Glee Star on Cosmopolitan Cover Shot - Is Parental Guidance Required?
By Yvette Vignando - 11th February 2011
You can watch a video of me talking about this issue on The Morning Show today by clicking here.
Glee star Lea Michele appears on the cover of the March edition of US Cosmopolitan. The actress is apparently 24 years old but plays the role of a teenager in the internationally popular television series Glee.
In the news is the reaction by some Texas newsagents who have removed the magazine from display and others who have said that the cover shot is overtly sexual and inappropriate for a celebrity who plays a teenager. The implication is that Lea Michele is also something of a role model for young women who watch Glee.
Author and social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist and I spoke on The Morning Show today from the point of view of parents and what society's responsibility might be in this instance. I suggest you view the video first and then read on.
I could write pages on this topic, including the topic of the retouching of celebrity images in women's magazines - but I won't, because this is a blogpost, not a conference paper. I'm also not going to expand on what Melinda Tankard Reist said - I do agree with much of her commentary; Melinda was specifically addressing issues like the objectification of women and the message to young women about how they need to behave if they are to be successful.
But I do want to briefly cover two things for parents to think about and ask you to share your point of view.
1. Research indicates that if children are exposed to overly sexualised images at a young age, there may be serious psychological impact - that impact includes negative body image, poor self esteem and increased risk of eating disorders, anxiety and depression.
The cover shot of Lea Michele from Glee on Cosmopolitan is (I think) at the mild end of the range of sexualised images we see of young women and young teenage girls in the media. I confess it did not offend me but I can understand why parents of young Glee fans would be concerned about the image.
What are your views on this topic?
2. Whatever you think about the this particular image, as parents, I think we also have a responsiblity to raise our children with the skills they need to deal with the images they see of celebrities or other role models. Sure, we can speak up against images we find offensive, and I do think editors, celebrities and policy makers have a role and a responsibility. But a very real responsibility we have is talking to our children about body image, sexuality and our own values; we also need to have conversations with them about the images they see in popular media.
It is getting harder for parents to supervise their children's consumption of media at the same time that access to the internet and television is more widely spread. And the increase in double income families is also decreasing our opportunities for supervision and conversation.
I like this tip sheet published on the Australian Psychological Society's website about Helping Girls Develop a Positive Self Image as a starting point.
How do you manage this issue and what do you think?