I cannot tell a lie, I was a teenybopper. I grew up listening to (and obsessing over) N'SYNC, Backstreet Boys, and 98 Degrees. My role models consisted of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jessica Simpson. My eighth grade year was spend daydreaming of JC Chasez and hoping one day a nice guy would "rub me the right way." Looking back, everything was so innocent and wholesome. But things change and people grow up. Unfortunately for my role models this meant a complete 180 degree change from their bubblegum image to a hyper-sexed "performer" (we all remember Christina and her Dirty video). Apparently, to be a successful female entertainer you have to show a little... well a lot of skin.
Last month's GQ shows that the trend continues with the girls of "Glee." Scantily dressed in mini skirts and underwear, while running around a high school locker room, the female stars of the popular show revealed a little too much. I shouldn't be surprised by the steamy photos, Victoria Secret ads are just as revealing. However, there was something about this photo spread that didn't seem right. Although the show is known for its "generous helping of pot-laced brownies, girl-on-girl- subtext, and choreographed dry-humping," I couldn't help but notice how different the male and female stars were portrayed. Cory Montieth, one of the male leads, is fully dressed, either in a long sleeve sweater or overcoat, and is shown playing a drumset. Dianna Agron and Lea Michele, on the other hand, are wearing close to nothing and are shown either straddling a bench or ripping a part their shirts.
My first thought, why isn't Cory shirtless? My second thought , why are the girls in their underwear? These questions can easily be explained with responses like it's a men's magazine- guys don't want to see guys shirtless, sex sells, and it's all for fun. But these responses still don't explain the extreme difference in how the male and female leads of Glee were portrayed.
In Good Girls Gone Wild Frank Bruni suggests that there is a cycle young female performers must go through if they want a chance at surviving in the "business." Female performers can start off naive and innocent, but must eventually break away from their bubblegum image if they want to appeal to the masses. Thus, to wind up somewhere in the middle, female performers must take drastic steps away from the image that made them popular. Unfortunately, unlike their male counterparts who can easily mature through their talent, female performers must show their maturity and talent in a more obvious way. Bruni explains,
for a child actress or singer looking to establish maturity, flesh is the fastest and most attention-getting route... for their male counterparts? In a sexist world, it doesn't work quite the same way.Of course there are some outliers, Taylor Swift, who seem to have avoided their "erotic emancipation." But what is the future of young female performers? Does success really require so much skin? More importantly, what kind of message are we sending our youth, especially the young girls who help make these female performers famous by idolizing them during their bubblegum stage? There are no clear answers to any of these questions, but there is hope that things may (start to) change. For various reasons, including the finding that media has become an integral part of youth's lives and three of the most common mental health problems among girls, eating disorders, depression or depressed mood, and low-self-esteem, are linked to sexualization of girls and women in the media, the legislature has introduced the Healthy Media for Youth Act. If passed it would provide grant money to promote media literacy and youth empowerment, provide reserach on the role and impact of girls and women in the media on youths' development, and created a National Task Force on Girls and Women in the Media.