Early in the 1990s, Hefner and others are interviewed on camera about Hefner's childhood and youth, the beginnings of Playboy and its later empire, what those enterprises meant to society, ... See full summary »
Early in the 1990s, Hefner and others are interviewed on camera about Hefner's childhood and youth, the beginnings of Playboy and its later empire, what those enterprises meant to society, troubles with pundits, censors, and the government, and two crises within Hefner's world, the arrest and prosecution of a close associate and the murder of a model. Susan Brownmiller provides the basic critique of Hefner's businesses (women are objects); Hefner says he wanted to break repression, question traditional values, and present the healthy, wholesome, and real eroticism of the girl next door. By 1992, Hefner is extolling the virtues of marriage, children, and family life. Written by
This documentary does a decent job in 90 minutes of outlining the birth and history of Playboy, as seen through the eyes of Hugh Hefner, through the end of the '80s. To its credit, the makers avoid hagiography in giving plenty of attention to Playboy's critics and their arguments. Hef acquits himself well in his responses to their criticism. One comes away thinking that he was a great man, at least in the '50s and '60s, fighting for freedom of expression and against the forces of intolerance and puritanism. When mainstream semi-acceptance came in the '70s, so also came the most serious problems, which are given their due here.
The nudity displayed here is pretty tame, and there isn't much. And aside from one "f-word", there is no objectionable language. It's testament to the still-strong streak of puritanism in our culture that this movie is rated "R". It really should be "PG-13".
If you care about postwar cultural history in the U.S., this documentary is definitely worth a look. Playboy's influence has been of major historic significance, and our culture is still dealing with its impact.
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