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February 12, 2011

Lea Michele Wears a Low-Cut Dress: Parents Freak Out

The beautiful Lea Michele, star of Glee, graces the cover of Cosmopolitan's March issue... giving stupid parents everywhere another bullshit reason to be offended. In fact, some stores have even censored the cover.

As you surely know by now, we're not exactly huge fans of Cosmo magazine... but there's nothing at all wrong with Michele's cover photo or her decision to be featured in the magazine. However, that's not how some people see it, according to an article entitled 'Glee' Star Lea Michele's Sexy Switch Has Moms Mad:
'Glee' star Lea Michele has followed up last year’s widely maligned, racy spread in GQ magazine with a daring cover on Cosmopolitan magazine in a dress that plunges nearly to her belly button, much to many ‘Glee’ fans’ moms' chagrin.

These peeved parents say Michele, as an actress who plays a high school student on a TV show watched largely by teen and pre-teen viewers, has a responsibility to their kids to keep things a little more buttoned up.
“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 which makes my almost-13-year-old son very confused and offended,” said New York mom Kim Trefcer. “ 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.”
Michele has been positioning herself as more of a bad girl over the past six months, moving away from  her onscreen character, the cloying overachiever, Rachel Berry.
Back in October the Parents Television Council slammed a photo spread in GQ magazine of Michele and her co-stars Dianna Agron and Cory Monteith, in which Michele and Agron appeared in skimpy underwear, as “near pornographic pedophilia.”

Agron apologized. Michele did not. [...]
Now in March’s Cosmo, Michele is partially covered on the magazine by headlines that include ‘The Sex Quiz,’ ‘Get Naked,’ and ‘For His Thighs Only.’ In her cover interview, Michele gushes that her perfect night involves sitting on Skype with her boyfriend, while drinking a glass of wine.

Of course, Lea Michele is 24-year old adult woman, allowed wine, Skyping, and whatever sartorial choice she wants, from flashing her skimpy panties to revealing her cleavage on the cover of a magazine.

But that doesn’t mean parents have to like it.
Mom of two teenagers Suzette Valle, who writes a blog called Mamarazzi Knows Best, thinks Cosmo is just piggy-backing on GQ’s publicity from last year and she finds the cover shot of Michele contradictory.

“It’s irresponsible to be using an adult who represents a minor dressed in provocative clothes,” Valle told Fox411. “I think Cosmo is now taking advantage of the raucous GQ caused with their ‘Glee’ cover and hoping to cash in on the press that got.”
Michele may be smart to position herself as a grownup star, with grownup sex appeal, for the day when her “Glee” gravy train runs out. But pop culture expert and “Cult of Celebrity” author Cooper Lawrence says the actress could be diminishing her current appeal by continuing to appear in such overtly sexual photo shoots.
“You can be sexy without looking ridiculous, and she just looks ridiculous. It's not genuine,” Lawrence tells FOX411. “Lea Michelle may be an adult, but to pretend that she doesn’t know her fans are 11 is just ignorance. Why take the risk that even one teenager will get the wrong message of from her idol? Now she is just turning off the parents of these kids who are her future consumers.” [Foxnews.com]
There's just so much wrong with this argument I don't even know where to begin! 

First off, before we go down the long list of all the reasons why this 'outrage' is ridiculous... can we all please call bullshit on the claim that this woman's 13-year-old son was "offended" by Michele's photo? Maybe he was confused... but no, I refuse to believe a 13-year-old boy was offended by a Cosmo cover photo. Sorry, nice try, but no. Okay, moving on...

The magazine cover isn't really that daring. Yes, it's a plunging neckline but it's not that provocative. It's not that much worse than what most of the other actresses in the U.S. have been wearing, including some of the other dresses Michele herself has worn to recent events.

It's also not any more revealing or risque than some other magazine covers, such as Shape, which often poses its celebrities in bikinis...

So it's a little strange that they're making such a huge deal out of this one relatively tame photo.

Michele's Glee character Rachel Berry doesn't always keep things 'buttoned up' either. Although the character Rachel Berry is usually dressed more conservatively, she has worn plenty of sexy outfits on the show as well...

Rachel Berry is not necessarily a 'good girl' or a role model. She may be a 'good girl' when it comes to sex - which is clearly what the mother quoted in the above article meant - but is Berry really a good person? Is she someone kids should look up to? Sure she's got a great voice and a lot of ambition and drive and passion... but she's also extremely selfish, self-absorbed and self-centered. She frequently lies and manipulates (and she cheated on her boyfriend). But she's a virgin, which is clearly the only requirement for being a good role model for teens nowadays.

Glee is not a children's show. It may be 'watched largely by teen and pre-teen viewers' but this week's Valentine episode was rated TV-14 D,L,S. According to the TV parental guidelines this means that parents are "strongly cautioned":

This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended.
The D,L,S refers to intensively suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language and intense sexual situations. Glee definitely has a lot of younger viewers (even Lil' Lilith watches it) but that doesn't mean it was ever intended for them or is always appropriate for them. The One Million Moms certainly don't think it's appropriate for kids (just sayin').Michele's character may not be having sex, but there's certainly a lot of sex in the show. I don't think Glee is so bad, obviously, but I wouldn't let my child watch it unattended because the show does often focus on 'adult' situations like sex. The actors are not under any responsibility to be child-friendly off-screen, when they're not even completely child-friendly on screen.

Cosmo is not a children's magazine.  It is a magazine for adults that usually focuses on adult issues and situations. Therefore, these 'confused' kids shouldn't be reading it - and therefore wouldn't know anything about Michele's wine drinking or boyfriend Skypeing. Yes, I understand that it's on display in grocery stores and other places where children may see them... but it is every month. The sexy headlines and story topics are pretty much the same every week - and rarely have anything to do with the actual cover model - so they should freak out every month, not just the month that Michele is on the cover.

Lea Michele got her start in a play that was anything but innocent. Although most of Michele's current fans know her as the prudish Rachel Berry, before that she was Wendla. Her most well-known role before Glee was in the Tony award-winning Broadway show Spring Awakening which is all about sex. She starred opposite Jonathan Groff (Glee's Jesse St. James) in a story about teenagers discovering their sexuality. Michele's character has sex with Groff's character, becomes pregnant and dies from a forced abortion. She's quite different from Rachel Berry...

Glee is not real life and Rachel Berry doesn't really exist. My 10-year-old daughter understands this; I'm pretty sure most of the kids and teens who are allegedly so 'confused' about Michele's photo do too. I could understand a tiny bit of outrage if Michele was the star of a show for preschoolers, who may not fully grasp the concept that TV shows are fictional. But any 13-year-old who doesn't understand that Lea Michele and Rachel Berry are not the same person has some serious problems.

Lea Michele is not actually a teenager. She may play a high school student on television, but she's an adult (as are almost all of the other "teens" featured on the show). That means she can wear whatever she wants on the cover of whatever magazine she wants; she can say whatever she wants in whatever interview she wants; she can drink all the wine she wants and Skype with her boyfriend as long as she wants. The article says she is positioning herself as a "grownup star" but she doesn't have to position herself as such; she already is a grownup star because she's - A GROWNUP! It's not the character of Rachel Berry on the cover of that magazine; it's 24-year-old Lea Michele.

If parents and fans want to look at her as a role model, they still have to realize that she's in her twenties. Therefore she can be a role model, but if her fans happen to be 11 or 14 or 17... they have to wait until they're her age to do some of the things she does now.

Michele is not the first 'teen role model' to appear in Cosmo. Plenty of other 'teen icons' have posed for the cover of Cosmo in equally revealing outfits and made equally 'scandalous' comments in their interviews. Note that I said 'teen icons' and not 'teens', as just like Michele, most of these women were not actually teenagers but are well known for portraying one or appear in shows/films with teen viewers. Some notable examples include Amanda Bynes, Ashley Tisdale, and Mandy Moore.

Bynes - who is the same age as Michele but is famous for playing a teenager well beyond her teen years on both the small and big screens - who appeared on the cover of Cosmo in January 2010 and January 2009. Her last role was 'good girl' Marianne in Easy A. Former Disney star Tisdale is best known for her squeaky clean roles on The Suite Life, Phineas and Ferb, and the High School Musical movies. She currently plays another 'good girl' on the CW's Hellcats. She appeared on the cover of Cosmo in April 2009 when she was 23. Moore graced the cover twice in January 2004 and May 2006 at ages 19 and 22 respectively, when she was best known for her teen-oriented pop songs and playing 'good girl' roles in movies like A Walk To Remember, How to Deal, and Saved!

They're not alone. Teen icon and singer Ashlee Simpson posed for the cover three times in the past 6 years, including February 2005 when she was only 20 years old. Hayden Panettiere (known to kids my daughter's age as 'the girl from Bring It On: All Or Nothing') graced the cover in April 2008 when she was only 18 years old and currently portraying another high school cheerleader on HeroesHilary Duff, who no matter what she does will always be most famous as the 'good girl' title character on Disney's Lizzie Mcquire, appeared on the cover in January 2008 and March 2006 (when she was only 18 and just coming off of roles as 'good girl' teens in movies such as A Cinderella Story, Raise Your Voice and The Perfect Man).

It is not Michele's responsibility to teach children right from wrong. Nor is it the responsibility of Glee or Cosmo magazine. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about the world. They should teach them that fictional TV characters and the actors that portray those characters are just that - characters and actors, not necessarily role models. Teach them the lessons you want them to learn and let them know that television shows are designed for entertainment, not education. Don't let the TV raise your kids. There is no reason that a middle schooler should be 'confused' by a magazine cover, but if they are - well, then there's a perfect opportunity to talk to your children about sex.

Lea Michele may portray a teenager on television and maybe some kids look up to her, but it is not her responsiblity to raise your children for you!

Cross-posted to ESCTVblog.com


Anonymous said...


Wow. That was the most amazing Cosmo ass-kicking I have ever seen. I am not really bothered by the cover being censored because some grocery stores cover Cosmo every. single. month. since it has the word sex all over it (I don't really think this is necessary but at least it's consistent). However this was such a great takedown of the problems with topics like this. I was in middle school when Britney Spears was crazy popular and I remember a lot of huffing and puffing over her being a bad model. I, as a middle-schooler, was smart enough to know that it's not her damn job to be a role model and it's the parent's job to teach their kids. Awesome post!

TheOtherWoman said...

It's amazing that people are offended by this low cut top on a (lets face it) not very busty woman. Anyway I think out of all the things that could possibly damage these young minds, this is not a problem at all.

Starcity said...

Thanks for that! I'll admit that my inner broadway geek would love you for mentioning Spring Awakening no matter what else you said, but I found the entire article sensible & a good examole of hypocrisy & moral panic- alongside a fairly effective evisceration of the same! In particular, I appreciate pointing out all the ways in which 'Rachel' is anything but a role model. Great post.

condoms said...

Very true, great article, its suprising how they get outrage over a dress, when there are so many other things out there that are much worse

Anonymous said...

Great post! I particularly love that you mentioned Rachel Berry is hardly a role model. I'm so sick of all this backlash after this, and the GQ cover, and yada yada yada, going on about how Rachel's a good girl. NO. She is a terrible, manipulative, bitchy person who is the least liked in the whole Glee Club by just about everyone, except Finn. She's funny, she's a great character, and Michele plays her wonderfully, but she is hardly the kind of person that parents should want their kids to aspire to be.

Side note: You could do an entire separate post on those Cosmo covers. I've never noticed this before but I do believe Cosmo has a rule about asking its cover models to put a hand on their hips. Seriously - look at those covers! EVERY SINGLE PERSON has at least one hand on her hip. That's freakin' ridiculous.