Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glee: The GQ Cover

Well, Glee fans, there's no new episode tonight, which means that we have to keep ourselves entertained another week without any new material. But luckily, the new issue of GQ features our favorite show, and scans hit the internet today. Behold:

Are you offended? I don't blame you. Are you turned on? I don't blame you. Are you wishing that Cory Monteith was in the same state of undress as Lea Michele and Dianna Agron? Again, I don't blame you.

And before I continue, I would really like to make it clear that I'm addressing these photos very much without any personal implications about Lea, Dianna, and Cory. I love all three actors dearly and am dealing with their participation in this much like they are props - they clearly were not responsible for the decisions made in this photospread and I don't endeavor to lay blame to any of them by my ranting in this piece. Okay? Okay. Onward!

Now, there are several things that strike me the wrong way about the photoshoot. Let's talk wardrobe: Lea Michele is not wearing pants in a single frame, and yet Cory Monteith is fully clothed - he gets to wear a letterman jacket. We see Dianna Agron's abs in every shot, yet the only amount of skin we get from Cory is face and hands.

Now let's talk props. Lea's main prop seems to be a rather sexually suggestive lollipop. Cory gets some fairly innocent-seeming drums. How about posing? Oh, that's Cory, fully clothed, with his hands on the asses of two scantily-clad women? Oh, that's Lea, legs spread open to camera? Oh, okay; cool. Just checking.

I'm not stupid; I understand why this is. GQ is a men's magazine. GQ wants men to buy their magazine. How else to accomplish this than putting a capable bro on the cover feeling up two twenty-something, half-naked ladies tailored in schoolgirl fetish? This is the male gaze at its strongest, and frankly, it's offensive.

I was going to take a lukewarm stand on this issue at first. I was going to waffle, and say, "Well, they're just trying to sell magazines, what are they supposed to do? It's an over-the-top concept, and they just decided commit 100% for artistic purposes."

But then I really thought about it, and I decided to let my feathers get ruffled. You know what? What we put on the covers of magazines, and on television, and on the internet? It MEANS something. It MEANS something to put those three young actors in that position on the cover of GQ. It's using the images of people I like and respect to perpetuate the objectification of women. It's offensive. And frankly, saying that it's selling more issues makes this offense even less excusable. Excuse me, gentlemen magazine readers? Stop thinking with your dick and flip through a magazine if you want to read an article. If you don't want to read an article and instead just want something to jerk off to, I suggest subscribing to Playboy. I guarantee that straight guys who picked up this magazine did not pick it up to read about a musical comedy television show. They picked up it to see if there were more fetishistic pictures of women, and were rewarded when they got the locker room photos of Lea Michele.

I understand that, with the fact that Glee is a high school show that tackles a lot of adult issues, we're going to get this dichotomy when it's represented in the media. Lea must roll her eyes every time she puts on thigh-high athletic socks and hikes up her skirt. The schoolgirl thing isn't new - Britney Spears tapped into it with "Baby One More Time," a decade ago and of course, Glee just covered the exact same ground a few weeks back.

But this isn't even the point. The point is that Cory Monteith got to wear pants and a jacket and Lea and Dianna were showing as much skin as possible. If we're going to over-sexualize things, where's the fair in that? Yes, I know it's a men's magazine, but will its readers really go into a gay panic if there's a sexualized picture of Cory Monteith? If Cory were wearing a similar amount of clothing as Lea and Dianna on the cover, it would at least level the score - even with his hands on their asses. As a lady, if I want to read this article and have to flip through offensive portrayals of the women that I personally respect, then I think that gentlemen readers can stomach one photo of Cory with his shirt off. Sex is a two-way street, gang.

Of course, beyond all the sexism inherent in this photospread, lies the tiniest hint of racism. There are currently eleven main cast members in the fictional Glee club. Which three were photographed for the cover? The three hottest, skinniest, and whitest. Yes, Lea and Cory portray the main characters. However, Dianna does not. She gets little screentime on the show, yet is publicized heavily because she's gorgeous and blonde and everybody, male and female alike, wants to do her. Jenna and Amber do not get nearly the same attention Lea and Dianna get, whether it be from magazines, or paparazzi, or even fans. On the one hand, I say it's a travesty! Jenna and Amber are just as beautiful, talented, and lovely as their co-stars and deserve their magazine covers. However, if the magazine covers are going to continue to look like the GQ one, then Jenna and Amber should probably just be grateful they're dodging the heavy objectification. One less thing to worry about.

My point, in all of this, is that all output of creativity involves choices. Decisions are made by creative people in charge, and the result of those decisions is what we see on our television, or on our newsstands. Someone in charge at GQ (multiple someones, I'd say) drew up the concept for this photoshoot and thought, "Great idea!" Someone selected the wardrobe, as little or as much of it as needed. Someone gave Lea Michele that lollipop. Someone placed Dianna Agron in front of that wall so that the red vector pointed straight to her ass. Someone probably said, "Be sexier!" or "Cory, hands lower!" at some point during the photoshoot. These were careful decisions made. This photoshoot didn't happen by accident.

And that, to me, is the truly unfortunate thing. Somebody planned all this, which means that the concepts it's reinforcing are still alive and well in the media, and in men's heads. And while I'm sure my beloved Cory, Lea, and Dianna didn't exactly do anything they hadn't signed up for, I still feel badly for them that they had to participate in this. Somewhere, you know that Chris Colfer, Jenna Ushkowitz and Amber Riley were like, "Phew! We dodged that bullet!"

Sometimes it truly does seem like we're spinning our wheels in getting the media to represent women in a more realistic and objective light. In the meantime, however, Lea Michele should probably expect more lollipops and knee socks.

Author's Note: there are follow-ups to this post here and here.


  1. Thank for this.

    I looked at my tumblr today and there were all these pictures reblogged, maniped etc and not one was complaining about the inherent sexism and complete objectification of Lea Michele and Dianna Agron which disappointed me.

    I love Glee as much as the next Gleek but this, to me, feels like a massive mis-step. Maybe more so than some of their dependence on guest stars and poor continuity issues.

  2. This is ridiculous. Women are allowed to be sexualized on magazine covers. I don't see Lea or Dianna being dominated by Cory or suggesting they're not happy about where they are. Get over yourself and stop being so afraid of sexual images. It's a dude's magazine. Women are allowed to willingly pose half-naked and guys/girls are allowed to enjoy that. I really think you're overreacting.

  3. I think you forget about the large lesbian fanbase Glee has, which is primarily responsible for these images to be floating around Tumblr and will contribute a good portion of the sales. That said, would that make it okay? Women objectifying other women in a sexual manner? If this was an issue of Cosmo with the same pictures, would the outrage be there?

    I also think the racism and whatnot are a little off. Surely it's not surprising that these three were picked. Cory and Lea are the leads and Dianna is the most successful member of the cast outside of Glee and has an upcoming movie to promote.

    Sexual? Yes, completely. They're young, attractive people in their twenties who wanted to be in this magazine. Degrading? A little. Lea even says in the interview that she didn't know how they got her to do half of the stuff she did. Surprising for a men's magazine? No.

    I agree that the playing field should have been leveled, but even by looking at Dianna, you can tell the girls had a little say in how much they revealed and Lea seems more than okay to be in her underwear, and might actually enjoy being sexualized, especially considering some of the other photoshoots she's done.

  4. Great article. You summed up my thoughts as well.

    Also...If GQ is a "dude's" magazine it doesn't give them the right be rude to the women who aren't in their target demo. I would personally love to see Cory half-naked, like everyone other straight woman ;)

  5. my and my friend were lamenting the serious lack of cory skin in these pics. and the unfairness, naturally. it's all about equality, not just wanting to see cory's shirt (and pants) off, nooooo never. in all seriousness, you hit every nail square on the head with this post. u rule.

  6. I love your article and I agree with most of what you say. However, I disagree with the idea that having Dianna on the cover with Cory and Lea is somehow pushing aside other characters. And I disagree for two reasons:

    1) Her character was incredibly influential on Finn's entire character arc throughout the first season. This relational context overshadows any second or third tier screen time she may have shared with the other female characters, and

    2) The whole point of having the three of them on, aside from the fact that they are young, attractive actors from a hit show, is the subliminal entitlement of a man with his hands on the asses of both his current girlfriend and his ex. I'm sure that's a WHOLE 'nother blog entry, though....

  7. I suppose this cover answers the question of whether Glee is a "family-friendly" show or not. Though really, why was that question ever posed in the first place?


  8. Lea Michele loves making the world believe she's the hottest thing ever. She was never humble but now she's just disgusting. Girl is vain and has no class.

  9. Love what you wrote. From the photos that appeared in the magazine, Cory definitely looked like he was having a good time, and of course he was dressed. The solo photo of Diana - she did not look comfortable. But Lea - I don't know if she was trying to hard but she looks trashy. The "spread your legs" pose really was not necessary, but then again, I'm a female and the photos aren't for me. I just Lea would realized she does not have to trash it up to be sexy.

  10. I completely agree. And your comment about Dianna really brought it home. Their is something subtly racist about it that I was offended by as soon as I saw who they'd chosen to represent Glee. It would have been one thing if Cory was in equal state of undress but he wasn't. Lea is comfortable with her sexuality and she looks great. I won't judge her for that. Still, I wish the actors/models would think more about what they were being asked to do on photo shoots and how that may seem.

  11. Thank you! This is completely how I felt seeing those photos. It's sad how people don't care about objectifying women.
    I love Glee, I love the actors, but this just made me angry.

  12. I find the spread-legs and "underwear peeping out" photos absolutely VILE.

    Sure, embrace your femininity, your sexuality, but there are certain things we don't see on every street corner for a reason.

  13. I may have a bit of an unpopular opinion here... While I do agree with you on some points, I don't see this as being that terrible.
    Personally I don't like the photos, but that said I am also not their target audience.
    It is sexy and provocative, but that is the point. I'm assuming that Lea and Dianna (and Cory) all agreed to do this photo shoot. Lea has done provocative photoshoots before, I've probably seen her in her underwear more than people I know in real life. Also I thinks its important to note how the girls are dressed differently. Dianna is always in a skirt. A small and sexy skirt, yes, but she is still wearing more than Lea. If I was trying to make this as sexy as possible I'd get them both in their underwear so I'm guessing that it was Dianna's choice.
    Yes this mag objectifies women, but this is no surprise. Any mag that shows off womens bodies does, just as any picture with a shirtless hot guy objectifies men. Sex sells. Until someone finds an alternative we're stuck with that.
    Also, while I get your point re: racism and partially agree. I think it's fairly obvious why they chose Lea and Dianna, They are currently the most successful, and yes the skinniest. GQ has had women of color on the cover before, and if Quinn or Rachel was of color, I'm pretty sure they'd still be in the photoshoot.

  14. I found the photoshoot extremely cheap and distasteful - shame on everyone involved. They don't need this type of publicity - they should let their talent speak for themselves.

  15. How DARE someone be comfortable enough in their own skin to pose provocatively! It's a travesty! Women must be fully clothed at all times or they are dirty sluts! Women should NOT be allowed to make decisions on what parts of their body they want to show, they should only do what makes OTHER people comfortable.

  16. I think what triggered the comments are Lea's poses, wardrobe and gestures, they're a bit much. Cory looks great, Dianna looks super sexy without her legs open wide or her tongue hanging out, it's Lea what "trashes" the shoot.

    For what I've read, this photographer always does these kind of pictures but why does Lea stand out from Cory and Dianna? IMO it's her who makes the GQ shoot like a Maxim one anf I'm sorry but even though GQ's target is men, their shoots are 80% super classy.

    Did the photographer told her to pose like that or it was her own idea? IDK but something tells me it's more of the second option because Dianna is not posing in a complete different way than her.

  17. -This in reply to a certain few comments-

    I never get people who say stuff like 'that's the point'. So the /point/ is to constantly, constantly present women as sexual objects in media? Okay, does that somehow make it better? I'm getting a bit sick of seeing women get reduced to a sexual advertisement the majority of the time. Bringing up that men are objectified too is meaningless when the one in this picture wasn't objectified himself.

    And who says sex sells or that anyone is 'stuck'? Isn't that just a lazy and overly simplistic excuse so people never have to try different alternatives or examine anything more closely? And if sex sells, what about the things that don't go for the hyper-sexualized aspects that /also/ sell and/or are wildly popular? And, really, doesn't the idea of sex sells just designate women as the sex class once again? Used as sexual objects to catch the eye? This also has the unfortunate implication that women couldn't be 'sell-worthy' without being presented as pin-ups. Sex sells hardly ever seems to involve the guys giving up anything, oddly enough.

    Guesses don't get you anywhere, my guess is just as plausible as yours. Trying to put the blame all on Lea is just excusing the people who set up the photoshoot, photographed/directed, and OK'd it for the articles and covers. No responsibility for them I guess? If you 'don't know' then don't bother guessing, especially when the guess automatically seems to fall on it being a woman's fault most of the time.

    Anywho, I really liked the article Dr. She-Bloggo. Take care.

  18. Dianna Agron gets a lot of publicity not because she is gorgeous (which she is) but because she does a lot of work outside of Glee. She worked on and is working on several movies and charities.


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