What Happened to Naya Rivera Is Not Part of a Curse, But Maybe We Need It To Be
When I first read about Naya Rivera having gone missing while boating with her son on July 8th, I felt fear. And then I felt anger, when I saw people cheapening what had happened by referencing the so-called “Glee” curse.
Yesterday, actress and singer Naya Rivera, best known for her role on Glee, went boating with her four-year-old son in Lake Piru, a lake known for having a high number of drowning deaths.
At about 4 pm, her son was found alone curled up in an otherwise empty boat by an employee at the nearby marina. He was wearing a life jacket and a discarded adult sized life jacket was found nearby in the boat. A frantic search commenced ending at nightfall, when waters typically become to dark for searchers to safely continue.
Law enforcement promised they would commence search operations in the morning, at first light, which they have. As of writing this, almost 24 hours after the fact, Naya hasn’t been found.
It’s impossible not to hold out hope she’ll be found, alive, but at this time, the search has progressed from a search and rescue mission, when the missing person is presumed alive though in peril, to a search and recovery mission, when the missing person is presumed dead and their body is to be recovered.
Immediately, fans of Glee, the show Naya is best known for, began attributing her disappearance and presumed death to the “Glee curse”. In a way, as a giant fan of Naya, I found this insulting.
After all, doesn’t it cheapen whatever has befallen her to prescribe it as part of some overarching curse or some predetermined fate for having starred in a show years ago? Isn’t it tacky, considering what her family, her friends, and her young son, are facing to bring up the random tragedies that have befallen past Glee members?
The Glee cast has, admittedly, gone through various horrors and tragedies, though many they brought on their own selves. Cory Monteith overdosed and died in July 2013, almost seven years to the month before Naya’s disappearance. Naya’s co-star and ex-boyfriend, Mark Salling was convicted of possessing child pornography. He killed himself in January of 2018, months before he was to be sentenced in March of the same year.
And the shows assistant director, Jim Fuller, suffered some from a heart related illness and died in his sleep, months after Cory’s untimely passing. Nancy Motes, a production assistant on the show, killed herself February 2014. And those are only the deaths connected to the show.
Another member of the case, Blake Jenner, is a confirmed domestic abuser of former co-star and Super-girl actress Melissa Benoist. And, most recently, Lea Michele was revealed to be vile and racist by former Glee cast mates, most notably by Samantha Ware who said, in response to Lea’s support of Black Lives Matter, that Lea had once told her she would “sh*t in her wig”, a markedly racist and vile statement.
And now, there’s Naya’s potential drowning, even though I am praying otherwise.
My immediate thought, while scrolling through the comments of her fans and well-wishers was that it’s fundamentally gross to attribute such a horrific and tragic accident to the “Glee” curse.
And then, I thought, maybe I’m being too overly critical.
Maybe it’s easier to blame such a tragic accident on a curse because it’s easier to conceptualize some all driving mysterious force at work than that the life of a beautiful and talented young woman could be gone in an instant because of a random accident.
After all, people are also attributing her disappearance to potential kidnappings, a racially motivated attack by the police, and hosts of other conspiracy theories. It seems that anything but the likely truth is gaining traction.
And the idea that some people are cursed by association protects us, the general public, as we view these horrific tragedies, from the same fate. After all, there’s the infamous Kennedy curse and the tragedies that have also befallen the Sedgwick family. There’s the so-called “lottery winner curse” and “Oscar winners curse”, which are brought up periodically, when those in both of the aforementioned categories also suffer unpleasant ends, from career demises to actual death.
But I don’t see this as the public’s desire to tear down those more fortunate. Rather, I see it as the public trying to process what’s not processable: the horrible and random tragedies that can befall us all. A curse, in the case of Naya, is merely a buffer to process the horrific randomness of what’s likely to be the passing of a beloved star with a young son.
After all, the concept of a curse causing tragedy rather than the tragedy being an unfortunate side effect of life does add some sort of, however distorted, logic to these events when they do occur. Because if we lived trapped under a mindset where we all were constantly barraged by the idea that everything could slip out beneath us-the sort of mindset fostered, say, in the Covid-19 pandemic-it would be too much; after a certain point, the mind balks under the weight of fear and uncertainty.
We need to know that there’s something else at force but sheer bad luck or sheer chance, which can strike anyone, at anytime, for no reason, when a woman like Naya is so suddenly gone. It’s not the “Glee curse” at work: it’s our desire to inflate the unimaginable with some sort of pattern, for security and protection from that which none of us can control.
After all, whatever happened to Naya is not part of a curse. It’s just not. But it’s tragic and heartbreaking and I can’t deny people what they might need to process their grief.