History of Playboy Magazine Part 3

About the history of Playboy magazine, examples of content, size, strengths and weaknesses.



Examples of Typical Material: Excerpt from an interview with Marlon Brando:

Playboy: What is it that men hate about women?

Brando: I think essentially, men fear women. It comes from a sense of dependence on women. Because men are brought up by women, they're dependent on them. In all societies, they have organizations that exclude women; warrior societies are famous the world over for that. It comes from fear of women. History is full of references to women and how bad they are, how dangerous. There are deprecating references to women all through the Bible. The mere fact that a woman was made out of a man's rib, as a sort of afterthought. Men's egos are frightened by women. We all have made mistakes in that respect. We've all been guilty, most men, of viewing women through prejudice. I always thought of myself not as a prejudiced person, but I find, as I look over it, that I was.

The following is a typical "party Joke":

Our Unabashed Dictionary defines nasty habit as a nun's outfit by Frederick's of Hollywood.

Size and Distribution of Sales: In 1980 the total annual national circulation was 66,000,000 copies. Presently, Playboy guarantees U.S. advertises a monthly circulation of 5.5 million copies. Each month Playboy sells 680,000 copies in Japan, 450,000 in Germany, 300,000 in Brazil, 175,000 in Australia, and 180,000 in France.

Strengths: One of Hefner's earliest goals was to establish Playboy as a serious magazine, not just another girlie rag. When he was eventually able to pay high rates to writers, he achieved this goal, especially in the area of fiction. Playboy contributors have included John Steinbeck, P.G. Wodehouse, W. Somerset Maugham, Vladimir Nabokov, Ray Bradbury, Gore Vidal, and John Updike.

Another highly acclaimed Playboy institution is the Playboy interview. Generated by Hefner in 1962, the magazine hired Alex Haley-future author of Roots--to do an interview with jazz musician Miles Davis. In subsequent issues, Haley interviewed Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell. Over the years, the list of interviewed celebrities has included Fidel Castro, Jimmy Hoffa (Hoffa's last interview before his disappearance), John Lennon, and Gary Gilmore, shortly before his execution. Of course, the most famous interview appeared in the November, 1976, issue, in which Jimmy Carter pronounced: "I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times."

Weakness: Playboy's greatest weakness lies in its basic credo, which views sexual freedom, material possessions, financial success, and social status as essential to happiness and the good life. This Playboy mentality--an extension of Hefner's own fantasies--has changed little since the magazine's founding in 1953, despite the fact that American society has changed dramatically, if not entirely, since the 1950's. What appeared to be a racy renunciation of sexual oppression in 1953 appears to be sexist exploitation in 1981.

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