A Short Toast to Cory Monteith

I bailed on Glee after the Rocky Horror episode. The show was beginning to tumble into a direction that I wasn’t as attached to, and my television habits/interest hadn’t fully formed yet, and so the show and I drifted apart. And though I’ve never really looked back on that decision heavily, I still keep myself tangentially aware of the show’s going-ons. I’m not sure what it is about Glee that causes me to read the occasional review of a much-talked about episode, but I’ll never be able to forget what got me in: the pilot episode, and in particular, its closing rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” a song I despise on a very deep level, despite knowing all of the words (and having performed a bizarre dance routine to, involving standing on a chair and exiting the stage with a long series of faux-periouettes). The performance is obviously a triumphant one, but it—and the song itself—always struck me as one that speaks to the Finn Hudson character on a very base level, capturing his complicated emotional journey throughout the series, or at least the episodes I’ve seen.

Now, obviously, it’s unfair to conflate the character of Finn Hudson and the actor Cory Monteith. From all appearances, Monteith was a straight-forward, down to earth guy, one who enjoyed life and struggled to live as best he could (despite whatever personal issues and setbacks he faced, none of which I will get into here). His twitter feed was a constant source of entertainment, and long after I had abandoned Glee, I would still find myself chuckling at a joke or looking over links and pictures he sent out into the digital ether. But his work within Finn Hudson was my first introduction to Monteith, and even when I found the show floundering, I could always count on him to hold it together.

One of the last examples of Moneith’s talent I can remember before quitting is the wonderful “Grilled Cheesus,” a highly emotional episode that dealt with religion and the ways spirituality exists in all our lives. While the A-story, about Kurt’s father having a heart attack and the glee club rallying around him in support, is heavy and emotionally difficult, Finn’s story, while carrying a small bit of the same gravitas as Kurt’s, takes a lighter approach, and lends the episode some much-needed levity, and it’s Finn’s plot (and Monteith’s performance) that keeps that episode fresh in my memory, even to this day. (Even an incredibly hokey song choice couldn’t stop his performance of “Losing My Religion” from delivering on every single level.)

As I said before, it’s been quite a while since I sat down and actually watched an episode of Glee. If and when the show does its tribute to Monteith, no matter what form it takes, I’ll most likely break that abstinence. I have little interest in anything the show is actually doing at this point, but a sense of responsibility, and of genuine sadness, draws me toward any form of remembrance. I may not have much to say about Monteith, but I am saddened that we’ll never get to see where his talent may have taken him. I might even need to bust out the Glee pilot once more, for old times’ sake, and even more so than usual, I know the tears will come when the first a capella notes of “Don’t Stop Believing” blast through the speakers.

So here’s to Cory Monteith, the decade-too-old high school student who brought me to tears with a capella, and whose talent and work, I hope, can live on for years to come.

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