Hugh Hefner was an Icon in American Culture…For Better or For Worse

By:  H.T., Podcast: Kuroi And Youth

Hugh Hefner’s life is a complicated one.  Hugh, and in turn the company he created called Playboy, is an iconic company in and beyond America.  Hugh through Playboy shifted the dialogue of pornography and erotic images away from the puritanical paradigm held by many Americans during the 1950s about such things, including sex.  Hugh did something for American art that few thought could be accomplished in those days.  At the same time, Hugh’s vision of progressing the ideas of sex did not exactly progress life for women.  The Playboy Club became iconic as the predecessor to restaurants like Hooters and the Tilted Kilt where women walk around in high heels, pantyhose, leotards and bunny ears.  While this outfit has been reduced to almost a joke in pop culture, the fact was the man’s vision for women was lacking to say the least in progress.

Consider also that Jasmine Fiore, Dorothy Stratten, Anna Nicole Smith, and many other women died because of men using them or obsessing over them and Hefner said very little about their deaths and did less.  Consider also that Playboy had a publication called “Sugar and Spice” that featured a then 10 year old Brooke Shields NUDE.  However, this is not to say that Hugh did nothing for women in a sense, to this day, there are women in Hollywood with careers that started in Playboy.  Many women who appeared in his magazine took the money from their appearance and payed their way through college.  There are women nowadays who are doctors, lawyers, nurses, and business owners partially from the money they gained from posing in Playboy.  Does this mean Hefner was a champion of women?

Then there’s the issue of Hugh’s life.  Many believe Hugh pushed a lifestyle for men that glorified objectification, manipulation and misogyny.  And if we’re going by the definitions of those words compared to the life he publicly promoted, then yes, this analyzation would be right.  Still, the reason his lifestyle was so envied was because what no heterosexual man can deny is that we like getting attention from attractive women.  Simple as that.  Not very complicated.  Doesn’t make him right, but it does explain the appeal.  Sure, in recent years, men have been moving more to be enlightened in how we view women and relationships with women, but the fact is, our generation is conflicted in that we rail against a man who for years had multiple girlfriends, but many of us are well into our 20s and still have multiple casual sexual partners.

Am I in any way saying Hugh was a good man?  No.  But I am stating the ugly truth that human history has shown us that many times the men who have the biggest impacts in history are not always good people morally.  The fact is, Hugh revolutionized how the western world treated sexual imagery, but he was also a bad person in many ways.  Should we praise him?  That’s an individualist question really.  Bipartisan and centrist proponents of free speech hail him as a hero for what he did to knock down biases against pornography, though it should be noted that this was mostly just a bias towards sex work, feminists hate him as he was exploitative in how he treated women, but it should be noted that for the most part the women who were in Playboy were more than aware what they were doing.

So the question remains, do we praise him?  In my opinion, not really.  Honestly, the fantasy of living like Hugh Hefner is always a glamorous fantasy for men, but few truly want to LIVE like that for the rest of their lives.  While I acknowledge he did messed up things, I think it’s a lack of respect for the deceased’s family to have as many websites as there were publishing articles saying, “I’m glad he’s dead because he did bad things.”  I say this because in the last few years or so, it’s become a trend for websites that have a bend towards certain political ideologies to attack recently deceased celebrities because of their issues.  I say its a problem, not because it’s celebrities I like, but because it feels very self-righteous to believe that one can get justice against a dead person.  But perhaps this is the nature of the beast.  People know that the news of this person being dead only has so much time before someone or something wipes it off the face of the earth.  But again, when a celebrity dies, perhaps the week of their death isn’t the best time to get out ones hot take on how they weren’t very diverse in their portrayal of women or that they appropriated black music.  In Hugh’s case, we should talk about how he was shitty, but I don’t believe this is the time to do it at this moment.

When I call someone a great man, I do not mean they were good people.  Steve Jobs was awful to his ex wives and children, David Bowie allegedly slept with an underage groupie, Michael Jackson was an alleged pedophile and a drug addict, Charlie Chaplin crossed state lines to sleep with a young girl, Thomas Edison stole heavily from Nikolai Tesla, and Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by at least 40 women.  This man is not Hitler or even an old Nazi who died in his 80s hiding from his crimes, he was a dirty old man who did very unethical, and yes, wrong things.  I simply believe that at this point, we would be beating a dead horse in black by once again shitting on another dead celeb before their body is cold.

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