Mark Salling is dead. Suicide. If you are over 25 this probably doesn’t mean anything to you as Salling will be filtered out of your news feed. Amongst Millennials though, Salling’s death is trending. Salling played in the hugely popular Fox television series Glee, which ran from 2009 to 2015. During those years no show was more popular with teens. Showered with prestigious awards, Glee was set in a music theatre school where students regularly burst into all-singing, all-dancing routines.

Mark Salling is dead. Suicide.

It was the American Dream perfectly scripted and choreographed, with roles for same sex couples, for a guy in a wheelchair, and for two over-weight girls – who were super-confident. In addition to the dancing and singing, the health, beauty and sexiness, Glee radiated uplift and political correctness.

Salling played bad boy Puck, who gloried in statements that lodged in teenager’s consciousness: “Once you have seen a baby coming out of a girl’s magic garden, everything else is easily acceptable”. In no time Salling gained top celebrity status. He performed for the Obamas in the White House. He was crowned one of America’s 100 most beautiful men. But then police, tipped off by an ex-girlfriend, entered his house and seized a large stash of child porn.

The dancing stopped. Mark confessed his guilt, and was axed from the starring role in his next TV series. He was looking at between four and seven years behind bars when sentenced next month. Imagine you are the most famous and prettiest paedophile of the western hemisphere and you have to go to jail. Last week Mark hanged himself. The final curtain falls.

Except there are no final curtains in the era of another, arguably more real aspect of the American Dream: social media – which can be a kind of eternal torment.

I should confess that although I am 60 years old, every morning for several years I have laced up my shoes with a YouTube film of dancing Glee actors in the background. I have learned to love, virtually, all Glee actors, including tragic Puck/Mark. And of course, it is a fascinating story what happened to him. From perfectly shining uplifting fame to the deepest hellish pits. From the ultimate embodiment of everything healthy, beautiful and talented to its perverted opposite. Could the American Dream get any more nightmarish?

Social media exists for only one aim and reason: to get us click through as long as possible. I never do as I have a life to live, and as mentioned already, I’m Far Too Old, but this time I surrendered. (My excuse: I had influenza). News keeps us enthralled by offering time and again new perspectives, new angles. Gossip even more so. We see the gloomy playing field close to the tree where Salling hanged himself. A vivid discussion erupts about how egoistic Mark was, hanging himself there, where kids could have found him. And as a sex offender he wasn’t even allowed to go there. An ex-girlfriend lets the world know that during her time with Salling she looked much younger than her eighteen years. Her story is accompanied with pictures of her as she is now. She has had her boobs done and aspires a career in the movies.

In the meanwhile everyone eagerly awaits to hear how Salling’s former colleagues from the ‘Glee-family’ will react. For years these celebrities worked alongside Salling, apparently joyfully, they must surely be moved by his suicide. At the same time they must keep distance from the pure toxicity Salling now is. Jane Lynch restrict herself to a demure “Oh, Mark”. Another actress tweets that Mark has lost the tragic fights against his demon – and that he always has been a supportive and talented colleague. Most comments don’t share her sympathy: “Let him rot in hell” is a more usual response. Some express doubts about Salling’s Christian parents, “as most paedophiles have been abused in their youth”. There are also more meek comments. “Those who are without sin may cast the first stone.”

Glee actress and ex-lover Naya Reviera doesn’t seem to mind some stone-throwing. “When he dumped me I felt totally lost. But I would have been really lost when I was still lying next to him when the police crashed his door.” Each hour of the day brings a new angle from which to express outrage. Right now all the rage is about egocentric Mark preventing, by taking his own life, his victims applying for financial compensation. Once again the comments are harsh to the point of… gleeful. For the sake of your trust in society and humanity: do your best and never ever read online comments. The social hygiene of our culture is at stake.

I am a professor in China and supervise students and teachers over there. This week I Skyped with them. Salling’s suicide and the online speculation popped up in the conversation. “This kind of reckless freedom of speech gives democracy a bad name in the eyes of very many Chinese. Our politicians use it to legitimize their online censorship.”

Mark Salling was monstrous. But so is the social media feasting on his dead body.



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