A male rite of passage is succumbing to the changing times. Playboy will stop publishing nude photos in March. Its website has been PG-13 for more than a year and seen its traffic go up in that time. I guess those who said they only bought the magazine for the articles have won the day. I’ll confess that I don’t understand the business case for Playboy sans nudity. Maybe I should have been reading those great articles all along.
Speaking of confusing business cases, what’s the rationale for the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit extravaganza, what Bryan Curtis dubbed the “wholesome-but-smutty aesthetic”? Its origins date back to 1964 when Playboy was at its peak and anything counter-culture was cool. Or was it groovy? I never could figure those out even back then.
It’s a measure of the power of tradition, though, and a nod toward the same contemporary mores that scuttled Playboy, that the SI‘s annual swimsuit issue is bigger and racier than ever. Can you imagine trying to make a pitch for this practice today?
“I’ve got this great idea. Let’s drop one of our regular issues and replace it with pics of young cuties as close to naked as the Attorney General will allow. Wait a minute… even greater idea incoming… Body paint! That’s it! We can show these babes all painted up, naked as the good Lord made them, and nobody will notice! It’ll be raunchy enough that all the moralists and librarians will be pissed off. But it will be tame enough that teens will be instantly bored and run to the internet for the real stuff. What a money maker!”
And so it is. The 2005 swimsuit issue had $35 million in advertising. For a single issue. Like I said, I don’t understand the business case.
Meanwhile, it might be a good time to don the dark glasses and a low-brimmed hat to grab the final few Playboys before they pull the plug on the stylized golden feminine ideal once derided as ‘porn folk art’. They’re bound to be valuable collector’s items. A real investment. And I hear the articles are pretty good, too.