Erotic depictions of women in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography from the dawn of man to the present.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Venus concealed: the new nude free Playboy - a review



So Triple P picked up a copy of the new 'nude free' Playboy this week and we were really hoping that it would be good; as the re-launched Lui was a few years ago. The cover does have an achingly tasteful matt finish, which does give it the air (and feel) of an upmarket architectural magazine. Sadly, it is not and although we hope we are wrong, this looks like the death knell for Playboy. Everything that we feared about the publication is summed up by the cover which is supposed to look like that lowest form of photography: the selfie.  In addition we have the word "heyyy" plus textspeak emoticon.  "Heyyy?  Really? Is this the Fonz?  Hello, we are now illiterate and youth obsessed they say, or worse, we are old people trying to look cool.  A young person has just told me that this is supposed to ape something called Snapchat (which we had never heard of) which is how youngsters now communicate so they don't actually have to develop social skills and interact with each other in real life.




The, admittedly, very pretty girl on the cover is one Sarah McDaniel (a typical internet phenomenon in that she became famous for having different coloured eyes and was picked to appear in a pop video - every young person's dream), photographed by Theo Wenner (who also shot her pop video).  We suppose the image does sum up the market they are aiming at but let's hope for some more striking cover designs over the next few months (although the lack of text is to be lauded).   They have a real opportunity to get away from the girl in a swimsuit look that has dominated the covers for the last few years. The picture opposite the contents page (above) is effective, for example, but is probably too 'objectifying of women' for today's feminists.


Still wrapped


Triple P bought his copy in WH Smith at Waterloo station.  Britain's biggest newsagents, Smiths is now actually two companies with one running high street newsagents and the other branches at railway stations and airports.  The 600 high street branches do not carry adult men's magazines at all and haven't since 1997, due to pressure from feminists. The station and airport branches do but a couple of years ago started putting plain wrappers on these magazines.




One of Playboy's aims with their relaunch was to avoid their magazine covers being obscured, like GQ which remains unwrapped (as was FHM before it disappeared before Christmas),  However, Smiths still has it in an opaque wrapper, so that hasn't worked, at least in the UK and we will have to see if the wrappers come off in the US.  Admittedly GQ's cover girl Amy Adams isn't showing as much skin but we suspect that it is the Playboy brand itself that is still the problem.  We really don't think that they are going to be able to get away from this in the foreseeable future.




The magazine looks different and is 5mm taller and no less than 20mm wider than the old Playboy.  This makes it a little bit larger than Lui, which was a little bit larger than Playboy.  However, it is a very skinny 128 pages.  You would have thought they might have packed in a bit more in such a critical relaunch issue.  But wait!  Young people can't read more at a time than they can see on a page on their iPads, so there are a lot of one page articles in this. Hey great, I can read the page and then check my Facebook account (or whatever teenagers use now; even Triple P realises that Facebook is passé).


Emilia Clarke on the Playboy Plus site


One article (if you can call it that) is just a few random paragraphs about nudity, including a swipe at what it calls the "deeply creepy" book Mr Skin's skincylopedia, wherein you can find which films contain scenes of all your favourite actresses naked.  This despite the fact that the Playboy Plus website pushes a Mr Skin owned site heavily.  In particular, it uses shots of Game of Thrones actress Emila Clarke as an enticement to pay up.  Does she know her image is being used in this way?  We bet she doesn't!  Ah, but of course Playboy Plus, the repository of all Playboy's naked Playmate pictures of the past, is not owned by Playboy any more.  Playboy.com, the official Playboy site, has no nudes and its success was what persuaded Playboy CEO Scott Flanders, the man behind the revamp, to change the magazine.  However, Flanders can't claim that Playboy is now a reformed organisation when there is this site which includes lots of skinny eastern European models (or silicone 'enhanced' and tattooed American ones) happily spreading their thighs and arse cheeks and displaying everything.  The man in the street doesn't know that Playboy Plus isn't owned by Playboy (and neither do most of the subscribers by their comments on the pictorials).


Playmate Dree Hemingway.  She's not really naked.


Scott Flanders has gone on record saying that he regrets transferring the Playboy Plus site and content to Luxembourg porn empire MindGeek.  Playboy Plus, following the announcement of Playboy's nude free future, reassured subscribers that the nudes would continue on their site.  Tellingly, however, no pictures of March Playmate Dree Hemingway have appeared on Playboy Plus.  So will Playboy Plus be a Playmate free zone going forward?  If so it means that the last real connection to the magazine has gone.  Will MindGeek continue to pay their $14 million a year licence fee for a site with no future Playmates?  Presumably, also, future Playmates won't need to do any naked posing so it doesn't look like, as first suspected, that revealing nudes would be shot but only be available on the subscription website.  Now, this month's Playmate does pose for some nude shots but they are all 'tasteful' meaning no body parts which might upset puritanical Americans are included. No nipples, no pubic hair (not that Playboy models have had these for some time) and really only one or two bottom shots.  It's like a glamour magazine from, well, before Playboy first appeared, in its lack of uncoverage.




Speaking of the Playmate, where does this leave the centrefold?  Rather curiously Playboy have decided to retain it.  Lui, which happily feature full nudity (but then the French don't have American hang ups about the body) decided when they relaunched the magazine, that a centrefold really was too old fashioned.  Playboy could have had a naked centrefold, given Hemingway's few nude poses but they eschewed that for this shot.  Hemingway, who has a very ordinary little body, is well covered up and is referred to as 'Miss March' on her centrefold picture (wording not reproduced here) but the 'Playboy Playmate of the Month' wording has gone as has the Playmate Data Sheet, to be replaced by a more flexible series of quotes from the model,  rather than following the fixed headings as before.  In fact the word 'Playmate' is really, really hard to find in the magazine.  You wonder how long it will remain after Hefner.
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Covergirl Sarah McDaniel has a couple of nude shots (it is not a nude free magazine at all) such as this one.  One advantage of all the hands and arms in front of their chests means that they can use a lot more girls with small busts.  Mr Hefner would not be impressed. 




On the whole, the pictures of women are two to a page at most with most being full page or a two page spread.  Unfortunately, any sort of eroticism is completely missing and the only shot that carried any frisson for Triple P was this two page spread of Miss McDaniel's very firm looking posterior peeping out from below her top.




The final of three pictorials is a feature called How to photograph a woman is a series of self portraits by 'feminist artist' and plus size (by the fashion industry's standards which means normal to everyone else) Calvin Klein model Myla Dalbesio.  Here we have a  return to the busy pages of old but also the most nudity in the magazine.  These are real selfies rather than the fake selfies of Miss McDaniels's set and at least have a bit of bright colour in them, rather than the muted tones of the other pictorials. 




Given the insipid pictorials, Playboy will soon find out if people really do read the magazine for the articles. These seemed to me both dull and rather political (left wing political at that) with a disproportionate focus on feminist women,  The Playboy interview is with someone called Rachel Maddow who we have never heard of but it seems that she is some sort of liberal TV commentator.  Is that the best they could do?  There is an article by Brett Easton Ellis (who like the magazine is more nineties than millennial) on modern sexuality but it is just a page and a half long.  




The general impression of the magazine is of one that is desperate not to offend women, and is facile, joyless, sexless and just dull.  In fact the only thing in it that made Triple P smile was the opening four pages of the magazine, featuring an advertisement for Dodge cars which used a horizontal bar of one of their vehicles obscuring the 'naughty bits' of a number of Playmates from the past.  So will we buy the next one?  Probably but they need to shake up their visual style.  You can't have a whole magazine of pictures of women apparently taking selfies of themselves in bed. Surely young people have access to these from their friends anyway?  Why not invest in some time and effort to produce images that can't be knocked out by a narcissistic teenager with a phone?  Ah, but to the current producers of Playboy all images of naked women are just porn and they have no concept of art.


9 comments:

  1. Non-Nude Playboy seems like an oxymoron. I don't really care as I haven't bought an issue in years. The fully dressed Amy Adams in GQ looks much more interesting than the new Playboy.

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  2. I didn't see any positive review yet from a person which has been reading Playboy and was a fan. They had about 750.000 - 800.000 subscribers a few years back; then, in 2013, they've changed the direction and went "fashion", so to speak (fashion photographers, art director, the whole creative team) — and, to no surprise for any sane person, they have pissed off their audience and have lost a hell of a lot of people. Now they have about 500.000 - 600.000 (500.000 is what they guarantee to the advertisers).

    So now to consider relaunch to be successful they need at least up to one million of completely new audience – young males and females – ready to buy (yes, buy, not just watch on the website) Playboy just to read the (liberal) articles about politics, Syria and Afghanistan. I'm not joking: here is the interview with Playboy's editorial director – prweek . com/article/1385548/stripping-nudes-playboy-says-readers-will-stay-articles (remove the spaces, I did it just in case, so my message won't end up in some sort of spam folder).

    Not that I dismiss such topics as unimportant, but the whole idea to sell it under the Playboy brand is just weird, really weird.

    By the way, my personal experience with Playboy's editorials shows that nobody gives a damn about it: for example, US presidential elections – a hot topic, I can't escape it even being in the opposite hemisphere, goddamn :)) – and so what? Where is Playboy? Who cared about their lousy interview with Maddow? Instead I'm constantly bombarded by the articles of their competitors (as Flanders would like to think), and nobody shares the links to Playboy.
    ****
    "So will Playboy Plus be a Playmate free zone going forward?" — Yes, it was confirmed: no nudes ► no content for Plus, since they aren't interested in selling such stuff (especially with this horrible approach to photography). Plus has already filled the Saturday slot with their own content. Though, they managed to book one of the recent Playmates (Miss Jan 2016) to shoot six sets for them (already shot by Holly Randall and will be released in following months). But it's a very rare exception: the vast majority of Playmates doesn't want to work with them.

    On the subject of newsstands: the magazine is unsealed in US and is selling on the front shelves alongside, say, Vanity Fair.

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  3. Wow, it sounds like, from your review, that if the magazine keeps going on like this, it's destined to go under. It's such a good point that you can find selfies all over the Internet, so why on Earth would they reproduce something like that when they could be doing professional shoots people can't find anywhere else? What a bummer. The end of an era!

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  4. Great review, and a lot to cover. It was my impression that Playboy was trying to get out of the yoke of Mindgeek by making this move, being able to hire their own photographers and have their own pictorial content. Why they couldn't do this and still have nudes is unknown, but their brand is still a liability, especially with Mindgeek running a pretty lousy site using their name. Mindgeek really has a lot of grubby fingers in a lot of pies nowadays, as evidenced by that roll call of sites ("Nude News", "Playboy TV", i.e. really crappy porn, "Playboy Radio", how is that still around?). Personally knowing a few people in the adult industry, I know that the entire industry lives in fear of Mindgeek and their control of that failing industry. So for them, PB+ is just their "softer" material site, but ultimately just an extension of their tube sites & pay "mega-sites".

    This situation could really weigh down Playboy's plans, as already evidenced by its positioning in British stores. I will say that the magazine has not made it to grocery stores, like the lad mags used to be, in the US, but PB has been given prominent placement in bookstores such as Barnes & Noble.

    But this is a clear failure. The lad mags have all gone out of business, with the remaining one having gone "high-end", similar to Playboy. But whether it's Playboy, GQ, Esquire, or the new Maxim format, it's also 2016, and men in general and young men in particular aren't interested in paying to look at pictures of $1,000 watches like it's still 1980. As far as Playboy was concerned back then, it was, to me, merely filler material to pay the bills. But how extensive the advertising market is for these kinds of products, in print, in the twenty-first century, albeit with some random Instagram photos thrown in, now seems somewhat limited.

    Even worse, Maxim has had sexier photography in recent months than in Playboy's non-nude debut. The pics with the obvious pasties were quite the fail. There have been sexier photos on their website recently than in the magazine. Overall, any aesthetic sense has been completely lost, as Hefner obviously has zero say at the magazine. And actually, I don't mind good non-nude photography, as I find many of the pictorials quite alluring, but allow me to place an emphasis on the word "good".

    Lastly, I don't mind the politics...you can be liberal, but not have a negative view of male sexuality. Historically, that was what Hefner tapped into, the idea that men's sexuality is ultimately positive, while at the same time, championing causes like drug legalization and civil rights. Now, Playboy's editors are clearly approaching the editorial content as though they are ashamed of their own sexuality, and of men's sexuality, in general. That message comes through loud and clear, and will ultimately end in failure.

    By the way, do you have any comments about Kelly Holland's buyout of Penthouse? Unless she starts stripping the magazine bare, so to speak, I think it's a positive, if for no other reason but to give Mindgeek some competition. Also, if she can expand in ways that highlight the fact that PH is still here, and is still nude (damnit), there's an opportunity still here that PB flushed down the toilet.

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  5. Does Playboy still have cartoons, fiction and original artwork? Those were the selling point for me, occasionally.

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    1. Cartoons are gone as well. Hefner is also regretting that. Poor fella.

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  6. Horrible. Just horrible. It's their magazine and they can do whatever they want to do with it. But they betrayed everything the brand had stood for and what Heffner had build in terms of popularizing a more natural approach to sexuality. What is even more disgusting is that they try to now move into the exact opposite direktion. This puritan crap just supports and reinforces the idea that nudity and especially female nudity is something to be ashamed of. It would have been more honest if they just held a press conference and apologized in public for 50 years of nude photography. Instead of this.

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  7. BartGirls here: Told you, my friend. It was horrible. Made me cringe just looking at it. It seems the moralists and religious right took over the offices of the magazine, pretty much like the Nazis occupying the presses in Belgium and France, and turned everything mischievous, artful and sexy of the magazine into a teenage-trap for kids who masturbate to their girls' selfies. I cancelled my suscription.

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  8. Just lay it to rest already; take poor Hef out to the back of the mansion, shoot him and bury him with the last nude centerfold in his arms and burn the place to the ground.
    I remember when I couldn't wait to be old enough to buy the mags myself and now I've lived long enough to watch its death knell.
    Sic transit gloria mundi.

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