If there’s anything the world of television doesn’t need, and there are many things (mostly new programming on E!), it’s The Talk. The new CBS talk show is essentially a less interesting version of ABC’s wacky, but sometimes smart and incredibly entertaining, The View. The Talk is moderated by Julie Chen, wife of CBS President Les Moonves, and is centered on the enthralling topic of “motherhood.” What is so condescending about the show is that it assumes that stay-at-home moms need to sit and listen to former sitcom actresses, models and Sharon Osbourne dispense advice about how to be better mothers.
But, I digress. The real reason I bring this show up is its commentary on a recent photo shoot in GQ Magazine with the cast of Glee. The issue featured shots of actresses Lea Michele and Dianna Agron dressed in sexually explicit poses set in a high school. The Parents Television Council condemned the photos for “sexualizing the actresses who play high-school aged characters.” The indignant hosts of The Talk were outraged. As Chen introduced the topic to her co-hosts, she explained the controversy in the same way Oprah would introduce a child-molester she was interviewing in prison. When Chen read the Parents Television Council’s remarks that said the photos “bordered on pedophilia,” she paused and looked up, waiting for gasps in the audience that failed to ensue.
The main concern of these mothers was that the magazine was sexualizing these high-school characters. Co-host Holly Robinson Peete said that when her husband saw the magazine in the mail, he “freaked out.” He shrieked and said “Oh! That’s the lady I watch with my [13-year old] daughter on TV!” Peete described her family members as “Gleeks” who all watch the show together. Even The View weighed in; with some commenting that it is a “teen show,” since it won “Teen Choice Awards.”
One of the stereotypes that I have encountered while discussing the television series Glee comes from viewers who do not regularly watch. They assume that, based on the musical numbers, the series is another version of the Disney movie High School Musical. With songs like “Breaking Free” and “Get’cha Head In The Game,” High School Musical targeted the tween generation (which, perhaps unintentionally, caught on with many older fans).
It’s quite apparent, after watching a single episode of Glee, that this show is no High School Musical spinoff. Rather, it is a disturbingly dark satire of a high school in Middle America. It tells the story of the lives of a group of musically inclined misfits and their struggle for acceptance. It really captures the mundane lives of the teachers and students in a less-than-tolerant high school in the same vein as the film Election. Michele is more Tracy Flick than whomever Vanessa Hudgens played in High School Musical.
I wonder how the parents on The Talk addressed their young children in a recent episode when Santana told Brittany, while they were making out, “It’s a nice break from all that scissoring.” Or when an entire plot of another recent episode revolved around the characters’ attempts to “cool off” during physically intimate moments with their partners. The episode featured them fantasizing about the burly female football coach to suppress their urges.
This isn’t a sudden move toward featuring mature content for the series. All of last season dealt with a pregnancy plot, in which the girl tricked her boyfriend into thinking that he was the father because he got too excited in the hot tub — the plot showed additional scenes featuring this boy’s “problem.”
The actresses are both 24, and have the right to appear or model in GQ Magazine, just like everyone else. Glee may appeal to all generations, but for the parents who think the series is targeted to their preteen children, perhaps they should download the songs on iTunes. Or take them to a summer concert with the cast. They don’t need to know that the students singing “Stop! In The Name of Love” were apologizing to a teacher they thought about during sex.