One Year On From Naya Rivera, It’s Time To Stop With The ‘Glee Curse’ Talk

Let's not trivialise individual cases by connecting unrelated tragedies.

Naya Rivera

by Guy Pewsey |
Updated on

One year ago, we lost Naya Rivera, the actress best known for playing Santana Lopez in hit show Glee. The star disappeared while swimming with her young son in a California lake. It was perhaps inevitable to see that many people's minds jumped immediately to a so-called 'Glee Curse', an apparent mist of misfortune that has supposedly fallen upon members of the cast. But one year on, it's still being discussed in association with her death. But we need to pause, and to think, about who such talk of a curse is really helping.

For the uninitiated, the so-called 'Glee Curse' relates primarily to the fates of Naya and two of her male co-stars. In 2013 Corey Monteith, who played Finn, died of an overdose in a Vancouver hotel room. Five years later Mark Salling, who played Puck, killed himself after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography. Invoking this curse in the case of Naya seemed, at first, horribly premature: it was trending before news of her passing was even confirmed. But beyond that, it is also incredibly reductive.

Curses are things of myth and fairytales. Horned fairies curse babies at christenings, pledging an endless sleep. Witches curse callous princes, subjecting them to beastly forms. Using it as a label for a series of real life tragedies risks trivialising the horrendous experiences of victims. Corey was not the victim of a curse. He was a troubled young man suffering with addiction. Mark was not the victim of a curse. He died alone, his career ended ahead of its time because of his unforgivable crimes. Naya was not the victim of a curse. She died a hero, having apparently saved her young son from the water. They all left behind people who loved them, and those people deserve to remember them as individuals, without them being bonded together by something mystical and dark. Talking about curses trivialises real, raw pain, and exposes our tendency to treat celebrities as mere characters in a TV show, rather than human beings working in the public sphere.

We do the same thing with our TV stars in Britain, albeit less extremely. Just look at Strictly Come Dancing and the absurd 'Strictly Curse', which seems to impact the marriages of the show's contestants. Yes, a few individuals have left their spouses after competing on the show, having fallen for their dance partner. But lumping them all as a unit ignores the individual's circumstances, the problems that they were already facing, and the new bonds they were forming in a new romantic journey.

The concept of a curse also implies a certain inevitability to a person's fate. It suggests that, whatever a person does, they will find only misfortune. It is fatalistic and cruel, and poses a risk to the mental health of the other people who could be seen as potential victims.

Naya does not belong on a list of victims of a 'Glee Curse'. She was an actress, a singer, a star, a mother. She was truly loved, by those who knew her and for those whose lives had been enriched by her performances. She deserves so much more than a place on a list of tragedies. One year on, we need to retire talk of this curse for good.

READ MORE: How Coronavirus Affected Glee's Season Finale, Years After It Aired

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