Not So Gleeful: What's Wrong With GQ's Latest Shoot

So, I know this is kind of dated, but please make fun of me, consider my humble excuse of being a senior coming up on college application deadlines, and then attempt to enjoy!

The reaction from feminists to the “Glee” themed photo shoot in the newest issue of GQ – a popular men’s magazine – wasn’t exactly surprising. The shot, which was done by infamous photographer Terry Richardson (no stranger to overtly sexual photo shoots and even sexual harassment claims) features three of the main stars of the Fox TV show in almost pornographic poses. Of course, there has been plenty of uproar concerning the fact that these overtly sexual images are borderline pedophilic – due to the fact that these actors portray teenaged characters and cater to a young audience, despite the fact that they are all over 21. But in reality there are gender-related issues involved in this shoot other than the purity of our nation’s children and their inability to process sexualized images.

1) To Make It As An Actor You Better Strip Down

It seems that in our society, we require our actors to strip down for a provocative photo shoot before we take them “seriously.” You truly haven’t made it in show business until you have removed most of your clothes, and if you haven’t done it for the cameras of a major magazine, then it’s in a leaked video of some kind. Why is it that sexual appeal / blatant sexualization is such an integral part of what we expect from the people we generally hold in our society as role models? And of course, while men may strip down for underwear or even cologne ads, more often than not stripping down becomes an actual career game-changer for females.

2) Double Standards in the GQ Photo Spread

Setting aside the pedophilic undertones of this shoot, it’s pretty clear that there are gender standards being upheld in this photo shoot. Cory Montieth is smiling (read: looking like a normal person) in every photo, where as Diana Agron and Lea Michele are too busy pouting their lips or bending over to remember how to look like real humans. Also there’s a huge subject v. object issue: Montieth is pictured playing the drums and later holding a baseball bat whereas Lea Michele spreads her legs on a bench in one shot and seductively licks a lollipop and Diana Argon straddles Monteith. While Monteith is able to actually do things, Agron and Michele must look like they’re ready for things to be done to them. Isn’t it problematic that this shoot seems to enforce images of women as sexual objects?

3) What’s Glee All About, Anyway?

Glee professes to be a show not only about “being yourself” but inclusion and diversity. This photo shoot only features the three main straight, white characters, who of course are all thin and conventionally attractive. What message is this shoot trying to send to all the kids who watch Glee because they relate to what they thought were characters representative of a “different” type of person?

Of course, it’s always worth considering the perspective that these actresses are “owning” their sexuality by feeling comfortable enough with their bodies and themselves to post in such a way. However, the organization SPARK (an organization that tries to combat the over-sexualization of women, specifically teen girls, in the media) cites a 2007 American Psychological Task Force Report as finding that there is a correlation between overexposure to sexualized media images of women with depression, eating disorders and risky sexual behavior for girls and demeaning, sexist attitudes in boys. And as filmmaker/writer Jean Kilbourne said at the recent SPARK summit “When the culture offers girls and women only one way to be sexy, it can hardly be considered an authentic choice.”

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Julie Zeilinger
Founding Editor of The WMC FBomb
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