Katie Couric and the Parents Television Council are objecting to a sexy photo spread of “Glee” cast members in GQ Magazine. While Finn (Cory Monteith) is fully clothed, his cast mates Rachel (Lea Michelle) and Quinn (Diana Agron) (both 24 years old but playing teenage high schoolers in the show) are in their underwear and posing very provocatively.
The PTC says “It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia.” GQ responded, “As often happens in Hollywood, these ‘kids’ are in their twenties. Cory Montieth’s almost 30! I think they’re old enough to do what they want.” NPR’s Monkey See blog also objected to the sexy “Glee” photos, because of the passive, little-girl signifiers of the props and poses.
“Glee” is not intended for children. It has a good deal of edgy material with frequent sexual references and situations. Agron plays a character who, despite membership in the school chastity club, had a baby last year. A teen boy has sex with older women. In another episode three characters decide to lose their virginity, though not all of them went through with it. The most recent episode showed two teen girl cheerleaders making out with each other.
At least three or four times a year there is a headline about some former child star who wants to show she is all grown up with a sexy photo shoot or music video. A new video from Miley Cyrus, formerly the squeaky clean Hannah Montana, has her posing blindfolded on a bed and giving lap dances. The only thing harder to control than a teenager is a teenager in show business. Or a publication trying to get headlines.
How should parents respond? First, by listening. Young fans of performers like Miley Cyrus may be distressed by this kind of behavior. Parents should use this as an opportunity to say that sometimes people, especially teenagers, make foolish choices, and we hope they learn from their mistakes — and that we do, too. If they feel strongly about it, help them write a letter to the performer, or post something on a fan site expressing their views. Teenage Gleeks may be willing to talk about why it is that the male performer gets to keep his clothes on, why the female stars pose in their underwear in public settings, and how props like a lollipop are used transgressively to make the images evoke both childhood and adult sexuality.
Let me know what your family thinks about this issue, either here or at email@example.com.