Playboy is arguably one the best-known brands of the sex industry worldwide. In sixty years, its founder and CEO, Hugh Hefner, has managed to transform a magazine with centerfolds of naked models into a global success, its reach extending far beyond the pages of Playboy Magazine. It has infiltrated political movements (the sexual revolution), curbed legislation (United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, 529 U.S. 803), lined the racks of clothing stores (for children, too), and can be found in virtually every entertainment medium, including video games (Playboy: The Mansion), DVDs (Playboy Playmates), reality shows (The Girls Next Door), and theatrically-released Hollywood films (The House Bunny). The brand, and its iconic logo – a silhouette of a rabbit wearing a bow tie – are everywhere.
It is reasonable to assert that when most adults see the Playboy logo, whether it’s on jewelry, carved into a truck’s mud flap, inscribed on a shot glass, or on a teenager’s sweatpants, they accept it. Such is the power of ubiquity: Playboy has emerged as a popular symbol that adults and children alike can adorn without question.
In 2011, Playboy managed to reach children in a whole new way: by targeting the audience of a mainstream Hollywood children’s film called Hop.
Hop, a feature-length animated movie, features as its main characters several animated rabbits. In the film, the Easter Bunny wants his teenage son, EB, to succeed him as the next Easter Bunny. EB, however, would rather pursue his dreams, and so he runs off to Hollywood to become a star.
When E.B. arrives, the first place he visits is the Playboy Mansion, hoping for a place to stay. Knowing that the “Playboy mansion has been home to many sexy bunnies,” he speaks with Hefner himself (providing his actual voice), and insists that he is “incredibly sexy.” Once Hefner takes a look at EB (through a camera!), EB is rejected, ostensibly because he does not fit the Playboy mold of “sexy bunny.” Disappointed, EB leaves the mansion.
The dialogue of the scene is as follows:
Voice at Playboy Mansion: [through an intercom] Listen, this is the Playboy Mansion, not a hotel.
E.B.: [looking into a map] I know, but it says ‘Since 1971 the Playboy Mansion has been home to many sexy bunnies.’
Voice at Playboy Mansion: I can’t even see you. Step closer.
E.B.: I’m just saying, I am a bunny and am incredibly sexy.
Voice at Playboy Mansion: I don’t have time for this.
E.B.: Hello? Hello? Ugh, this must be the rags part of my rags-to-riches story.
The lasting impression of the scene is that the Playboy Mansion is exclusive and consequently desirable. Were EB just a bit sexier, perhaps he’d be able to join all of the sexy bunnies in the Mansion. In another version of the story, perhaps EB would learn how Playboy and Hefner himself have been long documented as having supported the sex trafficking of women and children, have depicted children sexually in their magazines, have literally promoted the “hate raping” of conservative women (“So Right, It’s Wrong” campaign), and have contributed to the average early death of 36 for all Playboy Playmates.
Hop was a large box office success, earning more than $180 million at the global box office and spawning licensed video games, books, candy, clothing, stuffed animals, and exclusive Burger King kids meal toys. It wasn’t received well by critics (it has a 25% rating on the film review aggregate site, Rotten Tomatoes), but the failures of the movie were attributed to bad but “harmless” writing. Alas, such is the power of ubiquity.
Hop is, of course, just one example of many ways in which Hefner has tried to reach children as a target demographic with Playboy. There have been other attempts, and there will be more. After all, this is the same man who is quoted as saying, “I don’t care if a baby holds up a Playboy bunny rattle.” Are we surprised? Are we even capable of recognizing it when we see it?
The history of Playboy, Playboy Magazine, Playboy Enterprises, Hugh Hefner, the Playmates, and their impact on our world will continue to be explored in scope throughout Pornography FAQ.