"Glee" cast goes barely legal

Lea Michele and Dianna Agron play up the sexy teen angle in GQ -- and it's beyond creepy

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published October 20, 2010 2:21PM (EDT)


What do you call a magazine that runs pictures of young women in suggestive poses, dolled up to look like lollipop-sucking, uniform disrobing teens? Barely Legal? Just 18? How about GQ?

For the November issue of the increasingly ironically designated gentleman's magazine, "Glee's" so-ubiquitous-they hurt Lea Michele, Dianna Agron and Cory Monteith do what has been done with hot, sexy celebrities since the dawn of periodicals -- they cavort around in various stages of undress. Well, the ladies do -- Monteith remains demurely covered in rugby shirts and sweaters while his female castmates pull their shirts down, open and off. The shoot was photographed by the notoriously skeevy Terry Richardson  and features clothing from American Apparel (neither of which are strangers to sexual misconduct).

There's nothing wrong with sexy pictures of good-looking people, or acknowledging the scorching-ness of the "Glee" cast: Naya Rivera in Maxim -- pretty easy on the eyes. There's also nothing wrong with acknowledging that teens are sexual beings. (And if you disagree, the ghost of William Shakespeare has a bone to pick with you.) The bawdiness of "Glee" is an essential part of "Glee" -- Santana's recent observation that "I'm like a lizard. I need something warm underneath me or I can't digest my food" was sly, hormonal perfection. And despite the show's spectacular unevenness, it has managed to reliably do a lovely job of portraying the turbulent, thrilling spectrum of adolescent desire. The story of "Glee" is a story that's equal parts sex and sass and show tunes, eroticism with context.

Of the zillion photo shoots of the cast, all the others have either kept them in their reasonably chaste cast personas or let them be simply their true adult selves. The GQ spread, in contrast, is just creepy. Playing off the setting of the show, it essentially keeps its stars in character, thereby then allowing its readers -- median age 33.4 -- to ogle them as porny teen fantasy characters -- all spread legs and underpants in the locker room, all red high heels and cheerleader outfits. And knowing that it was shot by a man with a long, storied and reputedly unpleasant history involving teenagers makes the whole thing just that much more repugnant. You want to show off the fantastic assets of the cast of one the hottest shows on the air right now? All for it. Want to make them look like naughty babysitters, photographed by a guy with the most dubious track record in the biz? That's dumber than Mr. Shu doing Sisqo. "Glee" may still rock, but GQ, you're utterly tone-deaf.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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