Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Not Your Pop's Playboy Anymore


"What sort of man reads Playboy?" In light of the news this week about Hugh Hefner's famed mag ditching nude photos from their pages, probably the most obvious answer is, not the type of guys depicted in these ads anymore...these Don Draper, Steve McQueen, and Ron Burgundy wannabes. Forget calling them a dying breed; they're already extinct. So let's take a look at a few bygone examples of nostalgia, before getting into Playboy's changes and the kind of man they're probably now going to set their sights on...












So yes, after six decades of Playmate of the Month, pinups, and photo spreads of famous actresses and models, Playboy announced that they will no longer publish nude images and the magazine will receive a redesign in March of next year. They already removed nude photos from their website a couple of years ago -- which, oddly enough -- resulted in quadrupling their traffic. It seems that no one really buys nudie magazines anymore (what do the sperm donation clinics use today?) The web has made it all too easy to look at nudity online, making Playboy obsolete. It had lost its shock value in recent years. 

Had they made this decision in the '70s or '80s, feminists would have rejoiced. Time to retire guys like Roger Sterling and get with the times. After all, it's probably a good thing that women will no longer be exploited in the magazine, right? Well...

I had a look at the Playboy website for the first time in my life the same day the news broke. If the magazine is looking to reach 20-something guys that are into playing video games or scoping YouTube's latest "stars", then they won't have to tinker with much. 

The site is just...awful. It's one of the worst content sites I've seen in a long time; horribly designed with an onslaught of random articles on each page that aren't grouped in any logical way. I was really surprised to see such a poorly designed web presence affiliated with the Playboy brand. Why is there a link to an article about beer-making Massachusetts monks under Night Life, for example? Or a dental care article under Style? A link to the apology video posted by the "Mac and Cheese Kid" is posted under Culture. Wait, this is what passes for culture nowadays?

The joke about Playboy used to be that men only read it for the articles. However, the magazine at one time did give us some insightful conversations with famous people. Maybe Miles Davis, Bette Davis, Steve Jobs, and John Lennon ring a bell, just to name a few. 

I had expected to see some content from the latest issue on the home page, or anything, really, that resembled journalism. Instead there's a Photoshop mock-up of a fake Tinder conversation between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump and the headline, "Girl Strips Naked in Public Because Her Boyfriend Won't Buy Her an iPhone" under the "Clickbait" section. 

It's sad...but unfortunately Playboy is changing because today's average man, for the most part, has changed. 

Even with the nudity -- which, let's face it, was very tame and done in a tasteful way compared to Hustler and harder core rags -- I always pictured the average Playboy reader to be a somewhat sophisticated man; the type of guy that had good taste in style and music, knew how to mix cocktails, and throw a dinner party. He probably had to have some money, because the ads show him driving a sports car, partaking in a luxurious activity, or enjoying an exotic location. 

A buddy of mine and reader of this blog opined on Facebook yesterday that the new Playboy reader will probably be "an emasculated, meterosexual, feminist lap dog, the sort of guy who always felt that showing an interest in the attractive female form was 'sexist.'" (Ha ha!) Actually, that's higher praise then the typical reader I have in mind after going through the website. If they reprised the "What sort of man reads Playboy?" ads today, I'm picturing a sloppy looking, tattoo wearing, younger Zach Galifianakis type (before his weight loss) taking a selfie. 

Something interesting to note...Playboy's counterpart for women, Playgirl, is still in business...who knew? Their website contains nudity...and lots of it (accessible by becoming a member of which I am not one, I swear) and the print magazine publishes on a quarterly basis. No word yet if the no-nudity policy will spill over into the sister mag. 

So, alas, Playboy has already changed it seems and not necessarily for the better. Those nostalgic for the days of playmates, ads for pipes like the one Hugh smoked, and Little Annie Fanny will just have to search for them online. 

12 comments:

  1. Very nice article and we are most definitely on the same page, Pam! Perhaps when it comes right down to it, Playboy is very much a product of its time - a much more sophisticated, yet conversely, still innocent age when men were men and women were women, and we celebrated each others' differences! Despite the nude layouts, Playboy really wasn't ever porn, not in the truest sense. In its heyday of the 50s through the 70s it was sweet-natured erotica, an appreciation of the attractive, healthy female form. Aside from the girls, I also admired Playboy for its expertly drawn cartoons by the likes of Erich Sokol, Doug Sneyd, Kiraz, and my favourite, Eldon Dedini. Playboy also helped to instil in me my love of jazz and the classic instrumentalists and vocalists of that era.

    Admittedly, I haven't bought Playboy in years, as I was tired of the implants and Photoshop embellished Playmates who no longer represented the cute "girl-next-door" type that Hef originally featured. Still, I have my fairly extensive collection of issues from the 60s through the 80s to feed my nostalgia for what Playboy used to be. Yep, I'm the sort of man who reads Playboy, even if I do stick to its vintage years! :)

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    1. "Men were men and women were women"? "We celebrated each other's differences"? Oh please, what a douche you are!

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  2. Hi Pete - thanks for the comments! Oh, you just raised a good point that I meant to mention in this post...other than the enormous breast implants, the women featured in Playboy often had tan lines and slight imperfections, but nothing that really warranted a Photoshop job. And no, I would not consider the magazine pornography...even at a young age, when I snuck into my parents' bedroom one day when they weren't home (sorry, mom!) and discovered my father kept a small stash of Playboys and Hustlers...well, curiosity got the better of me and I definitely noticed a difference between the two magazines. There was also a made-for-TV movie from the '90s I believe that followed four different women from various backgrounds who posed for Playboy. The movie portrayed their experiences as pretty tame and portrayed Playboy in a tasteful manner.

    The magazine's readership has also tumbled in recent years. Still, it's hard to think of Playboy without the nude photos...time will tell if this and whatever other changes they have up their sleeve will work for them.

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  3. Yeah, I know those of us whose formative years were in the 1960s and 70s aren't supposed to express our opinions that vary from the socially acceptable "progressive" mindset of today. Still, at least I don't go around name-calling using a moniker like "Anonymous"... :)

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  4. Agreed, Pete. Pay no mind -- they're coming out of the woodwork this week. I received my first official hate mail...a nasty email about a trivial date mistake on a post I did four years ago!

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  5. Nice post and timely, Pam.

    The negative comments online irritate the stew out of me.

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  6. Great post Pam! I have to admit that I have looked through a Playboy magazine a few times. The articles were good but like you said it has changed and men have changed. I believe that since Hef is getting on with age that this transition is to end his empire in a quiet and tasteful manner. When it comes down to it even though there are many things he has done that I don't agree with, he did create an illusion that the everyday man can made himself into a cool cat and that is pretty cool. The promiscuity, treating women only as objects of beauty, and selling of nudity isn't cool in my book but the truth is out of all those type of magazines, his was the one done the most tastefully.

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  7. I don't get it, what's Playboy without the nude girls?

    Are they trying to be Maxim or FHM?

    I realize that Hefner's daughter scarred the magazine back in the 90's, but atleast it survived by name.

    Heck it was the first "adult" magazine I bought, and I remember feeling "sophisticated" at all the fancy articles and ads for luxury items (which is why I went on to buy Hustler instead....sorry, looking at beautiful women I'll never meet is one thing, looking at cars I'll never own is another).

    A while ago the British magazine "The Sun" stopped (for a while atleast) running their "Page 3" topless girls, after many decades.

    These two bits of news made me think how those publications survived decades of attack by religious leaders and feminists both, only to self-immolate with a whimper.

    They don't realize that by ending the tame, they leave only the hardcore.

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  8. Great article Pam. People forget that Playboy set the bar for men's magazines with Marilyn Monroe as it's first Bunny. It shocked the world and especially the sensibilities of the country (imagine the real hate mail that Hugh got), but it kicked open a door that had been tightly closed and Hugh caught a lot of grief for it, including from the government. Playboy was the first mag that I ever saw naked boobies (no full frontal, always panties in the '60s ). In my teen years, the articles became interesting, and there were top flight interviews with even Presidents.
    Unfortunately the world has moved on and you can now see literally millions of full nude images with the click of a button and thousands of web sites with the same content that Playboy used to have all to itself. I agree with Dar, they're now competing with Maxim and FHM in a contest they've already lost. While some shrug and say "who cares?", it's a little sad that era is gone.

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  9. Thanks everyone for your comments. I agree with everything said (except for the person who called Pete a d-bag.) :)

    Sadly, I think -- ironically -- that this is yet another indicator of our overly sexualized society...as was said, hardcore is the norm today and Playboy which was a groundbreaker is now tame by comparison. There's a lot to be said for being sexy without being too revealing, which is often sexier. Like wearing a dress that shows off your figure and your legs (without being TOO short) vs. a slut puppy dress that reveals your cleavage and is barely below your underwear...most men prefer the former, as it's sexy but retains some mystery. That's how I kind of think about vintage Playboy vs. other men's magazines (even though they did show full nudity, but it was always done in a tasteful manner.)

    If I were the editor(s) of Playboy, however, I'd be more concerned right now about the quality of the articles and content on the website. I tweeted my blog post at them as a gentle nudge but no surprise, it didn't illicit a response. :)

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  10. I think some men are surprised to hear of women that liked Playboy. Most of them grew up having to hide it. Speaking from my own woman's perspective, I thought the brand was great & what it stood for was for me less about porn, but rather celebrating women. It made me feel like women were put on a pedestal, empowered & not slut shamed, but rather sexually empowered ! My friends & I looked at the magazines & wanted to be those women, we dreamed of being a trophy of sorts to a deserving man. Certainly we are more than our physical appearance & sex organs, but this brand made women goddesses. The magazine & videos did not feel cheap, dirty or degrading towards women. Plus, once the merchandising caught on, we were proud to wear the "bunny" brand. I was very sad when the mail order catalog & retail stores closed up. Recently I have been to the Hustler store. They have some clothing items & an interesting selection of books. It's ok, thay are not as glamorous as the Playboy stores were with their rhinestone bunny logo belts,t shirts, jeans & an array of frilly intimate apparel as Hustler dedicates a larges amount of store space to sex toys & videos. It always struck me strange that for a man of Hugh's stature, you never really heard or seen much related to his children. Did they not naturally want to follow in their father's footsteps & carry on & expand his legacy to new modern heights? I guess some kids don't share the same dream as their parents & in the end do not value what the generations past have spent their lifetimes creating, & in the end all they hope to get out of it is the money to pursue their dreams & goals in a different direction. Seems like such a waste. Such as convincing a girl who admitted to Hef that she was not in love with him & did not want to marry him, to ultimately marry him anyway. I can understand in his planning for his inevitable demise that he would want someone to leave his vast estate to, however some young bunny who's genuine interest only stretched as far as the gravy train would take her, I feel he made an irresponsible choice in Crystal. He could have just divided his estate between his blood family members or even donated a substantial amount to various charities & scientific research. It saddens me greatly to follow the history of the brand from where it began to where it is now. Like you said, in this day & age nudity & sexually stimulating material is easily accessible & of enormous variety, but there was something different, classic & comfortable about Playboy's style. I will never forget how it shaped me as a young woman. The party may be over, but we will never stop celebrating woman kind !

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  11. It appears that Playboy has decided to once again offer nudes. I had a subscription in the late 90s/early 00s but it seemed like almost all of the models were photoshopped clones of each other. I really did get those mainly for the articles. The ones I found hidden under my dad's bed when I was young were far more interesting! A few of the early issues of Playboy were printed at a small company in Rochelle, IL and the linotype they were printed on is being displayed at the local museum. It would be nice if they returned to the style that made them classy; we have enough Maxim-type magazines out there.

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