Another sign that “The End” is nigh?

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Recently I wrote about past (and current) efforts to predict the coming of “The End.”
This brought a response from my buddy Wayne, who among other things is an ordained Baptist minister. Wayne reminded me of what Mark Twain said on the subject.
“I don’t worry about predictions of the end of the world” Wayne wrote that Twain wrote. “In my experience, less than half of them come true.”
What a relief.
Then there came to me a sign that could mean that “The End” is indeed nigh.
This year, 2015, will be the last year that Playboy will include pictures of nude women in its magazine.
The reaction was immediate.
“I was very sad to hear Playboy magazine will no longer show nudity,” one blogger wrote. It was a feeling that came over him when someone explained what a “magazine” was.
You want to see nudity these days?  Go to the internet.
What you find there makes Playboy tame in comparison – so I am told.
And it’s free.
Looking back, Playboy introduced men of my generation to the wonders of the female form. It also left us with misconceptions. Some of my contemporaries grew into manhood believing that women had a staple in their navels, just like the Centerfold Playmate of the Month.
The soda fountain in my little town had a magazine rack, but the owner kept Playboy behind the counter, out of sight but within the purchasing of those he felt old enough to appreciate the literary quality therein.
“I don’t look at the pictures,” some said. “I buy it for the articles.”
Yeah, right.
I had a boyhood friend who hid copies of Playboy under his mattress.  One day he came home from school to find the bedding sunning in the yard.
“I think you’ll sleep better now,” was all his mother said.
It was a setback for many.
The magazines were purchased collectively and destined to be passed around for weeks.
Of course, the impact of Playboy and the influence of its founder, Hugh Hefner, went far beyond the posed, airbrushed, and provocatively  photographed women that boys such as I could never hope to see, much less meet.   In the ‘60s Hefner’s “Playboy Philosophy” helped fire the “sexual revolution” and his libertarian social leanings were embraced by many.
At the same time playboy published leading authors as well as rising literary stars, and the “Playboy Interview” attracted people you would never expect to be interviewed in a “girly”  magazine – John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr, and Jimmy Carter who admitted that he “lusted in his heart” for women other than his wife.
At the height of its popularity, Playboy was more than fuel for teenage boy fantasies.  It became the how-to guide for the self-absorbed adult male who dreamed of  “mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, and sex” just like Hefner said he did.
But that was then.
This is now.
So it came to pass that Cory Jones, Playboy’s top editor, went to the boss with an idea for redesigning the magazine and dropping nudity.
Hefner agreed.  With real porn available at the click of a button (even in Alabama), Playboy no longer has the shock value and the cultural relevance it once had.
But don’t shed a tear for Hefner.
Though his magazine has been losing around $3 million a year, the folks handling the business end of the organization consider this a marketing expense. To them Playboy is just one part of a company that “makes most of its money from licensing its ubiquitous brand and logo across the world.”
Which brings us to the overwhelming question, without nudity, what’s left?
We are told that the new Playboy will have more in depth interviews, more fiction.
There will still be beautiful girls, but the pictures will be PG-13 and “less produced.”
Supposedly it will address criticisms that the magazine “objectified” women by bringing on a “sex positive female” columnist.  She will write “enthusiastically about sex” for a new target audience — “young men who live in cities” and “have a job.”
Young men, I suspect, who don’t read Nietzsche or listen to jazz or even know what a phonograph is.
For them there will also be “more coverage of alcohol” of the sort, I suppose, that “young men who live in cities” and “have jobs” drink.
Is this a sign that “The End” is nigh?
Probably not.
But still, as Cory Jones, who proposed the plan put it, “12 year old me is very disappointed in current me.”
It is “The End” of something.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hjackson@cableone.net.

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