Glee ‘Naked’ : Slutty Barbie
This post is about USA cult show Glee, where the boys and girls of William McKinley High School fight out important social issues through the medium of song and dance.
Rachel Berry, the school’s former star, is now at NYADA, New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts, and is battling to find her way in the word of showbiz without compromising her sense of self (read, battling with getting her breasts out or not). Rachel is asked to perform the lead role in a ‘serious’ play, where she will be required to perform a topless scene. She agrees, it could be her chance of stardom, her big break… but the doubts soon set in. .
Rachel battles with her old self, let’s think of her as Good Rachel,
and the new Rachel, let’s think of her as Bad Rachel.
Old Rachel: “You have a beautiful body but are you really ready to expose yourself to the world”?
She then continues, that actresses should “Expose their souls, not their flesh”.
The philosophy continues. New Rachel “Am I really expected to be able to bare my soul if I’m ashamed of the body that holds it”?
Old Rachel: “I think that a little shame is a good thing… you’re not a porn star, even though your hair and make up makes you look like one”.
Some good unashamed slut-shaming there.
Then they both launch into Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’, as you do.
Rachel is torn between her old ‘good girl’ self, and her new ‘wild girl’ persona. Wild meaning a few clip-in hair extensions, a smoky eye and more in-style clothing.
After stating that the male Glee topless calendar was “bringing the dark spectre of pornography to these hallowed halls” it turns out Sue Sylvester (pictured below) is revealed to have starred in Penthouse in her youth. The theme emerging, is that baring your flesh, exposing yourself, can soil a character for decades to come, perhaps even forever.
Rachel’s best friend Kurt wades in, with “Rachel is a serious actress. She doesn’t do nudity… I don’t get it, a year ago you were all plaid skirts and now you’re all slutty Barbie… doing porno”.
Because when a female behaves in a way we don’t like, calling her a slut, slutty, dirty, whore, is seemingly an acceptable way to govern her behaviour.
Santana Lopez and Quinn Fabray, (former home-made-porn-leaked-on-the-net-star and former pregnant-cheerleader-teen-mum respectively) come to New York to give Rachel some advice. They have come for “an emergency intervention”.
“Think about the 222 rule…how will you feel in 2 weeks from now, 2 months from now, 2 years from now”.
Rachel: “Guilty. Hoping my kids will never see it online”. Because your kids are likely to trawl the net looking for grainy footage of their mum in a college play.
Santana then talks about her sex tape which haunts her to this day.
Rachel tried to argue: “But some women find it empowering” but is shot down (Not literally).
But don’t worry, Rachel is saved! “I’m not ready to be naked now”. Cue Santana, Quinn and Rachel dancing a circle singing Sara Bareilles’ ‘Love Song’.
Hurrah! Rachel is saved for her sinful ways.
Leora Tanenbaum in ‘Slut! Growing Up Female With a Bad Reputation’ (brilliant book) talks about the label ‘slut’ “Very often the label is a stand-in for something else: the extent to which a girl fails to conform to the idea of ‘normal’ appearance and behaviour” (1999,p.11).
Drawing on her own experience of being labelled a ‘slut’ in US high school, Tanenbaum discusses how girls who develop breasts early are deemed ‘sluts’ any excess such as being overweight, or unusual clothing can be deemed ‘slutty’ too. ‘Slut’ is way of controlling females. Slut-shaming, or slut-bashing, is about “keeping sexuality under control, and an efficient way to do that is to deal with one person at a time as a kind of scapegoat” (Deborah Tollman cited in Tanenbaum, 1999, p.110).
What is interesting, is Rachel doesn’t want to do glamour modelling or pornography, she wants to appear in a ‘serious’ play at a prestigious New York university, where she will be playing an elderly lady with dementia who wanders topless in the scene. But rules are rules. Breasts are breasts, and they should remain covered.What if Rachel’s topless scene was condoned, what contaminating message would that send out? Won’t somebody think of the children?
Nor has Rachel acted in a promiscuous way, her only lovers have been her high school sweetheart boyfriend, and new boyfriend. But her new hair and make up, her new fitted clothes, infer that she *might* turn into a ‘slut’, so it’s best to be on the safe side and condemn her now.
I wonder what teenage girls watching the show are internalising? …
As always, comments/ feedback welcome. Thank you for reading.