Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 11/11/2010

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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  • Alex Catgirl @ at 11:47 am, November 11th, 2010

    Er I have HUGE issues with the whole “It promotes paedophile” thing , as those actresses are older than I am and I am NOT a child!

    I think the real feminist issue is that society is trying to turn young women (18-24 year olds) into children again, like we need protection or something.

    Hello, I am an ADULT. I have the fundamental human right to make my own decisions, which includes posing nude.

    Child pornography, a child being defined as a person who has not reached puberty, is sick sick sick.

    Enlightened societies have declared post-pubescent minors (those who have not reached the age of consent) to be off limits to the adult population, even though they are sexual beings(meaning teens are free to fraternise with each other).

    Seriously, when I was young and stupid I took some risqué picture of myself, that could result in me being charged with producing “child”(*cough* teens are not children *cough*) pornography in some places for “exploiting” myself!

  • Natalia @ at 9:45 pm, November 11th, 2010

    Uuuggh and the fact that the guy is fully dressed and the women ARE NOT is so effing annoying. Enought said.

  • Christina @ at 11:54 am, November 12th, 2010

    To be completely honest, I didn’t understand what the big fuss was about when this came out, and I still don’t.

    If this had been a mainstream entertainment magazine doing a profile of the show, then yes. Hellz to the no. It would’ve been way too sexual, way too sexist, and it should’ve included some of the “minority” characters.

    But it’s not. It’s GQ. Which is very clearly a “men’s magazine”. So. 1) The issue about ‘what message does this send to kids’ is invalid as kids have no business reading GQ. On a side note, Glee isn’t a very kid-friendly show to begin with when you consider the plot themes of pregnancy, trying to be tricksy about who the father is (jizz in a hot tub, anyone?), sexual blackmail, and discussions about “putting out”.

    2) Can you blame them for picking the conventionally attractive characters and going for the sexist theme of having the women nude and the man in power? No, I don’t like it, but I’m not this magazine’s target audience, and I’m not about to touch it with a ten foot pole. Do I get worked up over the lack of gender parity in Playboy? No. The question of why they didn’t include a non-white character like Santana or Tina does remain, but you can’t really blame them for not depicting people who play gay guys or guys in wheelchairs for their wank magazine.

    3) The question arises of why the actors agreed to do this piece, which has very little to do with the themes of the show. This one I’ll concede, and I can understand some disappointment. However, when you think about it, the main clienteles of thinly-veiled wank magazines and of ‘Glee’ probably don’t overlap too much. They probably figured they’d get themselves a few converts. (Who will be rewarded for their faith in the Lady Gaga episode featuring Santana in a black lace catsuit.)

  • Gayle @ at 1:55 pm, November 12th, 2010

    One of the often repeated excuses made for this horror of a photoshoot is that the actresses are not REALLY high school kids.

    So what? What matters is who they are representing here which is (obviously) their characters. They are in porny school girl outfits in school settings. It’s also interesting (in a maddening way) that Lea Michelle is so horribly objectifed in the shoot– like the director of the photo shoot was out to specifically tear the most talented one down, to reduce her to a wh*re for his audience.

    And yes, I agree it is also infuriating how the male is dressed appropriately and in character. He is also adult in reality. Why not strip him down and bend him over a locker room bench?

    I think we all know the answer to that.

  • Liz @ at 5:08 pm, November 12th, 2010

    Feminist Frequency just posted a video about this, I thought she did a really good job deconstructing the attempts at defending the shoot
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX5IXYoPzDA

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