Narrative Analysis/Intertextuality: Glee Season 5, Episode 3 (“The Quarterback”)

Glee is a musical-comedy drama series that airs internationally on Fox and locally on ETC. The series is set in McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio and focuses on the stories of the members of the McKinley High Glee Club. This particular episode is the tribute episode to Cory Monteith, the actor who plays Finn Hudson: the male lead character of Glee. Monteith died on July 2013, during the season break of Glee. His untimely death forced the creators of Glee to make changes to its storyline. On October 10, 2013, “The Quarterback” was aired.

In terms of Narrative Analysis, (of the Glee series in general) the time and space of this series in set in McKinley High School in Ohio. Most of the scenes in the series are shot within the premises of McKinley High. Although it may be difficult to clearly identify the hero of the series using Propp’s function because of the diversity of the characters, most of the earlier seasons of the series revolved mainly around Finn and Rachel. Played by the late Cory Monteith, and Lea Michele. Finn is McKinley High’s quarterback and he is also the glee club’s male lead. He is not the typical strong person that one would expect from a normal hero but his pure heart and good intentions usually put him in the spotlight. As you get to watch the series, it will be easy to notice that Finn is portrayed as the “hero.” Many people speculated about how the show might end up being cancelled since the “main” character and the “hero” of the story passed away.

Intertextuality plays a great part in this particular episode of Glee. If you have been following Glee since the beginning, it is impossible not to notice that all the songs the supporting characters sang during the entire episode were songs that Finn sang in previous episodes of Glee. Though they showed no flashback clips of Finn during the entire episode of “The Quarterback,” the memories of Finn from past episodes were enough to remind the audience how special Finn was to all the characters of Glee. On one scene during this episode, Carole Hudson-Hummel and Bert Hummel were shown packing away Finn’s stuff. Carole starts to talk about Finn and says, “How do parents go on when they lose a child?” and goes on to saying, “You have to keep on being a parent even if you don’t get to have a child anymore.” This was especially important for me because of a family experience of losing a baby. My mom had a miscarriage when I was 12 years old and up to this day we still remember how painful it was for our family to go through that situation. I can only imagine how many parents felt the same way while watching this scene.

Another reason why the grief of the characters felt so real during the episode was because of the off-screen relationship of Lea Michele and Cory Monteith. Lea and Cory didn’t only play boyfriend and girlfriend on screen; they were a real-life couple. During the majority of the episode, Rachel was never shown on screen. However, during the last part of the episode, she came into the Glee classroom (looking frail and depressed) and sang “Make You Feel my Love” in the most heart-felt way. Even though you were watching Rachel sing a song for Finn, you couldn’t help but feel sad for Lea who was in grief because her boyfriend just passed away. Lea never gave out an official statement to the press after Cory’s death, but the song she sang for him on this episode was enough to show everyone how she felt about him.

As seen in this episode, intertextuality played a great part in building the emotion of the audience. Especially for those, such as myself, who have been fans of Glee since the beginning, it was incredibly painful to watch this episode knowing that it was not only a scene or a part that they had to play to put drama in the series, but it was a reality that they (we all had) to deal with. Because of the events that circulated around the making of “The Quarterback,” Finn’s death was of primary importance because it was not intentionally put for the development of the story, but it was put in as a way of dealing with the reality of the death of Cory Monteith.

Personally, I felt glad that Glee decided to create a tribute episode for Finn rather than keeping his private life separate from his character in Glee. This episode gave me closure, and, as an audience member and fan of the series, it gave me a chance to show my sympathy towards Cory. The episode made me feel as if I could actually grieve with the people who loved Finn as much as I did. Though some had remarks about using the death of Cory to get ratings and profit, I felt that the tribute was also made in order for the fans to grieve the loss of the character that they loved. Intertextuality played a key role in building the impact of this episode. Without any of the other texts connected to the episode, the death of Finn in Glee wouldn’t have that much of an impact to the audience.

Sources:

BC 181 Narrative Analysis handouts.

Videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbt2FYKwiz0

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