’ and ‘Forever Yours Faithfully’ were two of the earliest stories to appear, mere hours after the news broke. They deal with Kurt and Rachel — Finn Hudson’s step brother and his occasional girlfriend, respectively — as they deal with the aftermath of his passing. Both authors chose to kill him off in car accidents, a proven method for dispatching TV teens. Remember when Marissa Cooper met a similar demise on The OC?
Both stories are packed with high drama. In ‘Goodbye, Farewell’, Kurt musters up “all his self-control not to smash his phone against the wall”, while in ‘Forever Yours Faithfully’, Rachel sinks to her knees, sobbing, as grave dirt runs through her fingers. The grieving is set at a pretty high pitch, but both end on notes of wish fulfilment. One reveals that Rachel is pregnant with Finn’s child, while the other, well…
“Kurt and Blaine were standing beside Finn’s grave. Every time Kurt returned to Lima, he stopped by the cemetery to leave flowers. Usually, Blaine let him go alone, but this time he wanted Blaine there, along with their son, Finn.”
Aww. Both stories feature the kind of sweetly sappy plot developments that Glee itself could well pull off in the fairly near future.
Most of the stories stick within the fictional realm, but some smash the fourth wall right down, and tell stories from the perspective of Monteith’s friends and co-stars. While these ones are written in the spirit of empathy, there’s a level of assumed intimacy that’s uncomfortable, and even creepy. Even in the unfiltered world of the internet, they make for very fucking uncomfortable reading.
When news of Monteith’s death initially broke, Glee cast member Mark Salling tweeted and then subsequently deleted the word ‘no’. The story of that name attempts to get inside his head in the lead-up to that moment, as his panic and anxiety over the death of his friend start to spiral. Another story titled ‘Gone’ is about the actress Lea Michele skipping merrily into work at FOX only to break down in hysterics as she learns the news that her on and off-screen boyfriend is dead.
“Lea, even while being surrounded by her friends, had never felt so alone. He [sic] and Cory were supposed to get married, maybe pop out a couple kids, and die old together.”
It goes on like that, and it’s pretty dark stuff. Michele hasn’t actually come out and commented in the wake of Monteith’s death, but the two of them reportedly shared a close relationship, and you can’t help but feel a little uneasy at imagining this young woman’s pain while she’s presumably out there feeling it herself.
Some of the writers opt for first-person, ‘where were you when you heard the news?’ accounts of the event. ‘Cory Monteith Tribute: When Our Loved Ones Are Gone’ is about a fan hearing the news, hoping it was all a dream, and then discovering that it wasn’t. It has an earnestness of tone, and a bluntness that comes from reading someone’s honest, unedited thoughts.
When I told a friend I was working on a piece about fan fiction reactions to Monteith’s death, his immediate response was ‘Oh jeez, is it sexual stuff?’ Indeed, it seems we’ve been conditioned to expect this sort of thing from the internet, and somewhere in the bowels of 4Chan, a thread about Finn-Rachel necrophilia probably already exists. But by all indications, the internet’s grief is earnest and sincere.
Glee will return for a fifth season later this year, and it remains unclear how the show will overcome Monteith’s passing. But, in the more immediate world of fan fiction, devotees have already buried Finn Hudson or written him into immortality.