Watching people grieve

So I’m going to out myself and admit that I’m a Glee fan. I grew up in a competitive choir in high school.  I knew a lot of the characters that appear on the show.  It’s been a nostalgia hour for me.

Glee’s not the best show on TV, but then I don’t watch a lot of TV.  I started watching Glee with the episode Joss Whedon directed, guest starring Neil Patrick Harris. I love the performance numbers, the costume changes, the weird instrumentation, and the harmonies.  Most of all, I love the voices.

Finn Hudson wasn’t my favorite character.  The blank-faced quarterback seemed a little too close to parody, but when Cory Monteith ODed over the summer, that struck home. I have a friend I adore that I almost lost to the needle.  I didn’t mourn an actor I don’t know, but I did think about youth and fame and addiction.

I watched Glee’s “Farewell to Finn” episode last night.  It was brutal, in a way I haven’t felt since Buffy’s mom died.  However, I knew at that time that Joyce Summers was played by an actress who only pretended to be dead.  Finn didn’t appear at all in the episode last night.  He was already dead and buried, according to the story line.  I don’t know, but I suspect the episode was hastily cobbled together after Monteith’s death to explain how he vanishes from the stories his character was in the middle of.

Last night I knew I wasn’t watching actors pretending to cry.  I was watching people really mourn someone they’d worked with, someone they’d toured with, someone they’d sang with.  I don’t know if they were really friends with Monteith in real life, but it’s not a stretch to believe.  It would be harder to believe that they weren’t friends.  In the case of Lea Michele, I knew she was crying over someone she’d loved.  It felt intrusive to watch the actors grieve.  I feel like they were exploited in a way that I haven’t seen on TV before.

I still don’t know how I feel about the experience.  I feel like grief is often hidden in America. The bereaved feel they need to be strong and those around them are embarrassed when that strength fails.  Personally, I don’t feel that anyone needs to be ashamed to grieve.   But I’ve never had an opportunity to examine people mourning before, to watch the slow trickle of a tear or the trembling lips or a cloud of pain come into someone’s eyes.

It was awful to watch. I don’t feel good about myself for not turning away.

About Loren Rhoads

I'm the author of The Dangerous Type, Kill By Numbers, and No More Heroes. I am also the co-author (with Brian Thomas) of the novel Lost Angels and the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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