Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Glee in GQ: A Follow-Up

Well, there were certain things I didn't expect to happen today after I posted my thoughts on Glee's GQ photoshoot.

I did not expect Photobucket to suspend my montage of the GQ images because they "violated [their] terms of use." (And also, Photobucket? This suspension is a touch ironic. You're kind of preaching to the choir here.)

I also did not expect said post to circle through the Glee fandom the way it did. I paid careful attention to the reactions it got, and there were a few things I wanted to say in following up on the post. A lot of people read what I wrote and had something to say about it, and I would like to address some of the reaction. This is my 15 seconds of fame in a very teeny tiny corner of the Internet, and I don't want to be misconstrued.

The whole issue is certainly controversial, and any and all discussion deriving from it is healthy. I'm not a big debater, frankly; I have my moments of opinion, but then I usually settle myself into a live-and-let-live mindset and continue to enjoy the Internet and television and all that it has to offer. I don't intend to bait anyone with counterpoint, but in this instance I do appreciate a discourse, because there's a lot of gray area.

One commenter indicated that, by suggesting that Cory be equally as undressed as Dianna and Lea, I was inadvertently advocating the objectification of men. While I can see how that conclusion was reached, I really was just proffering that example to demonstrate the double standard in the sexualization of these characters. Objectification of anyone is harmful and debasing, and I found these images to objectify Lea and Dianna. Do I want Cory to be objectified? No. Do I want Lea and Dianna to be objectified? No.

I understand that hyper-sexualized imagery is out there, and I have no intention of tightening up my bonnet and shunning healthy expressions of sexuality with a stern and pointed glare. However, using sexual imagery to turn a human being into a sex object? We're running into some muddy water there. And it's a fine line. Someone can look at a picture of Lea Michele or Cory Monteith smiling normally, fully clothed and say, "I want to have sex with him/her." Did the photographer intend this reaction? Probably not. But with a photoshoot such as this, there is a human behind that camera and an idea in that human's head. These pictures communicate a message, and that message really does seem to point right at sex and not much else.

Perhaps the most interesting food-for-thought came from "That Girl" here at the blog itself:

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?

You raise a really, really valid point - and honestly, a point that I'm still trying to negotiate. I guess the truth of the matter is that women objectifying other women is also debasing, but no one's getting up in arms about it. It's perhaps an issue of power, the "haves" and the "have-nots." In situations such as these, men are deemed to have all the power, and women, none. Men, the majority, exercising power over the women, the minority. But if a women tries to assert power, even if it is over other women, it is perhaps viewed as more acceptable because at least they are exercising the power that men normally do. It's an inverted viewpoint of feminism, and, truthfully, counter-productive to the goal.

How many tumblrs out there are devoted to Dianna Agron's body parts? And at what point does appreciation of beauty become a violation? I've also read the reaction of, "Well, Lea and Dianna were clearly okay with it because they agreed to do it." Truthfully, we do not know that for sure. As much exposure as the Glee kids get, and as much as we think we know them as people, we truly don't. We are just fans who appreciate them for who they are and what they do, and occasionally, for what they look like. We can read Dianna's tumblr as much as we want and say, "Oh, she called Terry Richardson a 'funky, cool, free-spirited, thumbs-up-loving man.' She must have been okay with it!" False. Those four adjectives do not an argument make. Firstly, they're not particuarly positive adjectives. She's just describing the man's characteristics. She doesn't say she likes him, or agrees with him, or even respects him. Secondly, Dianna's not stupid; she's not going to disparage a famous photographer on her very public blog.

Similarly, just because Lea appears to have embraced the concept of the shoot wholeheartedly, it does not mean she condones over-sexualized images, or that she is a slut or vulgar or trashy. These people are actors, and Glee is their job. If they are hired to do an interview and photospread in GQ, they will probably try to behave professionally, keeping in line with the art director's vision and representing their show without biting the hand that feeds them or being rude about opening up to possibly uncomfortable questions.

And finally, on a much less controversial note, I want to clear up what I said about Dianna only being chosen for the shoot on account of her looks. It was pointed out to me that she has a movie coming out soon, and has sold a screenplay, and has also directed a music video with Thao. Yes, it's possible that Dianna is emerging as the most successful cast member in other arenas. That lineup of accomplishments does indeed make her something like a Renaissance Woman, for lack of a better term. However, Dianna being a Renaissance Woman is why I am a fan of her. Dianna being a Renaissance Woman is not why she was asked to participate in this photoshoot. I feel badly for saying it, but I believe it's naive to assume otherwise. I do want to make it clear, however,
that I am not aiming to insult Dianna, and I was not looking for an excuse to take a shot at her. I am a Dianna fan and I feel badly that my article insinuated otherwise.

I leave you with this final thought. Glee's popularity has certainly come as a surprise to mainstream media, and I do wonder if the evolution from fringe-underdog-show to mainstream-popular-show has lead us to some of the more unfortunate interviews and photoshoots with the cast. I don't believe Glee was intended for mainstream America - it is a musical comedy about theater geeks in Ohio living outside the norm of mainstream America - and I feel compelled to suggest that because of this duality, the media doesn't know how to advertise it within the norm. Therefore, we get multiple headlines of "Glee Gone Wild!" and countless photoshoots of Lea in a sexy schoolgirl outfit.

Perhaps it boils down to this, gender discussion aside: when you look at the GQ photoshoot, does it appear to you that these photos are representative of the show? Yes, there's teen flirting and pregnancy and sex and every week someone is dating someone new - BUT. Is this what Glee is about, truly? I think you'll find that the countless fans of the show care about the characters, and watching them struggle to accept their differences in a society that emphasizes fitting in. Perhaps mainstream America is trying to portray Glee as something it's not, and RM and Co. are just going along with it because they don't want to turn down the attention. This may or may not be true, but I figure I'll open up another can of worms for an interesting discussion.

Many thanks to all those who spread my article, whether or not they agreed with it, and I hope I've given you some more food for thought. I hope to soon return to regularly scheduled programming here at DR SHE BLOGGO, and perhaps some of you will stick around for less controversial topics as well. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Well thought out and cogent. Props.


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