Jewish girls of "Glee" gone wild?

Glee's Jewish stars Diana Agron and Lea Michele appear on the cover of GQ with co-star Cory Monteith, 2010.
Courtesy of GQ Magazine.

Earlier this week, Glee's Diana Agron and Lea Michele were on the cover of GQ with co-star Cory Monteith in what can only be described as a hypersexualized spread.  Diana Agron plays popular cheerleader Quinn Fabray.  Lea Michele plays the know-it-all Jewish girl Rachel Berry. Both actresses are Jewish. (We have blogged about Jewishness on Glee here and here.)

The high school themed photoshoot, shot by Terry Richardson, features the Jewesses half-naked, in sexy, "come hither" poses. In one shot, Lea Michelle is provacatively licking a lollipop. Jezebel calls it "porny" and reminds us that Terry Richardson has been accused of sexual harrassment by his models in the past. Jezebel also notes that Cory Monteith, who plays the football star Finn, is wearing clothes and his poses are active rather than passive. Another blogger noticed that GQ chose to feature only thin, white actresses when Glee is all about being pro-diversity, even if it deals with the issue in a lightweight, superficial way.

The photoshoot has sparked debate about whether Glee is a show for children or adults. The Parents Television Council said the shoot "borders on pedophilia," despite the fact that the actors are all 20-somethings.  Also, Glee has hit record ratings among adults and has featured plenty of sexual content that did not provoke statements from the Parent's Television Council.  

There is also discussion about whether the actors have a responsibility to conduct themselves like role models because they play high school students on TV.  One exciting thing to come out of this discussion (for me) was the discovery of Diana Agron's tumblelog, where she blogged about the incident:

For GQ, they asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters. A ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ version. At the time, it wasn’t my favorite idea, but I did not walk away. I must say, I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can’t erase the strokes you’ve made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate. I’m moving forward from this one, and after today, putting it to rest. I am only myself, I can only be me. These aren’t photos I am going to frame and put on my desk, but hey, nor are any of the photos I take for magazines. Those are all characters we’ve played for this crazy job, one that I love and am so fortunate to have, each and every day. If you asked me for my dream photo shoot, I’d be in a treehouse, in a wild costume, war-paint and I’d be playing with my pet dragon. Until then…..

You can read the rest of her statement here

I have to say that I was really impressed with Diana Agron's response. It demonstrates maturity and thoughtfulness and considering the war-paint and pet dragon, that "Jewess with attitude" spirit that we love to see.

Since Diana Agron and I are almost the same age, I relate to her statement in a more personal way. Regardless of what you have to say about 20-somethings, we are in a confusing space in between adolescence and adulthood where the lines of "what's appropriate" aren't exactly clear. We are old enough to own our sexuality and make our own decisions, but does that mean we must take on the role of "role model" and/or "responsible adult" at all times? I currently manage 2 different Facebook profiles.  One represents my "adult," professional persona, and the other my immature, "college" persona. But in the real world, I cannot always keep the two separate. Sometimes mistakes are made, and I, like Diana, find myself needing to apologize for acting too adult or too childish in the wrong context. I admire the way she handled it in her statement - apologizing for hurting feelings, but not apologizing for being herself or moving forward in a direction someone else might not have chosen.

I realize I may be digressing here and reading far too much into Diana Agron's statement but the point I would like to make is that regardless of what the Parents Television Council thinks of the photoshoot, Diana Agron has proven herself to be a role model.  She might not be a role model for children, but for young women, like me, who are looking for examples of how to handle the hiccups that occur when you exist between two worlds both graciously and gracefully.

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George, the point of the article is to discuss the double standards that women in their 20s face as they straddle the worlds of adolescence and adulthood. Society has conflicting expectations for women my age - we are old enough to be sex objects if we want to be, yet at the same time, we are still considered "somebody's daughter" and expected to be good role models for younger girls. The GQ photoshoot puts this into sharp focus: two 20-something Jewish women who play high school girls on TV take on a sexual, adult role in a magazine, and the national audience can't seem to decide if they are children or adults.

Elana, thank you! Yes, I agree with you about the downsides of having 2 Facebook pages - a more integrated approach would probably pay off in the long run, and that is probably where I'm headed. But, considering the fact that I was a college sophomore old when Facebook was made available to my university, there are a lot of old memories there that are not exactly appropriate for parents and colleagues to see, and I'm not quite ready to let go of them just yet! (I guess when I do, that means I will have really grown up.)

What an anachronistic term - did our author read Majorie Morningstar in her teenage years.

And what's the point of the article: that Jewish women in their 20's have no right to be sexual? So maybe our author is a frum Jew who tries to uphold rules of modesty for men and women - if so ok, but then discuss that at the basis for your position.

Leah Thoughtful post, as usual Two comments: (1) Not only is the guy clothed and active, but look where his hands are. The message of the pose is not just how women dress or pose, but where they allow men to touch them, just because. That's really problematic for me

(2) I guess i'm surprised to learn about having two FB pages, one 'adult' and one 'childish' or whatever. I guess I've never been in my 20s in a facebook age so maybe i shouldn't comment. and maybe it's just a marketing thing, that we all have to show different sides of ourselves to different 'audiences' or 'markets'. But i would think that the goal would be a more integrated approach to identity. Aren't we all moving and changing all the time? Isn't that life?


I made a conscious decision to omit the information that Lea Michele's mother is not Jewish because she has identified Jewishly, and she has come to be associated with Jewishness (like it or not).

In general, I feel uncomfortable picking apart other Jews' Jewish identities (whether it's through the mom or dad, whether they are "half" Jews v. "real" Jews). I know this is important to many members of the Jewish community, but it goes against the inclusive stance I try to take about Jewishness. So, this choice was made actively in the spirit of inclusivity.

And really, does it change anything if she's technically only "half" Jewish, considering what she has come to represent?

Leah, I love this balanced response to the photo shoot. My goodness people are up in arms over it! My kids know the show from the music but have *not* watched it (yet). It's just not made for them, you know? Having said that, they do notice magazines, etc at stores. But (and I may be bashed for this one) I don't want them to ever be embarrassed by sexuality, etc. So I'm not worried about it. I figure it's one more important convo to have, if it comes up. And last, but not least, it *is* a find to come across Diana Agron's blog! Thanks much for the tip and, as always, the good read here!

It probably ought to be noted that Lea Michele's mother is not Jewish, but rather Italian and Catholic... I wouldn't normally point it out, but for two things:

1. If we were talking about somebody like a Rachel Bilson (who has the exact same background), it would have probably been brought up by someone

2. Annoyance at her appointment as the unelected "embodiment of everything Jewish in the world" (no one who has ever received such an appointment has been anything but a negative stereotype, and she is no exception; Dianna Agron isn't the "embodiment of everythin Jewish in the world" for a reason)

I understand what you're saying, but I guess the obscurity I was trying to point to is - does she have to be a role model? We sortof expect teen pop stars with young fans to play that role (aka, why Britney claimed she was a virgin for so many years), but Glee's following is really more adult than child, and in that context - do the actors have that same responsibility to be role models?

While i agree she responded with a level of maturity, it comes off with a bit of a cop-out "children shouldn't be looking at it anyway" kind of attitude. She even admits that internet gives people of all ages access to various images and information. With that in mind, perhaps she could have chosen differently to begin with? With that in mind, maybe she would have been a better role model if she would have walked away from the photo shoot, standing her ground?

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Jewish girls of "Glee" gone wild?." 21 October 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 4, 2023) <>.

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