You're a couple of great-looking, talented young actresses on the hottest show on TV. You're adults. So why NOT pose for some seriously saucy photos in GQ, a magazine for adult men?
Well, it gets a little thorny when the show is Glee, beloved by 8- and 9-year-olds, and when you're posing as a high-school girl in nothing but skimpy panties, spreading your legs sky-wide on a locker room bench. Or suggestively licking a lolly as you lean — in the same skimpy panties — on a high-school locker.
Did the stars of Glee go too far?
That's what critics and fans of the show have been debating as the photo spread in GQ's November issue, featuring Lea Michele (the ambitious Rachel) and Dianna Agron (Quinn, the once-pregnant cheerleader), started circulating this week. Oh yes, male co-star Cory Monteith (the quarterback Finn) is in there, too — but he remains clothed (in fact, he's practically bundled up.)
"I just wasn't impressed at all," said a disapproving Emily Martin, a mother in Ontario, Canada, and a self-professed "huge Glee fan"."
Her feelings were echoed by commentators as prominent as Katie Couric, who devoted an opinion segment on Wednesday's CBS Evening News to the photo flap. "I'm a Gleek," she began, saying how she and her 14-year-old daughter watch the show every week. But she decried the photos, particularly Michele's spread-eagle one, as "raunchy" and "un-Glee-like", and concluded: "I'm disappointed."
"Utterly tone-deaf," chimed in Salon.com. "An explosion of clichéd fetishism not seen outside the cheap Halloween costume aisles," wrote EW.com.
Not surprisingly, though, the harshest commentary came from the Parents Television Council. "It borders on paedophilia," said Tim Winter, president of the council. He called the spread a "near-pornographic display".
As for GQ, which is enjoying a burst of publicity, it took issue with the paedophilia reference — pointing out that Agron and Michele are 24, and Monteith is 28. "I think they're old enough to do what they want," said GQ's editor in chief, Jim Nelson.
In an e-mail, Nelson elaborated: "I don't think it will surprise anyone that we knew what we were doing," he wrote. "I think most people will take the pictures with the wink and spirit of fun in which they were made."
Nelson added: "What we wanted to celebrate in the shoot and the story is [the show's] playfulness, its wicked sense of fun, the clever way it plays with its self-awareness. And it doesn't hide from its sexual suggestiveness."
No question about that. Glee frequently deals with mature themes.
And yet, in a dilemma for parents, kids as young as 8 and 9 adore the show, drawn in by its wonderfully energetic and witty musical numbers.
The show's creators didn't quite expect that at first. "We didn't know 9-year-olds would like it so much," co-creator and executive producer Brad Falchuk said earlier. "We didn't know the geriatric set would like it so much, either. I wish we knew how we did it."
It wasn't clear how Glee producers felt about the GQ photos: Fox denied requests for comment. In any case, Nelson, at GQ, said that Fox knew about the shoot, but didn't get involved in the concept. "It was up to the individual actors and the reps for the actors to approve the concept," he said.
A publicist for Michele did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the actress, who is the breakout star of Glee and the subject of the raciest GQ photos — the one with spread legs, and the lollipop-licking photo. Nor did a representative for Monteith.
A publicist for Agron would only confirm the authenticity of a posting by the actress on tumblr.com. The photos, she said, "do not represent who I am".
"They asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters," wrote Agron, whose poses weren't nearly as explicit as Michele's, but still had her in tiny schoolgirl skirts intentionally raised up. "At the time, it wasn't my favourite idea, but I did not walk away.
"If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention," she said. "And if your 8-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?"
At least one parent interviewed for this article agreed with Agron that it was the parent's responsibility to control what children see.
As for the GQ photos, Vivian Manning-Schaffel, a 42-year-old mother of two in New York City and a frequent blogger on parenting issues, said: "I don't understand what all the hoopla is about. If I were those actresses, I'd be out there posing in those outfits myself! They're both gorgeous."
Celebrity editor Bonnie Fuller also came to the actresses' defence. "Whether you like it or not, posing in sexually suggestive photographs has become a staple for actresses and actors to self-promote," she wrote. "They almost all do it."