Glee’s GQ photo shoot “betrays the spirit of the show”

The title card for the musical comedy series G...

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Apparently 24-year olds posing as sultry school girls is an abomination.  Really?

Smells Like Teen Spirit

There has been a furore recently over a recent photoshoot where actors who play teenagers on TV show Glee have posed provocatively for GQ magazine.  Let’s see how the situation has been described.

The images, by photographer Terry Richardson, are overtly, cheesily sexy. Website Jezebel summed it up with the headline: Terry Richardson Makes Glee All Porny and they have a point. The pictures are also amazingly sexist. Monteith, who plays Finn, is wearing approximately 10 times more clothing than both of the women, who are draped over him like fancy accessories.

Source:, “Glee’s GQ photo shoot betrays the spirit of the show“, 22nd October 2010,


Among PTC’s complaints, it says the photo shoot “borders on pedophilia.”

“Many children who flocked to ‘High School Musical’ have grown into ‘Glee’ fans,” PTC President Tim Winter bemoaned in his organization’s missive. “They are now being treated to seductive, in-your-face poses of the underwear-clad female characters posing in front of school lockers, one of them opting for a full-frontal crotch shot. By authorizing this kind of near-pornographic display, the creators of the program have established their intentions on the show’s direction. And it isn’t good for families.”

Source: Washington Post, “After ‘Glee’ GQ photos cause controversy, cast member responds“, 21st October 2010,

I think we’ve captured succinctly what people’s problems are here:

1. The photos are overtly sexual.

2. The photos are sexist.

3. The photos “border on” paedophilia.

4. Children are going to be influenced by these photos.

5. The creators of the show have used this photoshoot to indicate the show’s direction.

Let’s examine these in turn, though I suspect there to be some overlap.

1. The Photos Are Overtly Sexual

Yes they are.  However, this is not surprising.  GQ is a “lad’s mag” – a publication targeted at men.  In fact, “GQ” stands for “Gentleman’s Quarterly” so it’s not surprising that it features things that men want to see. 

2. The Photos Are Sexist

I’m tempted to write “see above.”  Mathilda Gregory, in the Guardian piece cited above, argues this and again it’s true.  She complains that Finn is wearing “10 times more clothing” than his female counterparts.  Remembering what we learnt in the previous section, about this being a lad’s mag, it’s conceivable that the majority of GQ’s readership are heterosexual men.  Heterosexual men typically don’t want to see scantily dressed men, which is why adverts that typically feature them, for, for instance, men’s fragrances and underwear, are actually aimed at women as they are the ones who would buy these products.

So what’s the problem?  Well it seems that she is surprised that there are scantily dressed women in a lad’s mag.  To everyone else, this is not surprising. 

3. The Photos Border On Paedophilia

This one surprises me the most.  But then again, maybe it doesn’t.  We’ve already had Amanda Bynes, famous for her days on Nickleodeon, stripping down for MaximMiley Cyrus has gotten herself into trouble for making racy videosDon’t forget Britney Spears’s photoshoot in Rolling Stone, all those years ago which you could hold up as the archetype for all these controversies.  Indeed you can find numerous articles where adult women have chosen to do ‘sexy’ poses for magazines.  How are they paedophilic?

Paedophilia is a condition where someone is attracted to children.  In this sense, the argument is that the photos that these women are posing are either are: a) paedophilic in themselves (i.e. depicting children in a sexual way) or b) encourage paedophilia (i.e. encourage people to find children attractive).  Is this true of the photos?

Definition (a) is obviously false.  The women posing in the Glee photoshoot are both over 18 years of age.  In fact, both Dianna Agron and Lea Michelle are 24.  24 year olds are not children, ergo this cannot be true.

Definition (b) is closer to being right than (a).  However, does it encourage paedophilia?  I highly doubt this.  However, it hasn’t stopped some rather odd reactions.  For instance, there was a story recently which stated that the Australian censor no longer allows young, small-breasted women to show their breasts in adult movies.  In fact, if you look hard enough on Google there are people who believe that almost anything can encourage paedophilia.  Here are some:

Shaving your pubic hair might encourage paedophilia.

Making padded bras in small sizes might encourage paedophilia.

Second Life might encourage paedophilia.

Paedophilia is a genuine concern, I don’t doubt that.  But the fight against it is not helped by some groups of people constantly trying to construe anything associated with youth and sexiness as ‘paedophilic’.  It’s like the hysteria The Daily Mail promotes with its endless articles on the things that cause cancer.

Enough is enough.  Unless it is blatant paedophilia or you have a study that links something to paedophilia you should just stay quiet.  Besides, have you watched Glee?  It’s not exactly something young children should be watching anyway.  The season 2 opener featured Britney Spears songs and videos, and not the cutesy-wutesy ones.

4. Children Are Going To Be Influenced By These Photos

You let your kids read GQ magazine?  What’s wrong with you?

I don’t remember the last time I heard about a GQ photoshoot other than this one and yet I have now, simply because some people have made public their disagreement with it.  Now it is all over the news everybody will be hearing about it, including your kids.  There’s a Radiohead song where there is a lyric, “you do it to yourself / just you and no-one else”.  Apt, it seems.

The problem that some people may have is not simply that this photoshoot happened but rather that there are 20-somethings playing the role of teenagers.  This kind of “age deflation”, as it were, is rife across TV and film.  Is it a bad thing?  Again, I don’t know I can’t see any studies that say either way.  But what it enables producers to do is guarantee that their actors know about the role they are playing, that they have the maturity to reflect on it and play it convincingly.  If people have a problem with the photoshoot then they should probably direct their anger at this industry standard.

5. The Creators Of The Show Have Used The Photoshoot To Indicate The Show’s Direction

Glee never has been clean-cut and free from sex.  Never.  As I mentioned earlier, the Britney Spears episode was anything other than sex-free.  Previous artists that have been used include Madonna and Lady Gaga, neither of which are vestal virgins.  Furthermore, I am unsure how these photoshoots are arranged but I’m pretty sure that the magazine usually retains creative control.  I find the idea that Glee’s producers called up GQ and said “we want you to take sultry photos of our cast” unlikely.

Ultimately, however, responsibility lies with the actors themselves for this photoshoot.  They decided to do it and they were the ones who were (probably) paid for it.  To say that it indicates a New Direction (ha ha ha) for the show is absurd.  It was already an overtly sexual show.


People are free to make their own choices, especially adults.  The uproar that this photoshoot has garnered borders on the bizarre.  The shots are not paedophilic are in-line with all the other sexual shots found in lad’s mags and adult movies.  If parents do not want their children to see these images then they can stop their children from buying the magazine or by introducing parental controls on their computers.  By kicking up a stink they have ensured that these images get a wide circulation across news outlets everywhere.  By doing so they only made things worse for themselves.  Silly parents.

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About Steve

I am a technical writer working for a software company in London. Prior to this I studied philosophy, social policy, and ethics to post-graduate level. All posts are personal opinions.

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