We were driving to an L.M. Montgomery photography exhibit, featuring some of the pictures she had taken throughout her life, when Rachel McMillan read the news. The three of us had just been talking about the next Montgomery conference in 2016, Montgomery’s male characters, Gilbert Blythe and, yes, the Perfect Man Archetype.
For many young women and men growing up after 1985 Jonathan Crombie had embodied Gilbert Blythe. His death is tragic, dying so young, and for many of us it does feel personal. Like we lost someone we knew, maybe even that we lost something sacred about who we thought Gilbert Blythe was. Perhaps it makes us pause and put our life in perspective. I don’t quite know. Twitter is trending “Gilbert Blythe,” quoting Crombie’s lines, attributing the same emotions the same way people did with Robin Williams.
I am sad by this news, his work had a profound effect on my creative and critical writing and helped inspire a lot of hours of expository writing, and reevaluating the origins of my ideals around romance and relationships. Since 2008, I have combed through YouTube videos, read blogs, and articles, fascinated by how actors become representations of the characters we love and why this happened–why it happened to me.
There was something strange and eerie about looking at photographs of Montgomery’s ex-boyfriends with the recent news of one of your first crushes dying lingering in the back of your mind. Considering that I’m writing about her first crushes, there were definitely layers of meaning happening for me, layers I cannot even begin to explain right now as I continue to process.
What comes to me now, in this moment, is my sympathies to his family and those who truly knew him. And my sympathies also go out those of us who believed we knew him. Perhaps we go downstairs and pop in a DVD.