Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The first Playboy Centerfold. Yes, that's Marilyn.
As some of you well know (S, J, R, you were there) I am of the opinion that Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner share the honor of starting the sexual revolution. Kinsey is my hero: Hefner is just...Hef.
Playboy's eulogy has been written more than once, usually after some overambitious project gone awry. After the 1970s gas crisis and the introduction of Japanese cars to the American market, that deluxe Playboy Club in Detroit probably seemed like a bad idea.
But according to the New York Times, Playboy Enterprises failed to turn a profit last quarter. The big news in this story is the segment of Playboy's empire that's dragging down the rest of the beast: Domestic television and publishing. That's the Playboy channel and, obviously, Playboy magazine.
Christie Hefner, Hugh's daughter and Playboy's chief, reassures investors that the brand has tremendous equity. But if your brand--which is based on the success of the first internationally available nudie magazine--fails to provide that which defined it, won't your brand eventually fail?
Having had a few decades of exposure to Playboy, I can tell you that the magazine has drifted far, far away from its original goal: to show the "girl next door" taking her shirt off. You know she's not the type, but just this once...
The girls in Playboy--including the famous ones--are indistinguishable from the porn starlets featured on the covers of Hustler, Penthouse Forum, and Cum Guzzling Cheerleaders IV.
The girls are airbrushed, the scenery has changed from outdoor vistas to velvet bedsteads, and except for the girls who insist they're "studying to be doctors" (but, suspiciously, just 19 years of age) there's not a chance in hell that they're the girl next door. Unless you happen to live at the Bunny Ranch.
I'm just so over this aesthetic. The constant sexualization of a single look makes porn boring--and that's what is making Playboy's profits fall. In the beginning, it provided something that was meaningful and unavailable elsewhere--but these days, you might as well just get Hustler. At least we know Larry Flynt is funding investigations of Republican sex scandals.