Glee – putting the G into GQ
Recently, some cast members of Fox TV show, Glee have posed for racy photographs for GQ magazine. For the assumedly very few who don’t know, Glee is a comedy/drama set in an American high school. The characters in the ‘glee club’ are often unpopular so they use the club to find friends, and presumably find themselves, through overly pitch-corrected song and dance numbers. And, of course, like most American teen dramas, the actors who play the teen characters are far from being teenagers themselves.
Indeed, the two actors that posed for GQ, Lea Michele (who plays Rachel Berry) and Dianna Agron (who plays Quinn Fabray), are both 24 years old.
The GQ photo spread in question portrays these women scantily clad in their Glee-style high school setting (and interestingly, the male star featured –Cory Monteith – is fully clothed through the entire shoot). There are pictures of Lea Michele acting as Rachel sucking on a lollipop outside her locker and another of her in a changing room not fully changed. There are also pictures of Dianna Argon as Quinn in a barely-there cheerleading outfit and of the two women in the library in their underwear, and several draped over their (fully clothed) male co-star. The pictures clearly channel the stereotype of the sexualised high-school girl.
Media watchdog and parenting groups in the US argue that the pictures ‘border on paedophilia’. According to Buzzle.com, director of communications for the Parent’s Television Council says, ‘All of these are really encouraging and promoting a mindset that it is OK to fantasize about teenage girls in this way.’
As the actors involved are clearly adults and are post-pubescent, the problem is not so much with paedophilia. As GQ editor-in-chief, Jim Neison comments in an ABC report, such groups ‘should learn to divide reality from fantasy.’ The point is that the actors are not teenagers and therefore there is nothing morally reprehensible about features of this kind.
However, Neilson’s argument is not without problems. Yes, the pictures are not examples of paedophilia, but they are examples of how certain magazines infantilise women in order to make them appear sexy.
Infantilisation is when you deny someone of their maturity. You also deny them of their voice, their ability to be an agent in their own life. Not only is an infantilised woman easily dominated, she is obedient and is an object, there to carry out the desires and fantasies of men. It’s like portraying women as little girls so that they are easier to control and are sexier.
Surely it is the womens’ choice as to whether or not they would like to pose in this manner as they are consenting adults. However, aside from the aesthetic problems I personally have with the pictures (I find them trashy rather than sexy) they were not themselves. That is, they weren’t successful, intelligent and strong women, they were portraying obedient, infantilised girls who sort of looked like them.
There is no problem in being sexy, but in that sexiness should be a degree of power, and it should highlight one’s individuality. By infantalising themselves in this manner they’ve lost this level of control and as a result have become objects, selling the image of youth and being a teenager and being obedient to the desires of men. It is not a show of individuality, but a highly stylised image and a particular type of fantasy that erases whatever individuality they do have. This is an objectification of girls and women because these actresses are fulfilling a fantasy and becoming objects rather than selling their personality – their talents, their tenacity and their experience.
In relation to the media hype surrounding the photographs, Dianna Argon wrote on her blog that ‘these photos do not represent who [she is]’. She also mentioned that she didn’t like the idea of the ‘school girl photo shoot’ in the first place. This shows that by doing the shoot, she wasn’t fulfilling her own wishes and she wasn’t fully empowered. She has no ownership over this portrayal of her body. Rather, she was fulfilling the wishes of the male readers of GQ.
Sexy or sexist? What do you think of the GQ photo shoot?