Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Carrie Pitzulo's "Bachelors and Bunnies"

Carrie Pitzulo is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of West Georgia.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy, and reported the following:
Bachelors and Bunnies traces the development of Playboy magazine’s construction of gender and sexuality in its formative years, the 1950s-early 1970s. Ideals of masculine and feminine heterosexuality were the product of many minds – the magazine’s influential editorial director, A.C. Spectorsky, its photo editor, Vince Tajiri, and others. My narrative gives voice to many of the top Playboy editors of those days. But one cannot deny the fact that the magazine was the vision of its founder and creator, Hugh Hefner. His desires and aspirations were expressed monthly in the magazine. And contrary to decades of snickering and stereotypical assumptions, Hefner’s desires extended beyond sexy blondes. Playboy was foremost a consumer magazine, and it expressed Hefner’s aspirational tastes in music, film and the like.

Page 99 of Bachelors and Bunnies provides a good example of the way in which Hefner wielded a heavy editorial hand in Playboy. At this point in the book, we are in Chapter Three, which discusses the magazine’s use of consumerism to modernize postwar masculinity. Playboy did this through regular columns on fashion, decorating and cooking. On page 99, I’m discussing a 1968 food column entitled “Let Yourself Goo.” The piece profiled gooey foods, and its accompanying photos portrayed sexy couples at a dinner party breaking into a food fight. After publication, Hefner criticized the profile because he said it was “more suitable for Mad magazine than Playboy.” His editors, including Spectorsky and Tajiri, argued it was appropriately playful for the changing times. Hefner was not convinced. In Bachelors and Bunnies, I demonstrate that by the time this piece appeared, Playboy was having trouble keeping up with a culture that was increasingly casual and irreverent. Hefner remained committed to the aesthetic of Playboy’s earlier years, which defined ideal masculine style as refined and elegant, a la Cary Grant or James Bond. The magazine struggled to find its place in an emerging youth culture that celebrated Steve McQueen and Easy Rider. Page 99 encapsulates this particular point.
Learn more about Bachelors and Bunnies at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue