Earlier in the year, Glee star Lea Michele, who plays the uptight perfectionist lead singer in knee-high socks of William McKinley High School’s glee club, posed for a sexy cover shoot for US Cosmopolitan.
On the cover of the March issue, Michele looks sultry in a low cut black top, but it’s nothing compared to her racy, and downright inappropriate, pictorial with fellow Glee clubbers, Diana Agron and Cory Monteith, for GQ last year. Sure, it was shot by the notorious Terry Richardson, so expectations weren’t that high to begin with. But the vacant, open-mouthed stare of Michele as she sits, legs akimbo, on a locker-room bench, or suggestively sucks on a lollypop, are confronting to say the least.
I have briefly blogged about this “disturbing” photo shoot, to which I can understand the public outcry.
However, Michele’s Cosmo shoot is tamely vanilla in comparison, but drew an almost equal uproar from parental groups:
“I think Lea Michele is sending the wrong message. She plays such a ‘good girl’ on Glee, and a lot of kids look up to her persona. Then she poses very provocatively on two magazine covers… I find it frustrating as a parent who is trying to teach right from wrong to their kids and then you have things like this happen which is showing middle schoolers things like sex sells and all that goes along with that.”
To my mind, Michele is 24 years old; an adult who seemingly has her head screwed on right and is in control of her own life. Her idea of the perfect night is a bath, Skype and a glass of wine, which is a far cry from the extracurricular activities of other starlets her age. Lindsay Lohan, anyone?
But, on the other hand, we have to ask the question: why does Michele feel the need to sex-up her image when, by her own admission, that is not the way she sees herself.
Dr. Karen Brooks explains, in relation to the GQ pictorial:
“I think they’re attempting to draw the line between their young characters and the fact they’re sexual adults and they feel that the way to this, rightly or wrongly, is by being hypersexual. It’s a graphic announcement to the public not to confuse or conflate the fiction of their onscreen persona with their real life; [they’re saying] ‘I may play a child’, but, in what’s almost an unintentional parody of the Helen Reddy feminist anthem, ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, they’re saying, ‘I am woman, see my score!’ It’s extreme, it gets attention (for the show, the character and the actor) and therefore, sadly, works.”
Ultimately it is her choice to get a bit sexy but, when I asked Erica Bartle of Girl with a Satchel for her thoughts on this topic, she wondered if maybe Michele’s just “conforming to the status quo?”:
“How much say does a star really have in how she’s portrayed?”
As Jezebel notes, “it isn’t as if Lea’s doing Playboy.” Cosmo is a magazine for women, and the cover isn’t as threatening as, say, the GQ one, or Rihanna’s Rolling Stone cover, in which her butt cheeks hung out of mesh shorts. There are a lot of magazines for women out there, like Yen, The Gentlewoman, and Brigitte, which cater to needs other than “how to please your boyfriend in bed”, and don’t require their cover star to, as Coco Chanel once said, take something off. In most cases, it’s their bra. (One argument for Michele’s down-to-there black top might be that *cue sarcasm* she really bares her heart and soul.)
But at the end of the day, it’s just a magazine cover. For mature adults like ourselves, we can make the decision to buy or not to buy into the sexy image of Michele on the cover of Cosmo, Rihanna in chain mail shorts for Rolling Stone, or the flesh-baring on the blue carpet at the Brownlows on Monday night. As educated, critical thinkers, we also realise that because Michele is dressed provocatively, it doesn’t make her any less of a singer, actor or seemingly normal 24-year-old when the makeup comes off and the spotlight goes down.
Related: Lea Michele Just Can’t Win.
Images via Reality by Rach, Twenty2.OnSugar.