Cory Monteith: the digital grief for the loss of an idol

John Donne had it right: no man is an island, entire of itself. Throughout the digital era, this has become truer than ever. Social media has allowed us to live up to the ideas of the poem. The death of the lead character of Glee, Cory Monteith (31), has made clear one more time that the loss of an idol can become, one more time, the trigger of massive grief.

John Lennon stands as the most important example of the kind. The assassination of the artist created a social and cultural reaction never seen before in the world regarding the death of a popular singer. “John gave us too much” some could say. Personally, 2009 was it for me: the loss of Michael Jackson made me feel an unknown kind of pain.

But the anguish felt by “gleeks” all over the world unravelled an incipient phenomenon: the role of social network in sharing heartache. The image of Cory, or to be more exact, the image of Finn Hudson, travelled the world millions of times in the matter of seconds.

Fans felt together as they grieved the loss of a fictional character, because make no mistake, the mourning will be for the identification with a talented young man, with a never changing image on the screen. They cry for the man they never thought could die. They feel compassion for his girlfriend Lea Michele because they know their relationship thoroughly: it was extensively addressed in Glee.

They were together in life and fiction, so, by transition, it was kind of the same. Fans know every corner of their privacy: it was aired more than once. Just by looking at a picture of the lovely couple we know so well, our hearts shrink with pain.

So we think we know everything, we feel everything, we suffer for them because they are ours. TV has done that for us. And Twitter and Facebook allowed the anguished masses to feel in contact with other fans, even just through a screen. Hashtags and photo montages: the new digital era paid its respect to Cory Monteith. As more messages were delivered, more love was sent to his girlfriend, more respect was materialised. This postmodern logic was a definitely a catalyst, a very efficient one, undoubted.

The world (or some world) will definitely miss Finn Hudson. No man is an island.

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