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What Glee Has Shown Us About Celebrity Deaths

When it was reported that “Glee” star Naya Rivera had gone missing while on a lake, her friends, family and fans hoped and prayed for a safe return. However, when her body was recovered days after she was reported missing, the internet quickly began drawing parallels between her death and the deaths of other “Glee” cast members, all while her friends and family were mourning.

Fans of the show “Glee,” which was on the air from 2009 to 2015, wasted no time pointing out that in season 5 episode 13, Rivera sang “If I Die Young,” by The Band Perry. Some fans thought it was more than an eerie coincidence that Rivera’s death mirrored the lyrics of the song. 

 

If I die young bury me in satin

Lay me down on a bed of roses

Sink me in the river at dawn

Send me away with the words of a love song

 

The Glee cast is no stranger to tragic deaths. The episode in which Rivera sings “If I Die Young,” is actually a tribute episode to Cory Monteith, a Glee showrunner who died in 2013 while the show was still on the air. At the age of 31, Monteith died of an accidental drug overdose. Fans of Glee were also quick to point out another morbidly interesting fact about Rivera’s death: her body was found on the seven-year anniversary of Monteith's death. 

Fans attribute this to something called “The Glee Curse.” Distractify goes into detail in a recent article about a “string of misfortunes,” that has impacted the cast of Glee. 

While the incidents surrounding Rivera’s death raise plenty of questions, many people criticized Glee fans for their speculations. Imagine, you’ve just lost your loved one in a very traumatic way, meanwhile, 15-year-olds on the internet are writing conspiracy theories about her. 

While the fans weren’t trying to hurt Rivera’s family, it does bring up a good point about celebrity deaths and how they are perceived by the public. It is no secret that celebrities lose any right to privacy when they step into the public eye, but their families should not be subjected to the same level of public scrutiny. 

News outlets such as TMZ show us that dead celebrities make for good news stories, as dark as that may seem. In January, when basketball legend Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, TMZ was the first to announce it. The details surrounding Bryant’s death were very confusing in the first few hours after he had died. News outlets wanted so badly to get the story out first that fact-checking became an afterthought. This most likely put his friends and family through a considerable amount of trauma watching people speculate about his death in such a way. 

In contrast, the death of actor Chadwick Boseman was handled in a way that was very respectful. The “Black Panther” star died of colon cancer at the age of 43 earlier this month. His battle with cancer had been kept a secret from the public, and his death was announced in a press release put out by his estate. The striking difference between the way Boseman’s death was handled by the media as opposed to Bryant’s can be attributed to the fact that Boseman’s family had the opportunity to announce his passing as opposed to news outlets.

While Boseman and Bryant were not affiliated with Glee, they were prominent figures in pop culture and their deaths show the various ways the public handles celebrity deaths.

So why does the public love dead celebrities?

The way the public feels about celebrity deaths is mirrored in the way mainstream media portrays them. There is something the public finds especially juicy about dead celebrities. Perhaps it can be summed up to a morbid sense of curiosity many people possess. It is easy for the public to formulate wild theories about celebrity deaths because we did not know them personally. They are seen as objects of entertainment in life, so they remain objects of entertainment in death. Either way, there is something cruel about the publicity surrounding the end of a person’s life.

The insensitivity of fans coming up with “The Glee Curse” could be attributed to Glee’s young fanbase, but fans of the show who watched when Monteith died would be young adults by now. Any way you want to look at it, there is truly no excuse for the way the public addresses celebrity deaths.

If the death of Naya Rivera and Cory Monteith teaches us anything, it is that in the eyes of the general public, celebrities are not people. They are public figures who exist only for entertainment purposes.