GQ Photos: Are Magazines Responsible for Everyone?

Posted by Abby Wolner Richardson/GQ

GQ’s November cover raises questions of audience for magazine publishers.  The cover and photo spread feature stars of the high school melodrama, Glee.  Critics of the cover and spread think the photos are inappropriate for the show’s young audience.  The Parents Television Council is cited in The New York Times as saying the cover “borders on pedophilia.”  A blogger for the Guardian says the photos “betray the spirit of the show,” calling them “amazingly sexist.”

Let’s take a step back, however.  GQ is magazine for adults.  The average reader is 33 years old, not a sixteen-year-old high school student.  Isn’t it ok, then, for the magazine to publish photos targeted toward adults?  I would say “yes.”  I think magazines should focus first on the desires of their subscribers. 

The June issue of Vogue featured photos of a scantily clad Blake Lively.  The actor is an idol to many teen fans of Gossip Girl.  I couldn’t find any criticism of these photos, however, even though they are equally sexual.  The average age of Vogue reader’s is almost identical–34–yet there appears to be a different standard.

Mario Testino/Vogue

To me, there should be no difference.  Both magazines published photos that were appropriate for their audience and indicative of the magazine’s style.  If the photos were published in Seventeen, the critiques might be valid, but they are adult-appropriate photos for an adult audience.


8 responses to “GQ Photos: Are Magazines Responsible for Everyone?

  1. Totally agreed. This has been blown way out of proportion. It’s not like the actors being photographed are high school students. That’s the thing with high school dramas, the actors are older because they can’t get minors to work the hours that 20-somethings can. The GQ editor in chief responded to this as well.

    “If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention. And if your eight-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?” – Jim Nielson. I totally agree. Like you pointed out, 33 year olds are the median age, would they be offended? I assume not.

    • I agree with you, Skylar. This debate has gotten ridiculous. I wrote my recent blog somewhat about this topic, too. It’s definitely not the magazine’s responsibility if a child sees the photos (which I think aren’t even that bad). Similar to other comments on this post, GQ has a target audience, and that’s why they ran this shoot. Because the people who read this won’t be offended.

  2. I agree. Magazines have definite audiences, that is why there are so many specialty magazines nowadays. And since magazines have subscribers who are paying for that specific type of specialty topic, the magazine should deliver. GQ is all about being sexy-edgy.

    There is also some content in the show itself that some people call “inappropriate.” One of the show’s themes centralizes on teenage hormones and talk of sex. If people are so worried about what their children are reading or watching, they need to be responsible for monitoring them.

  3. I think it’s a really hard thing for magazines to deal with. While magazines are intended for target audiences, they still appear in places where non-targeted audiences- such as children- can see them, the check-out magazine stand at grocery stores being a prime example.

    A magazine shouldn’t have to detract from their target audience in order to please non-readers. GQ’s target audience is not young children, even if young children are Glee fans. Parents should be responsible for preventing children for seeing/reading “inappropriate content”.

  4. I think the concern with these pictures is that they seem to be brutally different from the character personalities that Glee fans have grown to know and love. Simply put, the pictures are weird and bizarre and does not make sense why they would be connected to Glee. Gossip Girl deals with a lot of sex and sexuality is one of the main drives of the show, regardless of their targeted audience. Glee, on the other hand, is for art and music lovers who have felt being different in high school. I think the knock is intended more towards why Glee characters would agree to do this and not why GQ would publish this. It would be like Michael Scott agreeing to have a rather crude photoshoot with Pam Beasley. Just because the magazine might target older audiences does not mean that the people involved should disregard what their show stands for and what their fans expect from them.

    • In response to Eduardo’s comment, though Glee is not a very sexual show, GQ audiences are not going to be satisfied with pictures of the characters in braces and uniforms. The magazine needed to do something with the characters that would up the ante. Again, my focus is on audience. For the typical Glee-watcher, the photos miss the mark, but for readers of GQ, I think they’re appropriate.

      Skylar–I wish I would have had that quote for my post!

      Thanks for the comments, everyone.

  5. You make a very interesting argument. When I first saw those photos in GQ, I was offended. I was surprised to find such suggestive photos representing the actors from Glee. My opinion of the show lowered. However, I am not correct, you are. The magazines have an audience that would not find these photos to be inappropriate. The photos are continuous with the view of the magazine. But also, shouldn’t the photos stay true to the show itself? Where does Glee get lost and sexuality begin?

  6. For a different perspective from someone who objects to the photos (especially those inside the magazine), see this:

    Excerpt: “There’s no question that these photos play on the dynamics among characters on the show. But if that’s the case, what do these particular photos say? They say, “Sure, these girls are sexy, but you know what would be really sexy? If they were dumber. If they were weaker. If they were more desperate.”

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