Have you heard about this new NBC show, The Playboy Club? The title kind of speaks for itself, but for those of you who will be watching without the mute button on, NBC describes the show as such:
“Step inside the seductive world of the Bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, and rub shoulders with the decade’s biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers (like Tina Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr.). With all these larger than life ambitions, there are even greater secrets. Like when innocent new Bunny Maureen – who wants to take the world by storm – accidentally kills one of the Windy City’s most powerful mafia bosses… and the only person capable of covering it up and protecting her is Nick Dalton, a man who once worked for the mob but is about to run for district attorney. Bunny Alice is married but hiding an explosive personal life while Bunny Janie is running from a past that threatens to catch up with her. It seems everyone has a secret – none more so than Maureen, who may not even be the innocent orphan she appears to be. Thank goodness Hef’s Playboy Mansion is open after hours for a little R&R… and burying your past.”
In other words, I think it’s a soap opera? For the evening crowd? With some major throwbacks to the 50s/60s idea of gender inequality?
“Can you believe we’re real-life bunnies?! EAT IT HILARY CLINTON!”
Certainly NBC expected SOME sort of protest here. (In fact, Utah’s NBC affiliate has already pulled the plug on the show.) But perhaps what they couldn’t anticipate is a call for a boycott of the show from Ms. Gloria Steinem herself.
So put THAT in your pipe and smoke it.
Steinem, famous for her role in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 70s, actually worked undercover as at the original New York Playboy Club back in 1963. Employed as one of the original Playboy Bunnies, she gathered insider details working on an article for a magazine called Show. Horrified by the treatment of women in that club, you can imagine that Steinem wasn’t too enthusiastic about this new television series. Describing the original club as “the tackiest place on earth,” Steinem isn’t pleased with the glamorization taking place on the NBC show. Back in the 1960s, this was a place where the women were regularly tested for venereal disease, despite the fact that it was “strict” policy that the bunnies never be touched by the male patrons. Turning then to this new NBC series, Steinem explains:
“Clearly The Playboy Club is not going to be accurate. It was the tackiest place on earth. It was not glamorous at all…I expect that The Playboy Club will be a net minus and I hope people boycott it. It’s just not telling the truth about the era…It normalizes a passive dominant idea of gender. So it normalizes prostitution and male dominance.”
And perhaps the most puzzling piece of this entire debacle is the stance that NBC is taking. Because, according to them, this show is all about empowerment.
The pilot for the show, according to one NPR reporter, is more “cheesy than offensive,” but there is one scene where a particular bunny asks if she can wear a coat, since it’s cold outside and she’s working the door of the club. Her request is denied repeatedly. Pairing this with the final line of the episode, voiced-over by Hefner himself (“Bunnies were some of the only women in the world who could be anything they wanted”), it’s rather difficult to see the logic here. Says Chad Hodge, the executive producer of the series:
“Really, the show is all about empowering, and who these women can be, and how they can use their position to get what they want.”
Use “their position”? Like, in-the-bedroom-doin’-the-sexuals kind of position?
“This is my favorite work of art…would you like to see my Douche Canoe?”
I mean, even if I hang up my snark for a moment and try to give these bastards the benefit of the doubt, I still have a hard time seeing how the benefits of a show like this (entertainment?) could outweigh the negative implications. First, it’s not particularly historically accurate, right? So we’re not learning much about our progress as a culture. Second, we could argue the financial-freedom angle, but we’re reminded in the show that, while these women have money, they’re certainly not free to act or do as they please. So what’s left? The sexual independence argument? Again, these women are not owning it when they’re members of a club that restricts their behavior and freedom of thought.
Then again, maybe it won’t be as bad as it looks. Maybe NBC is just trying to capitalize on the success of Mad Men like everyone is saying. Maybe it WILL just be a silly version of a soap opera, just with more tail. (Heh.) As a parent, however, I’m thinking that it can’t simply be brushed aside as HARMLESS. I guess we’ll have to see. The series, which airs on NBC, premiers September 19th at 10/9 central.