For six years, Fox’s hit series Glee brought joy to our TV screens in the form of catchy cover songs and solid choreography. But despite record ratings and countless awards, the show seems to have some bad juju. Fans familiar with former cast members’ whereabouts wonder if they’re victims of a Glee curse. Get the details on this theory and decide for yourself if it’s a real phenomenon.
What Is The Glee Curse?
Fox’s critically-acclaimed musical-comedy Glee was a massive hit when it debuted in 2009. The series, set in the fictional McKinley High School, followed a group of talented teens as they discovered their voices (and identities) through the high school’s glee club.
Over the course of six seasons, the show made the careers of many young actors. It also drew a wide viewership by casting established talents (Matthew Morrison, Jane Lynch) and A-list guest stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Neil Patrick Harris).
Unfortunately, Glee is also associated with a dark side. An unusual number of tragedies and scandals have plagued its stars—and no, we’re not just talking about viral backlashes against former characters. There seem to have been more instances of death, addiction, and criminal behavior among its cast than on any other show in recent history. With each new story that unfolds, conspiracy theorists on social media hold tighter to the belief that Glee is cursed.
Tweets like these don’t help matters. It appears that there’s something more to the downfall of Glee actors than pure coincidence. Take a look back at the unfortunate series of events that have led many to believe that the lighthearted show has sinister vibes beneath the surface.
Cory Monteith’s Heroin Overdose
Cory Monteith starred as Finn Hudson, a quarterback who was initially reluctant to join the glee club, lest he alienate his athletic friends.
“Finn started off as the stereotypical dumb jock” Monteith told Parade in 2011. “But as the show has gone on, Finn’s not dumb anymore, really, he’s just a little naïve. The opposite of me.”
In real life, the actor had a troubled past. Monteith attended 16 schools, including one for troubled youth, before dropping out at 16. He began drinking and using drugs at 13, and by 19, he entered rehab.
On July 13, 2013, at the age of 31, Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room. Investigators found drug paraphernalia—including a spoon with drug residue and a used hypodermic needle—at the scene. The official coroner’s report ruled the cause of death “combined heroin and alcohol toxicity.”
The news was met with shock. Although many close to the actor knew about his past, casual fans were surprised to learn that the clean-cut Monteith was struggling behind the scenes.
Becca Tobin’s Tragic Loss
Becca Tobin appeared as the queen bee cheerleader Kitty Wilde on three seasons of Glee—she was a recurring character in Seasons 4 and 6, and a regular in Season 5.
On July 10, 2014—almost a year to the day that Monteith passed—Tobin’s boyfriend Matt Bendik was found dead in a Philadelphia hotel room. A preliminary autopsy did not establish a clear cause of death, but a spokesman for the Philadelphia Health Department said there was “no evidence of trauma.” Apparently, Bendik’s family believed the nightclub owner had a heart attack due to work-related stress.
“Thank you all for the love and support,” Tobin wrote in an Instagram post three weeks after his passing. “Matt was the most extraordinary man I knew and he will live in my heart forever.”
Mark Salling’s Child Pornography Charges And Suicide
There is something ominous about Mark Salling’s role as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on Glee. In the show, Puck is a McKinley High School student who claims to enjoy seducing older women but winds up impregnating a student who is ironically president of the school’s Celibacy Club.
On December 29, 2015, Salling was arrested for suspicion of possessing child pornography. LAPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit obtained a search warrant for his home and discovered hundreds of illegal images on his computer.
In May 2016, Salling was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. By October 2017, he plead guilty to possession of child pornography involving a prepubescent minor. In total, over 25,000 images and 600 videos depicting child pornography were found on computers and thumb drives that belonged to Salling. Court documents revealed that the images depicted children as young as 3 years old.
Sentencing was set for March 7, 2018. He was expected to face a prison term of four to seven years; he would also be required to enter treatment and register as a sex offender.
However, the sentencing never happened. On January 20, 2018, Salling committed suicide. TMZ reported that his body was found hanging from a tree near a little league field close to his home. He was 35.
Melissa Benoist’s Domestic Violence Allegations Against Blake Jenner
Cory Monteith’s romance with Lea Michele wasn’t the only romance that blossomed on the set of Glee—Melissa Benoist and Blake Jenner were also an item. Benoist played poverty-stricken Marley Rose on Seasons 4 and 5; Jenner was jock-turned-glee club enthusiast Ryder Lynn on Seasons 4 through 6.
Their relationship didn’t receive much press coverage until 2019, when Benoist—who had moved on to become the star of Supergirl—posted a PSA about domestic violence on Instagram.
“I am a survivor of domestic violence or IPV (intimate partner violence), which is something I never in my life expected I would say, let alone be broadcasting into the ether,” she told viewers. Benoist went on to describe a former relationship that began innocently enough, but slowly revealed itself to be toxic.
“The stark truth is I learned what it felt like to be pinned down and slapped repeatedly, punched so hard the wind was knocked out of me, dragged by my hair across pavement, head-butted, pinched until my skin broke, shoved into a wall so hard the drywall broke, choked,” she said.
Benoist never identified her abuser, but Glee fans put the pieces together.
Almost a year later, Jenner confessed on Instagram that he was the ex who has abused the actress.
“Two years prior to the end of our relationship, there was a time where my past partner and I were in an argument that escalated, and in a moment of frustration, while I was standing in the hallway and she was in our bedroom, I threw my phone aimlessly and it hit my former partner in her face,” he wrote. “It’s a moment that I will regret for the rest of my life. If I could do anything to take it back, I would.”
Lea Michele’s Racism
Lea Michele is perhaps one of the most successful actors to say they were a McKinley High student. For the entire series, she starred as Rachel Berry—a young woman whose ambition eventually leads to a Tony Award.
In real life, Michele survived the series without any scandals. But accusations of racism surfaced in 2020 after she posted a tweet in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Samantha Marie Ware, who played Jane Hayward in Season 6, replied in a now-deleted tweet, “LMAO REMEMBER WHEN YOU MADE MY FIRST TELEVISION GIG A LIVING HELL?!?! CAUSE ILL NEVER FORGET.
“I BELIEVE YOU TOLD EVERYONE THAT IF TOU [sic] HAD THE OPPORTUNITY YOU WOULD ‘[expletive] IN MY WIG!’ AMONGST OTHER TRAUMATIC MICROAGGRESSIONS THAT MADE ME QUESTION A CAREER IN HOLLYWOOD,” she added.
Numerous actors piled on. Amber Riley, who starred as Mercedes Jones on the series, simply posted a gif of herself sipping tea. And Melissa Benoist liked Ware’s tweet but refrained from commenting.
Even those who weren’t on Glee but worked with Michele in the past chimed in with their two cents.
“EVERY person on a set matters. EVERY person on a set deserves respect. And it is the RESPONSIBILITY of every series regular to make EVERY person who visits their home feel welcome,” tweeted Yvette Nicole Brown, who co-starred with Michele in The Mayor.
Keith Powell, who played Toofer on 30 Rock, wrote in a now-deleted tweet, “Lea Michele is a terrible human and has said terrible things to many different types of people, including racist microaggressions to/about black people.”
On June 3, 2020, Michele posted an apology on Instagram.
“While I don’t remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin, that’s really not the point, what matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people,” she wrote. “Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused.”
Naya Rivera’s Accidental Drowning
Naya Rivera appeared on all six seasons of Glee, playing the role of Santana Lopez. She was outed as a lesbian in Season 3, and her sexuality is an important component of her character throughout the series.
On July 8, 2020, Rivera was reported missing after her 4-year-old son was found alone on a boat in California’s Lake Piru. Her body was discovered in the water five days later.
An autopsy report ruled that she had accidentally drowned. This was confirmed by her son Josey, who said she screamed for help before slipping into the lake.
In November 2020, Ryan Dorsey—Rivera’s ex-husband and Josey’s father—filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ventura County and managers of Lake Piru. Dorsey claims that his ex’s boat wasn’t equipped with proper safety equipment and that the lake lacked any warning signs of its dangerous conditions. (At least 26 people have drowned in the lake since it opened in 1959.)
Is The Glee Curse Real?
It’s tragic that a feel-good show like Glee has seen so many of its stars meet unfortunate fates. However, we wouldn’t call the show cursed. As a source who worked on the show told the New York Post, “I don’t know if I would say it was cursed, but it’s unfortunate for most of them. The things that have happened with some of the cast . . . it’s very sad.”