Glee’s Tribute to Cory May Monteith Romanticize Addiction

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Glee’s Tribute to Cory May Monteith Romanticize Addiction

Last week, Fox released a promo for this Thursday’s episode of Glee, which will be a farewell to the character Finn and tribute to the actor who played him, Cory Monteith, who died in July of an overdose of heroin and alcohol. Reports had initially suggested that Glee producers might try to write in an addiction plot line that would mirror the actor’s real life, but they now seem to have abandoned that idea, although their PR rep won’t reveal details until air time. Either way, we know that the show won’t come close to portraying the ugliness of Monteith’s death, which almost certainly occurred in one of two ways. Heroin users who die from overdose either asphyxiate on their own vomit–triggered when the body attempts to repel the toxic substance–or, because heroin suppresses respiration, their breathing slows and eventually stops and they basically suffocate. It’s a ghastly, lonely death.

At the Emmy Awards last month, Glee costar Jane Lynch, a recovering alcoholic, described Monteith’s death as “a tragic reminder of the rapacious, senseless destruction that is brought on by addiction.” But Monteith’s other colleagues have mostly glossed over the fact that the beloved star was suffering a disease that causes unrelenting physical and psychic pain and ugly, senseless death.

If it’s addressed at all, the Glee creators will almost surely sanitize the real cause of Monteith’s death. Hollywood isn’t obliged to portray reality—indeed, authenticity is anathema to feel-good shows like Glee– but by whitewashing addiction, the producers are failing its audience of young people, the group most vulnerable to overdose. A tribute replete with sad songs will make the audience cry, but it could also wind up romanticizing the star’s death. So while the episode may help Monteith’s fans grieve the loss of their idol, it won’t help them to understand why they would never want to be like him. This is a disease that needs to be shown with such ugliness that even a face as beautiful as Monteith’s will make the millions of young people who watch the show recoil in horror. Addiction is a horrible and ugly disease that ruins lives. It is important to not let Hollywood make light of the suffering that those struggling with addiction go through. Get help now.