Everybody always says that I’m the girl next door, which makes me think that y’all must have a lot of weird next-door neighbours.—Kelly Clarkson
When Hugh Hefner started Playboy® magazine in 1953, part of his concept was to represent the “girl next door;” someone whose sensuality was a bit understated, who had a good-girl reputation but secretly couldn’t wait to get out of her sweater. At the same time, though, there has always been a bit of glamor, with popular starlets and celebrities frequently gracing the pages over the years. The blend worked. The celebrities might not be approachable, but perhaps, just maybe, the girl in the gatefold would be. With each issue came the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that spindly-legged girl who was your neighbor might be worth a second look or more.
Over the years, that combination allowed some of those girls next door to become celebrities in their own right. Anna Nichole Smith, Pam Anderson, Holly Madison, Barbie Benton, Carmen Electra, and Jenny McCarthy come immediately to mind, but there have been several others. As the stigma of being nude faded with the sexual revolution, more girls dreamed of being on of Hef’s girls next door. Then, in 1981, the J. Geils Band captured the hopes and fears of every young man in America:
Does she walk? Does she talk?
Does she come complete?
My homeroom homeroom angel
Always pulled me from my seat
She was pure like snowflakes
No one could ever stain
The memory of my angel
Could never cause me pain
Years go by I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine
And there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in-between
The song Centerfold jumped to the top of the charts not because of its musical qualities but because it so accurately captured how we felt about the girl next door. There was no one who, if they were totally honest, didn’t at least once think about opening the pages of Playboy and finding their high school crush on the pages, whether that objective was realistic or not. The ever-elusive girl next door was the heart and soul of Playboy, the thing that made the magazine stand out more than anything else. We loved every one of those girls and wouldn’t have minded one bit had one moved in next door.[/one_half]
So, what happens to the girl next door if Playboy drops nudes? Does the gatefold go completely away? Probably. What about the centerfold questionnaire, you know, that part where the model says she likes long walks on the beach, quiet nights in front of the fireplace, and other likely fictional things that fueled are fantasies? Those are likely gone as well. If Cory Jones’ work at maxim.com is any indication, and there’s no reason it wouldn’t be, what we’re more likely to see are overly-airbrushed swimsuit models who look about as realistic as a Picasso. The entire concept of the girl next door is likely gone.
I dropped over to playboy.com this morning, just to see what Jones has constructed there. He removed nudes from the website, making it safe for work, back in 2014 and their numbers jumped. Why? Did men actually prefer a website with no nudity? Not likely. The reality there is that without nudity on its pages the URL was allowed past corporate filters that previously blocked it. More people were accessing the pages because most people still do the majority of their online browsing from work (though, that is changing rapidly as more people use their smart phones). So, what’s at the top of playboy.com this morning? An article on Indian-spiced cocktails. Below that, an article on overcoats, then one about Transformer toys, then pieces on viral videos, boxing, and remembering loved ones. If you want to even see a female, you’re going to have to scroll. So much for the girl next door. There’s hardly even a girl on the front page at all!
I found it hilarious that, when clicking “girls” on the playboy.com menu, the piece at the top of the page is a video of Miranda Kerr jumping around. Clothed. Yawn. Want to see Miranda Kerr naked? You’ll have to pick up a fashion magazine. W magazine, August 2015, is the latest of a long line of fashion nudes Ms. Kerr has done. You can find the editorial online here. But not in Playboy.
By dropping nudes, Playboy is abandoning the girl next door, one of the most basic underpinnings of the magazine. One has to seriously ask what Playboy has left to offer that one can’t find thousands of other places both on the Internet and in print. Cocktails? Seriously? The whole fucking Bartender’s Guide is available. Fashion? Please, every title imaginable sits in front of Playboy on the shelves, and is probably cheaper. What Playboy has always had was the girl next door, naked. Without that, there’s just no reason to pick up a copy of the magazine ever again.