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?
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