Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

When adult lifestyle magazine “Playboy” announced to discontinue featured nude models, every corner of social media and major news outlets across the country, many including myself, almost could not believe our ears, nor could we fathom the abrupt outcry that followed. “Playboy,” a gargantuan adult media imprint, has prevailed mass culture for nearly 62 years, primarily operating as a flagship publication in the United States.

The self-proclaimed “playboy” himself, Hugh Hefner, a journalist and business mogul, opened the floodgates to an immense tidal wave of erotica and masculinity that equally challenged and profited society for approximately half a century. Specializing in scantily-clad models and maintaining a brazen liberal editorial stance, Hefner mortgaged his own means in order to attain a lifestyle of inscrutable proportions in which he accumulated a small bank loan of $600, upthrusted $8,000 from over 45 investors, and accrued over $1,000 from his family estate chiefly to launch Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

Viewed by many as a lion amongst men and a world-renowned womanizer, Hefner’s grand vision was to further inspire men to earn their keep in fields such as sports and engineering while securing an extravagant yet stable way of life. With that in mind, Playboy was a magazine that roughly balanced fantasy and actuality while heavily indulging exploration and discovery in masculine endeavors such as grand prix racing and professional football. Men of over six generations have celebrated Playboy as if it were the Old Testament itself and it has nonetheless galvanized millions, but what could have led to this sudden change of perspective that could greatly refine the lady-killing empire Hefner spent eons to groom and mature?

Well first and foremost, it shouldn’t come to any surprise that the progressive society in which we currently live hinders most forms of free expression, which include methods of discipline as we have seen with the Adrian Peterson incident and most recently the misconstrued statements of Republican candidate, Donald Trump, regarding Mexico. Known for its brightly colored pages filled with sultry photos of beautiful naked women, it would be difficult to imagine a universe without the full-frontal nudity that principally defines “Playboy.” Being that it is 2015, a year in which we have witnessed the preeminent transformation of Caitlin Jenner and the unforeseen retirement of David Letterman, time truly has a unique way of changing things. Two weeks ago, Hefner met with the chief content editor of Playboy, Jimmy Jellinek, to discuss the crucial re-modifications of the magazine, and in turn rule to abolish any featured full frontal nudity from pages in future issues.

Playboy’s CEO, Scott Flanders confirmed that the publication’s rash decision to remove all forms of nudity was largely factored by the upsurge of internet pornography in the mid-2000s. According to the New York Times, Playboy’s stock began to plummet after the publication’s circulation plunged from a mammoth-sized amount $5.6 million dating back to 1975, to a staggering $800,000 in revenue concluding 2014. With an endless number of images and videos readily available by the click of a mouse, Playboy lost much of its publicity as a magazine and soon enough fell out of favor as print media has experienced a substantial decline in the early 2010s.

Hefner’s decision to revamp the magazine is angled to clasp a modern approach, with much of its context and content censored. With that in mind, there are multiple ways to look at Playboy’s expeditious overhaul. From a fiscal viewpoint, Playboy made a wise decision to terminate the lingering expenses that accompany nude photography, such as the plastic wrapping that prevents underaged readers from glossing through its lustful and colorful material at local gas stations and airport newspaper kiosks. Amongst others, Playboy eliminated minuscule costs in page count and paper production that could later add up as deeper financial woes for a corporation that only accrued a tiny fraction with $800,000 in income last year. Typically, earnings such as the aforementioned spell doom for most publications especially since print media has gradually transmogrified into a fountainhead of dying practices. Physical magazines and newspapers have faced extinction wandering further into the 2010s so it is sensible why Playboy is rebranding its product while also outsourcing itself internationally.

But here’s where the double-edged sword lies – How will the publication survive down the line when the magazine succeeded with the frequent usage of nudity in the past? Can longtime clientele and Playboy even co-exist when Hefner stripped away its greatest asset? Let’s be real here: Playboy was never exactly at Los Angeles Times-esque news outlet, although several prestigious novelists such as Ian Fleming and Arthur C. Clarke experienced their literary debut due to the magazine’s growing exposure.

Quite personally, I can’t see this new strategy working out for Playboy when Hefner made a majority of his wealth through beautiful women and exposed genitals. Now while the magazine can indeed be a form of misogyny and filth to feminists and Christian communities, Playboy has left a permanent footprint on society and regardless of what it stands for, Hefner’s dynasty of pornography has become a paramount cornerstone of American culture.

Imagine Sesame Street without Jim Henson’s puppets, Steve Jobs without his innovative contributions for Apple, Inc., Kellogg’s cereal brands without the backing of Tony the Tiger or Toucan Sam, or Bay Lake Florida without Disney World. Now, while Hefner is no way shape or form a respectable figure as Jim Henson or Steve Jobs, his creation is undoubtedly a staple in American society. The name itself is as recognizable and identifiable as Mister Rogers, and clearly as adored as Roald Dahl. Hefner’s failure to comprehend the precise marketing that made the magazine what is currently is lies within the bossums of the Playboy bunnies themselves. Playboy was never intended as an intellectual work in which readers would strive to glance at its short stories, interviews and political cartoons. From its inception in 1953 it was always sought-after as a pornographic channel and has neatly cemented itself into our terminology and sexual drive.

While I can understand the budgetary standards that have led to this harsh decision, Playboy as a magazine cannot flourish like it once did without the assistance of graphic nudity. The company has positioned itself towards digital media which is commendable, but who says you can’t have both?

Although the old saying goes “you can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Playboy under the command of Hefner couldn’t hurt to implement both formats. Like I explain to many of my colleagues in communications studies, there are still loyal audiences to both platforms and to quit on one is to that of abandoning a child. If Hefner can expand his conquest of Playboy digitally, the old media could still stand the test of time.

Drew Mattiola is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RM814408@wcupa.edu.

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