Online Controversy Over Emmy’s In Memoriam Tribute

FOX's "Glee" - Season Four

At each year’s Emmys, the biggest stars are often the ones who aren’t there. The annual “In Memoriam” segment, which pays tribute to those who have passed away, is one of the Television Academy’s most anticipated moments.

But this year’s segment is thus far, stirring up more controversy than tearful reflection. The announcement of the five stars who will be included has stirred intense online reaction. Most notably, online commenters are up in arms over the inclusion of Cory Monteith, who died July 13 of an accidental overdose, at the expense, it is said, of older stars with longer credit sheets to celebrate.

[Related: In Memoriam: 5 Iconic TV Stars Will Be Remembered With Special Emmy Tributes]

“When Monteith’s name is elevated alongside the other four people who are being elevated from the usual In Memoriam reel — actors James Gandolfini, Jean Stapleton and Jonathan Winters and writer-producer Gary David Goldberg — his inclusion risks coming across ill-considered,” wrote Andrew Wallenstein, Variety editor-in-chief, digital, in an opinion piece. “The unspoken, uncomfortable truth of the matter is that while the work he did on ‘Glee’ showed great promise, it was not equal to the incredible careers the other four amassed.”

Several Yahoo readers asked why special honors weren’t paid to Larry Hagman, Dennis Farina, or Andy Griffith. Griffith, who died July 3, 2012, was part of last year’s segment but, declared Yahoo reader Ruth, he “was never given the credit he should have gotten. Shame on Hollywood. He was one of the best, put those others to shame as far as acting.”

[Related: TV Stars We’ve Lost in 2013]

Those protesting Monteith’s inclusion also question the wisdom of honoring someone who died of a drug overdose. “We’re sensationalizing his death,” wrote Yahoo reader Jenn.

Some readers suggest a more appropriate tribute would be talking about the problems of addiction.

I don’t think that Monteith should be honored with the others, but as a recovering alcoholic of 17 years myself who has personally watched many talented actors and other creatives die slow drug and alcohol addicted deaths, I do think the Academy might use some of it’s Emmy time to address the issues, perhaps mention some of the other recent publically noted passings of performers from as a result of their addiction and remind people there is help out there, etc, Just my two cents. (Variety reader SoberSurfer)

Some however, stand by the decision to honor Monteith, which will be led by co-star Jane Lynch. “He is not being awarded an Emmy,” Variety reader Claire pointed out. “[H]e is being memorialized for his lead work in a show that was an instant, major television phenomenon from the time its [p]ilot aired, that did something not before seen on TV, and that deeply touched people worldwide.”

His role, many have noted, contributed to the monumental influence of “Glee” in reaching a mass family audience as it explored issues like bullying, art and culture, and gay rights. As stated in an earlier Yahoo memorial piece Monteith’s character Finn Hudson — the captain of the high school football team — represented the ideal American kid, the one who defended the bullied, the leader always willing to learn.

Fans of “Glee” were consistently touched by Monteith’s humble talk about his addictions and his own importance. “We’re being sold on the idea [that celebrity matters],” he told Postmedia News last March. “That’s what the mass-media images are telling us. And they’re selling it as reality. But it’s not real.”

The TV Academy was not available for comment as of press time.