We Need to Talk About “The Girl From Plainville”'s “Glee” Connection
Content warning: This post includes mentions of suicide related to “The Girl From Plainville” and mentions of drug overdose and death.
Stan’s new series “The Girl From Plainville” stars Elle Fanning as Michelle Carter, who was indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter after her boyfriend, Conrad Roy (Colton Ryan), died by suicide. Prosecutors argued that Carter encouraged him to take his own life so she could get more attention from her family and friends. Ultimately, she was found guilty and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Fanning does an incredible job portraying Carter in the series, which sticks pretty closely to the facts of the case. One thing that might shock viewers who are unfamiliar with all the details is Carter’s obsession with the TV show “Glee.” Carter is especially fixated on Rachel and Finn (and the actors who portrayed them, Lea Michele and Cory Monteith, who were together in real life). In 2013, Monteith died due to a drug overdose. In the first three episodes of “The Girl From Plainville,” which premiered on March 29, Carter returns to the tragic story that played out both on and off screen on “Glee” as a touchstone in the days after Roy’s death.
At the end of the pilot, Carter watches the episode of “Glee” called “The Quarterback,” which was a tribute both to the character of Finn and to Monteith, and Michele’s song for him in the episode is extremely emotional, given that she’d lost her real partner. In “The Girl From Plainville,” Carter looks into the mirror and practices the monologue Rachel gives to the rest of the glee club about her relationship with Finn. She mouths along to the words as she looks in the mirror and cries.
It’s an incredibly haunting and layered moment, as Carter projects the fictional grief of “Glee” and the real grief of the “Glee” cast onto herself and Conrad (who died exactly one year after Monteith). “Glee” continues to come up throughout “The Girl From Plainville.” Carter quotes episodes of “Glee” and things Michele said about Monteith in conversations and texts with her family and friends. She even has a long fantasy sequence imagining herself as Rachel and Roy as Finn. The scenes are uncanny and strange and make the case that Carter was far gone in her own delusions.
Viewers might wonder if the “Glee” scenes are based in fact. According to the testimony given during Carter’s trial, they are. Prosecutors pointed to many text messages Carter sent that quoted Michele and the rest of the “Glee” cast, using their words to describe herself and Roy. Journalist Jesse Barron, who wrote the article that “The Girl From Plainville” is based on, talked about Carter’s obsession with “Glee” in the HBO documentary “I Love You, Now Die.” He said in the doc, “I think she connected with Lea Michele on a kind of profound level that went beyond what a normal teen identifying with a star, you know, may feel like.” He said Carter “had this desire for things to be more intense, more like stories than they really were.”
“The Girl From Plainville” executive producer Liz Hannah spoke on a TCA panel in February about the decision to include scenes from “Glee” in the show. She said, “So much of the show is about loneliness and isolation, and for every character involved . . . something that ‘Glee’ did that I think was so interesting was make people who were lonely feel included. That was really bittersweet to explore for Michelle’s character – this idea of inclusion through this show when she couldn’t do it in real life.”