Apparently one year of nudity-free Playboy was one year too many. When Playboy spokespersons announced that the popular publication would no longer be featuring nudes amidst their articles, there was significant pushback — even mockery. Still, the decision was final. The world survived a year of scantily clad (but not naked!) women in the iconic magazine, until late this February, when the March edition was released with *gasp* naked Playmates.
Who is one of the driving forces behind this decision?
Cooper Hefner, the 24-year-old son of Hugh Hefner, ridiculed the idea from the start, stating to a Business Insider source: “When you have a company and the founder is responsible for kick-starting the sexual revolution and then you pluck out that aspect of the company’s DNA by removing the nudity, it makes a lot of people including me sit and say: ‘What the hell is the company doing?’ ”
The younger Hef has been heavily involved in his father’s business. Up until recently, Business Insider reported that he was a regular at boardroom meetings, assisting in executive decisions regarding Playboy’s future.
Mike Snider of USA Today reported that Hefner also started Hop (Hefner Operations & Productions), his own company, and has strong views on what it means to be in the media promoting lifestyle-specific views.
Announcing the publication’s transfer back to nude photoshoots, he tweeted: “I’ll be the first to admit that the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated, but removing it entirely was a mistake.”
While his views on nudity in particular may not have been shared by former CEO Scott Flanders, they certainly resonated with the publisher’s target demographic and the public as a whole.
Playboy, which first published in December 1953, made its return to nude photography this February (a late Valentine) with such women as Playmates Elizabeth Elam and Nina Daniele. As always, articles feature both celebrities and topical public figures.
What’s remarkable in this case is that Playboy, which has a history of breaking tradition by presenting blatant sexuality at a time when such matters were thought best kept quiet, tried to go against its own values and failed. And no one recognized that more than the young man who grew up in the midst of it all.
Being the son of Playboy’s founder and Kimberly Conrad, 1989 Playmate of the Year (and Hugh Hefner’s second wife), Cooper Hefner undoubtedly had an unconventional childhood. In an interview with Metro News, he reported that his dad — who was in his 60s when Cooper was born — often had famous guests at the house, so he grew up calling Jack Nicholson “Uncle Jack” and sneaking friends into parties. But he also gained an awareness of differences, telling Metro reporter, Andrew Williams: “I had the opportunity to interact with people of all ages from all walks of life, which has given me the ability to get on with anyone.”
Perhaps that experience, along with his education and interest in politics, paid off. In less than a quarter of a century, Cooper Hefner has already become a successful businessman and an unlikely spokesperson for pushing societal norms.
“Playboy will always be a lifestyle brand focused on men’s interests,” he said in a publicly issued statement, “but as gender roles continue to evolve in society, so will we.”
By this, he is referring to the removal of Playboy’s recurring cover text “Entertainment for Men.” While Hefner acknowledges the obvious truth that straight men will continue to be the primary readers, he clearly demonstrates that he is not oblivious to the necessity to push forward toward progress rather than discriminating.
As a woman, I’m not exactly leaping for joy with any type of prideful elation. Sexuality can be celebrated, in this writer’s opinion, without marketing perfectly Photoshopped cheekbones and thighs and breasts as part of an expected package that some successful men are entitled to. However, there lies some responsibility with any reader to discern the difference between depicted beauty and reality, between whimsical fantasy and the real deal.
Furthermore, there is a certain type of integrity in sticking to the product you’re selling, and in the process maintaining that there is nothing wrong with the human body. Hence, there certainly is no harm in publishing photos of the nude form.
On a literary note, Hefner is also re-inserting Party Jokes and The Playboy Philosophy. Formerly written by Hugh, these columns will now rest on the shoulder and wits of his son.
Of course, if these columns leave much to be desired, the returning centerfolds won’t leave much to be imagined, so it seems we’re all square for a nation of (apparently) gleeful hedonists.
All photos are screenshots from YouTube videos unless otherwise noted
Top photo: Hugh M. Hefner and his son Cooper
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.