‘Pretty Little Liars’ photos in GQ cause controversy, which is precisely the point

May 22, 2014

The stars of “Pretty Little Liars” with some random guy in a GQ photo spread. (Ellen Von Unwerth/GQ)

For a magazine like GQ, it’s definitely a coup if it can land stunning young actresses in almost no clothing for a photo shoot. But if the pictures cause any kind of controversy and spread even further across the Internet? Added bonus!

And, as it happens, precisely the point. It’s working magically for GQ already: The four stars of ABC Family’s murder mystery drama “Pretty Little Liars” — Lucy Hale, Shay Mitchell, Troian Bellisario, and Ashley Benson — appear in a photo spread in the June issue wearing tiny bikinis and frolicking at a pool. As you can see from above, they’re also trying to help a random muscled guy get rid of that annoying towel around his waist.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another “Glee”/GQ incident — the actual photo content doesn’t seem to be bothering anyone. (Even though the show’s on a network with the word “family” in the title, the dark drama regularly has some very adult storylines; and while the four actresses play high school students on TV, they range from ages 24 to 28 in real life.) This time, people are upset about Photoshop.

It appears to be groundbreaking news to people every time that photos for national magazines such as GQ are, in fact, always retouched. There was such a storm of controversy online yesterday when preview photos were released that Bellisario, who plays Type-A/nervous breakdown-prone Spencer on the show, wrote a lengthy defense on Instagram.

“So by now you have seen many a shot from #GQ and many people have said that we were photoshopped… OF COURSE WE WERE! that’s a very specific type of photo shoot,” she wrote. “And looking very blown out and perfected was obviously what they were looking for. Great. Cool. As long as we acknowledge how it was achieved so we know it’s not real.”

She goes on to say that she’s not “mad” at how the photos turned out and that the women all had a blast at the photo shoot. Although she went on to explain that Photoshop still isn’t ideal, and even posted a behind-the-scenes photo to show what her “real” body looks like.

“[I]t’s the same everywhere. It’s the same way on the posters of our show and even in women’s magazines. This industry seems to invest more in perfection than in flaw,” she said. “But flaw and individuality, to me, are what make a human being interesting, they make our stories worth telling. (Unfortunately the flaws don’t usually sell products or magazines).”

This whole thing is obviously a dream come true for GQ, because there’s nothing better than when a controversy goes along with your product — no matter what type, it results in more buzz.

Remember that far-more-scandalous “Glee” GQ spread a few years back, which featured Lea Michele and Dianna Agron in their underwear frolicking with Cory Monteith? Parents were outraged that the “family-friendly” show featured its leads in such a state, half-dressed and suggestively licking lollipops. (To which we suggested that they actually take a look at some storylines on “Glee.”)

It’s just a rule of the entertainment industry — the more issues a photo shoot can cause, whether it’s about how creepy it is (Miley Cyrus/Vanity Fair) or the much more popular Photoshop incidents (Lena Dunham/Vogue), it just means more attention on the show or brand at work. And when people complain, it plays right into their hand.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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