Flutterby™! : Six decades of centerfolds

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Six decades of centerfolds

2006-03-16 17:10:14.099907+00 by Dan Lyke 2 comments

The New Yorker looks at "The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds":

In the nineteen-eighties and thereafter, the artificiality only increased, as did that of all American mass media. The most obvious change is in the body, which has now been to the gym. Before, you could often see the Playmates sucking in their stomachs. Now they don’t have to. The waist is nipped, the bottom tidy, and the breasts are a thing of wonder. The first mention of a “boob job” in “The Playmate Book” has to do with Miss April 1965, but, like hair coloring, breast enlargement underwent a change of meaning, and hence of design, in the seventies and eighties.

(Via Daze Reader). The whole thing is worth reading, and in fact the book may be too, as a chronicle of how our cultural views of sex and nudity have changed over the years, and the article has too many paragraphs that I want to quote.

That, in the end, is the most striking thing about Playboy’s centerfolds: how old-fashioned they seem. This whole “bachelor” world, with the brandy snifters and the attractive guest arriving for the night: did it ever exist? Yes, as a fantasy. Now, however, it is the property of homosexuals. (A more modern-looking avatar of the Playmates’ pneumatic breasts is Robert Mapplethorpe’s Mr. 10 ".) Today, if you try to present yourself as a suave middle-aged bachelor, people will assume you’re gay.

Well worth the read.

[ related topics: Books Erotic Sexual Culture Nudity Sociology Journalism and Media Graphic Design ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-17 13:15:56.354958+00 by: meuon

"suave middle-aged bachelor, people will assume you’re gay." - I must have been faking it pretty well.. Nancy thought I was gay, checked me out with her gay friends/co-workers.. -Laughing,,,

#Comment Re: made: 2006-03-17 17:39:14.002779+00 by: other_todd

What an oddly insightful article. Oddly both because it's associated with The New Yorker and because it's written by a female. (I am normally the last person to have any sort of gender bias, but I have been around so many women who automatically condemn Playboy without stopping to actually look at it that I've come to expect this reaction, and I'm surprised when it doesn't happen.)

I have the previous Playmate retrospective - the big white book representing five decades that came out in 1996. Since Gretchen Edgren also did that one, and since some commments in the article lead me to believe a lot of the material is the same, I suspect the Taschen one is a reprint-with-new-material. I have always wanted to write an essay or two about "the evolution of the centerfold" as shown clearly over the decades in that book. A couple of my conclusions are different from Acocella's, but in general I think we have observed the same things and arrived at mostly the same place. Personally, I think the Playmates were more interesting back when they really could have been Hefner's "girl next door with her clothes off," but I also think that we would have lost a whole set of cultural cliches if it hadn't been for Playboy's Vaseline-lensed 1970's style, which is iconic (if not actually good).

I sometimes wonder how long Playboy will manage to continue to exist. They were always trying to be more than a skin mag, and sometimes they succeed, but these days the men's magazines which were never about skin have become more and more so - and the magazines that WERE about skin have more or less reached the point where no holds are barred. As new generations come in, they are progressively more jaded, and I worry that Playboy will strike them as tame, pointless, and not delivering the goods (skin or otherwise).