Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Greatest Gift of All

No, it's not loving yourself or Jesus on the cross or any of that. It's the June 1968 issue of Playboy that showed up in my mail a couple days, a birthday gift like no other courtesy Melanie Feyerherm via EBay.

At first, I didn't want to touch it. It sat on my mantle double-packaged and cased in plastic, like a mint Mickey Mantle card your dad would kill you if you touched. This thing is a wonder to behold, full of vintage advertisements and material and, the reason I got it in the first place, the pictorial of "Girls of Scandinavia."

Nothing's changed up there.

A question, then. I don't feel dirty at all for owning this. Sixties Playboy really is what Hef claimed it to be -- a lifestlye magazine. Certainly that lifestyle is far out of reach for most of its readers, but it was nonetheless. Actually, it's kind of funny people were in such a snit about this; about 2/3 of the shots in the Scandinavian section are fully clothed, and the only other "girly" picture is the month's centerfold. If it's porn, it's very softcore, no dirtier than your average R movie. The issue has a multi-page interview with John Kenneth Galbraith, for god's sake.

Times have changed. Playboy still clings to its echoes of class, and the fact that it's not Hustler, but the objectified women are more perfect and much more apparent. Maybe some of Playboy's 1968 readers couldn't afford the fine cigars and liquors or shiny new Ford on the back cover, but the magazine presented a vision of ideal dominant male culture, of which women had no right to access. Its current incarnation and current peers exist not in an equal world, but one in which women have much more access and success. So while the amount of flesh on the page has grown, it exists just to service a need, if you will. Fantasize all they want, readers can't fool themselves into believing they live in the Playboy world when their coworkers, and possibly some of their bosses, are women.

So which is more offensive, or anti-feminist? 2000s Maxim and Playboy throwing the skin out left and right, or 60s Playboy, which, while lighter on x-rated shots, actually takes itself seriously in reinforcing social patriarchy? Just a thought.

2 comments:

Rob said...

You're more offensive.

Chris Jones said...

Your five questions, Mr. Moseman:
1. Where are you in terms of processing the Lapland experience? I ask because it did inspire one of the better blog entries I've ever read, and you haven't said much about it since.

2. (A rerun, because I'm legitimately curious): Who do you hope our next President is?

3. What was the first jazz song/record/experience that you fell in love with?

4. The Nebraska state motto is "The Good Life." What is the good life?

5. Which pop icon would you most prefer to be: a rock star, a satirist, or a notorious criminal?