The pressure to stay relevant has driven Playboy executives crazy

Every kid growing up several decades ago knew that fathers hid Playboy magazines in their sock drawers. Back then, the relatively demure cover model posed under the emblazoned name “PLAYBOY.” And right above the word “PLAY,” in much smaller letters, it said “entertainment for men.” Men said they read the magazine for the articles but everyone knew that men like to look at pictures of naked women. And that’s why Playboy’s latest digital edition (there is no print Playboy anymore) chose such a bizarre cover model: It’s a very gay man strutting the iconic bunny costume. What Playboy demographic wants this?

Bretman Rock, the openly gay man and “influencer” sensation who appears on the cover, is quite excited about his moment of Playboy fame:

Playboy is excited too:

As is the mainstream media (excited, I mean). At People, a woman named Tristan Balagtas (if I can presume her gender) looked at this weird boy-man clutching his crotch while wearing platform shoes, tights, and the iconic bunny ears, and actually wrote the following:

The cover model struck fierce poses in head-to-toe iconic Playboy bunny garb, including a racy black bunny suit, bowtie and matching bunny ears.

Fierce? In what universe? The world of bitch slapping?

The gay community, of course, is excited too:

Anthony Allen Ramos, LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD’s head of talent, praised Playboy’s inclusion of Rock on its cover, calling it a “powerful step forward in the ongoing movement towards greater diversity and inclusion in fashion and modeling.”

But Playboy isn’t “fashion and modeling.” It’s about heterosexual sex or, at least, that’s what Hugh Hefner envisioned back in 1953 when he printed his first edition with a lush Norma Jean (aka Marilyn Monroe) as its centerfold. Playboy was the “gentleman’s club” for America’s rising middle-class man, a hard worker who wanted to gain sophistication even as he still got to look at the girly pictures that once graced the back of the automotive shop or the side of his bomber during WWII.

Can you imagine one of those men enjoying Bretman Rock, who shot to influencer fame as a 16-year-old with this video?

As for gay men, if they want to look at other men, there’s a little thing called the internet.

Ah, the internet. And therein lies Playboy’s real problem: In a world of non-stop porn of every type, how in the world does a girly-picture magazine survive?

The only way is to garner headlines in regular media outlets in the hope that people will wander over to the Playboy website to see what the excitement is all about. And maybe they’ll find an article that will make them want to stick around...but I kind of doubt that. I’ve yet to hear that Playboy has recently scored the kind of cachet interview that once allowed “intellectual” men to justify their magazine voyeurism. Instead, all the excitement it can garner comes from gay and so-called transgender women on its digital covers.

As for Bretman Rock himself, well, he’s a kid who parlayed crude humor and make-up skills into huge fame and (probably) a great deal of money. Good for him. The question remains whether he can maintain the status. As I commented to a friend the other day, poor Gabby Petito’s end is a reminder that influencers so often die young (e.g., murder, suicide, escaping the cops while smuggling illegal aliens, or falling off cliffs while trying to get that perfect picture).

As for Playboy, I don’t see much hope for the one-time “gentleman’s magazine” if gay cover “girls” are what it stoops to in a desperate bid for attention.

Image: Playboy tweet announcing its latest cover. Twitter screengrab.

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