I am surprised to find myself thrilled that Playboy has nipped the nip.
If you do not share the interests I have had since age 15, you may not have heard that Playboy magazine is joining the Playboy website and the Playboy Bunny icon itself in no longer revealing the female body in its entirety. There is, fortunately, nothing anyone can do to black-tape the magazines already under my mattress. But starting in March, the Playboy brand will feature mere hints of nipples, rather than the nipples themselves.
At first, I could think of only one positive outcome of this tragedy: one can theoretically now visit playboy.com on a public work computer without covering half the browser window with an Excel document. But the more blood returned to my brain, the more I understood the great societal contributions of this decision.
Yes! There are benefits to seeing less breast! I couldn’t believe it either. But Playboy’s newfound modesty is going to help reinvent the American imagination.
I know, I know; I write a lot of things that sound crackpotty until you stop reading them. But this one is blatantly true. Think about it. We everyday citizens live as though our imaginations are hobbled by hitmen. I hear it all the time. “Climate change will wreak unimaginable destruction.” “You can’t imagine a stricter gun bill passing Congress.” “Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can.”
If only we could imagine, then apparently anything would be possible!
But imaginations get no support whatsoever. We don’t even get new movies; we get Toy Story turning into The Land Before Time with (seriously, I looked it up) twelve sequels AND COUNTING.
Who suffers? The children. They get their imaginative rights stripped right away without even a plucky underdog’s chance.
Case in point. There’s this new Hello Barbie doll. Hello Barbie is like most dolls, in that she is slightly unnerving and she listens to a child’s secrets. But Hello Barbie also has a microphone. Hello Barbie takes the child’s stories—shared in confidence!—and beams them to some secret server hidden in the cloud. The server then tells Hello Barbie how to respond to the child.
First of all, the child will be traumatized when the WiFi flickers out and this bestest of best fake friends goes dead. Second of all, you just KNOW that older siblings will crash the secret cloud server by saying things to Hello Barbie that you can’t even print in Playboy anymore. Third through fifth of all, having a corporation eavesdrop on a child through a talking doll is, like, at least 1.5 times scarier than Chucky.
But most relevant to the point is that this Hello Barbie-playing child will not use any ounce of imagination to give voice and life to Hello Barbie. The infinitely self-tailored possibilities are suddenly truncated to the 8000 or so responses Hello Barbie knows. I would bet the farm—any farm, you choose!—that Hello Barbie does not know how to console a child spilling the story of her irritable bowel syndrome acting up on the playground. Game over.
That child’s imagination would do a better job giving voice to what the kid needs to hear. Hell, I just used my own imagination to invent a scenario that the folks at Mattel either didn’t consider or won’t dare touch. Imagination for the win.
And this brings us back to Playboy. Seriously. I love boobs and other such parts of the female anatomy. I want to look at high-quality photographs of them. Playboy wanted to show them. This was a win-win. But Playboy’s success extended beyond my visual pleasures. I think the magazine, through its quality articles and good old-fashioned objectification of women, helped liberate all genders of people from a bit of our own prudishness.
The proof is in the puddin’, as they say. Boobs are so acceptable now that—get ready for this one—it is no longer profitable to show them.
But do we connoisseurs get tired of boobs? No! Do we pass on an opportunity to have anything at all to do with them? Hell no! We still want them. We just… well, we want to have to work for them.
Whenever we don’t want to work for them, they are a mere “turn off SafeSearch” away. But the imagination is a powerful draw: Playboy’s website traffic has quadrupled since it slipped into something more comfortable, or just something.
I mean it. I think all of us human animals really do want to use our imaginations. And not just for nudie pictures—we want to imagine ways of protecting the environment, and improving the quality of human life, and exploring space, and pirating televised sporting events because we don’t have cable.
Through its newfound application of scant clothing, Playboy is stimulating creative faculties as much as it has always stimulated other faculties. Playmate nipples can finally be whatever we need them to be! And no one can tell you how to imagine. Not even Hello Barbie. Nips are remarkably not in her repertoire.