Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

Many of us are familiar with Hugh Hefner and Playboy alike but our perceptions are most likely skewed. In the spirited 2-hour documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (2009) directed by Academy Award Winner Brigitte Berman we learn about a Hugh Hefner we can admire. Hefner is not only a man who introduced sex into magazines he is also a man with great respect to human rights. Who would have known, right?
Brief Overview

Playboy has been a controversial topic since the first issue was published in 1953. Feminists and religious activists have always found the taste of the magazine to be disgusting and morally wrong. To be honest, I do think that Hefner did originally use women to have that competitive edge but I also believe that it was just as risky for him to display such content in the early fifties. After watching the documentary I understand how Hefner believes that the magazine liberates women. The images suggest that women are sexy and that it’s healthy for women to have a sexual appetite. Plus he also fought for women to have the choice to use contraceptives in the fifties. I also don’t think we can be mad at Hefner for women going nude. It’s ultimately their choice in the end. Nevertheless, Playboy had and to this day has an audience.

In addition to beautiful women demonstrating the ‘girl next door’ look the magazine also includes amazing articles and stories that were revolutionary. Hefner would often have writers submit controversial stories like Charles Beaumont’s “The Crooked Man,” a story where homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuality was the perversion. This was a story Esquire turned down but Hefner embraced. Remember it was the fifties. It received mixed reviews but Hefner dismissed any negative opinions because in his mind he saw no wrong educating the importance of equality. He also discussed various political issues in the magazine and had conducted interviews with rather inspiring and risky individuals. The combination of nudity and risqué articles created so much controversy but it never affected Hefner because he believes that "controversy is the only way to change things."

In addition to the magazine Hefner hosted a variety show called Playboy’s Penthouse. It contained various acts many of which who were controversial by race or religion. This also was the case for the Playboy Clubs. He made sure that all races were welcomed into his clubs even if he had to personally pay for that to happen, which he did. He franchised a club in New Orleans and by law they couldn’t allow blacks in a facility that sorted with whites. So Hefner bought back his license to ensure that blacks could also enter the club. He later in life was given the Special Award by the NAACP.

Some other efforts made by Hefner included the Post Office. In the fifties anything containing any nudity couldn’t go through the Post Office so Playboy was obviously rejected through mail. Hefner changed that by making efforts to fight the issue by going to Washington, later the issue was resolved. As you can see we clearly still don’t have a problem distributing nudity through the Post Office or anything for that matter. Hefner also rebelled against The House of Un-American Activities Committee several times. He couldn’t comprehend how these men were defining how people should be. Anyone who was a free thinker fell under extreme scrutiny by this committee. He also fought for the legalization of marijuana.

In 1975 he moved to LA and began life in the Playboy Mansion we all know today. A place he created for people to enjoy and feel free from oppression.

Overall, Hefner made a lot of money from the magazine and used it to help others felt by injustice that subsequently made a statement supporting millions.  He has also supported the film industry by helping the preservation of film. I mean even George Lucas is fond of this generous man.

He is truly a man of substance more than I ever gave him credit for.

“I want to live in a society which people can voice unpopular opinions because I know in a result of that a society grows and matures.” –Hugh Hefner

I rate this documentary a 7.5/10!

☆you can Instantly watch on Netflix

Watch the Trailer

Here is a sample picture from Lindsay Lohan's editorial in Playboy.
I gotta admit she looks good.


Nebular said...

Never heard of this documentary if I have to be honest, but it seems very interesting. I may give it a shot.
Great write-up, Nicole!

Bonnie said...

I would definitely watch this documentary if I had the chance. Hugh Hefner is an interesting person.

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Paula said...

Hi dear, thanks for stopping by my blog and for your lovely comment! That´s such a controversial character, gotta love him or hate him! Never heard of the documentary though. I´m following you now btw, do follow me if you like my blog too :)



S said...

This documentary seems very interesting!
He's pretty cool person, i'd like to know more about his life!

Maynard Morrissey said...

Hey, absolutely terrific review!
Never heard of that documentary before, but your review makes me wanna check it out.

Hefner is a weird but highly interesting person. I once read an article about his fight against Post Office which made me finally think 'Hey, this guy is not as silly as I always thought' :)

Tereza {Drastic Plastic} said...

The hero of an generation.

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Ivana said...

Wow, so many new and interesting information! I ignored almost everything about his life! Thanks so much for sharing this!
I´ve just discovered your lovely blog and I love it! I´m happy to be your new follower :)

xx Ivana

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Vivid Virginia said...

Great post! That's such a interesting information. Thanks for sharing :)

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Annabel said...

wow i had no idea about this! definitely gonna check it out :)


Jennifer Fabulous said...

Well, this is definitely going on my netflix! I got interested in Hugh after reading "The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower" (which was about a Playboy Bunny who did the body double for Janet Leigh in Pyscho). It had tidbits of fascinating info about Hugh, which it seems is magnified in this documentary. It's fascinating how he was such an outspoken human rights activist and yet nobody knows this! I mean, I was shocked when I read it in the book earlier this year.

Also, ten years ago I purchased a book at a garage sale which is a collection of most of the short stories from Playboy (circa 50s-70s). They were REALLY GOOD. Again, I was totally amazed to know there is (was?) more to Playboy than what meets the eye.

Oh, and I hate to admit Lilo looks good in that photo. I bet the spread is going to be gorgeous. Especially since they seemed to be aiming for the Marilyn vibe.

Matthew Vanacore said...

Hugh Hefner: The Man every man wants to be, The Myth every conservative wishes were actual myth, and The Legend, every living legend wished they could imitate.

Fascinating stuff here. I'll certainly be on the look out for this documentary.

Allison said...

I think I'd like Hugh Hefner more of Playboy had continued to progress. He was both progressive and misogynistic, but that was expected at the time. Now, Playboy is no longer revolutionary.


Minna said...

Hugh Hefner is disgusting. :D Lindsay is beautiful but I don't find this pic the best one to show her beauty. :)

Interesting post! :)

Nicole✗✗ said...

@ Nebular
Thanks Nebular!! It was very interesting! I hadn’t realized the efforts Hefner had made in the past. You definitely see him in a more positive light.

@ Bonnie
Oh I’m glad! It was a very interesting and surprising documentary.

@ Paula
You’re most definitely right, Hefner is a love him or hate him type of guy. Watching this documentary makes you kind of love him despite his lifestyle.

@ S
Yeah, please give it a shot! I think you’ll like it. : )

@ Maynard Morrissey
Thank you so much Maynard!! I hope you check it out. It was pretty cool to learn that he fought the Post Office and won. He took a lot of risks in the past, which are admirable.

@ Tereza
He’s definitely intriguing : )

@ Ivana
I feel the same. I think I have always perceived him by his magazine. It was nice to learn that he has more substance to him than that. Thanks for the follow I really appreciate it! I will be by your blog soon!!

@ Vivid Virginia
Thank You!!

@ Annabel
Thanks!! I hope you enjoy it!

@ Jennifer Fabulous
Oh definitely! It was a huge shock to learn that he was such a humanitarian. The issues he spoke out about were seriously risky in those days. I truly appreciate his efforts towards unpopular issues.

That’s pretty interesting to learn about the body double for Janet Leigh!

Nice find at the garage sale!! I would love to read those stories!! I too wonder if today the articles are as groundbreaking since the documentary spoke primarily of the past. However, if the articles are still great I just might subscribe, haha.

Yeah, Lindsey looks pretty good and captures Marilyn nicely. Playboy rarely disappoints, especially since computers are involved, haha.

@ Matthew Vanacore
Haha, nicely put Matt and sooo completely true! I hope you enjoy the documentary!!

@ Allison
Yeah I can agree with that. I’m not certain of any progression with Playboy since at least the 70’s based on the documentary. However, I am very surprised and appreciative of the efforts he has made. I’m just baffled to how I didn’t know sooner.
: )

@ Minna
Oh I know, there are several pictures of Lindsey that are much more appropriate but this was the best Lindsey picture from the Playboy editorial that I could find without any actual exposure. I’m sorry. : )

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i'm always on the fence wit hugh. love em or hate em, right? but i like that he is honest about who he is and he does have a caring heart. in the end, i do like and respect him.

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Sunny & Star said...

I have never heard of this documentary but the information you have shared in your review is definitely interesting and it does sound like he has done some pretty amazing things.

Coffee Cream and the Caffeine said...

Interesting and yes Lindsay lohan look fabulous here !


Simon black said...

First time hearing about this, looks interesting. Thanks for sharing.

J-SON said...

Never heard of this, but I should be finding myself hunting for it now after reading your article.

Thanks for the share! :)

Movies on my Mind said...

Lindsay Lohan looks like marriage material in that picture.

sporktar said...

Very interesting post. I've never heard if it, but i'm a sucker for documentaries, so i'll definitely have to check this one out sometime. I've always heard the bad side of him, but I didn't know he was so progressive, and not dick-y. Some of it could have been for publicity's sake, just to get positive press, but he could also be a genuinely good guy too.

Melissa Bradley said...

I'm so sorry to be so late in commenting. Hef really did do a lot for women even if his methods irritate the crap out of me. Very thoughtful and honest review. This ardent feminist just may have to take a gander. :)

Nicole✗✗ said...

@ Oomph
Yeah he is a love em or hate em guy but I think he generally has a decent amount of loves, haha. I definitely have come to love him after watching this documentary.

@ Sunny & Star
Thank you so much!! I hope you get the chance to watch it.

@ Coffee Cream and the Caffeine
Thanks and she definitely does!

@ Simon Black
I hope you will get to check it out. I think it’s definitely worth it! Thanks for stopping by!!

Oh that is great!! I’m pretty certain you won’t be disappointed it’s rather intriguing. Thanks for stopping by!!

@ Movies on my Mind
Haha, oh yeah

@ sporktar
Yeah, definitely check it out!! I think you will enjoy it. It really allows you to learn a side of him most of us don’t know. He brought us a little more than just nudity, haha.

@ Melissa
Oh you’re fine, better late than never right, haha! I appreciate you still stopping by. Yeah I wish he had a better approach but I’m thrilled with his efforts made despite it. I’m still shocked he did those things and people don’t really talk about it. I hope you enjoy the documentary. It’s kind of an eye opener in some areas.

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