Hugh Hefner’s life is getting a mini-series treatment and his son Cooper, who is at the helm of the Playboy now, says the magazine that his father founded in 1953 has not lost its relevance as sex is still a taboo topic in society.
In 2015, Playboy had decided to do away with nude pictures of women, a decision that Cooper opposed as he felt it was against the core philosophy of the magazine.
He became the Chief Creative Office about six months ago, a post that his father held for 63-years, and decided to bring the nudes back.
“The magazine is the flagship of the brand because it started the company but of course, media has changed and it is not going to be a big money maker for us. But it is remarkably relevant because what we do in the magazine generates press around the world.
“We went back to nudity in the US edition and I read about it in China, India and Brazil and Mexico. How can one argue that the magazine is not relevant when there are millions of press impressions that are generated because of the decisions we make in the magazine?” Cooper told PTI in an interview over phone from Los Angeles.
He is now looking forward to bring his father’s story on the screen with a 10-part mini-series, aptly titled “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story”.
He says the series, which will premiere on Amazon Prime Video tomorrow and sees Matt Wheelan as young Hefner, is a definitive re-look at his father’s journey and the challenges he faced while building the media empire.
“I have utmost amount of respect for my father. What he did was revolutionary. People did not talk about something that is responsible for all of our existence, which is sex. People found that to be something that was dirty when my father’s point of view was that it should be celebrated,” Cooper says.
The documentary is produced by Stephen David and shows some major behind-the-scenes moments from Hefner’s life as the media mogul, who will turn 91 on Sunday, was closely involved in the process.
“My father was intimately involved in allowing the production company to have access to his archives which have hundreds of hours of footage and his scrapbook which has tonnes of photos and documents from the beginning of the company until now. Some of them are never been seen before,” he says.
Playboy made a sensational debut in 1953 with the centerfold photo of a nude Marilyn Monroe that Hefner had bought from a photographer behind her 1949 calendar shoot.
Cooper, 25, says they have an interesting story about how that classic cover came to be a reality.
“You will see the story of how he acquired the photo of Marilyn Monroe and how she ended up becoming the first cover girl when the magazine launched.”
His father’s role in normalizing discussion on sex notwithstanding, Cooper says the topic continues to be a “closed door subject” even today.
“I don’t think that sex has been normalised. The fact that it is available on the internet and behind the closed doors does not mean that we have adopted a comfortability in society on the topic. What I constantly find is that women still face trouble when it comes to owning their sexuality.”
Playboy has often been at the receiving end for its objectification of women but Cooper disagrees with that mindset and says for him, the “ultimate feminism” is the freedom of choice.
“For me, the ultimate feminism is the freedom of choice and allowing the individuals to live the life the way they want to live. Women are often told to act a certain way. The idea of a woman owning her sexuality is preposterous to some people.
“We don’t endorse that. We are unapologetic about saying that we are a men’s brand. And don’t we all choose to objectify ourselves every single day. I find it fascinating that objectification is a bad word.”
Asked why the magazine decided to do away with the nudes, only to reverse the decision in few months, Cooper says they opted to bring the nudes back as it is in line with what Playboy stands for.
“The first decision was made by a previous team… I felt that was not the right decision. I felt it was a contradiction to the whole philosophy of the brand… People made the point that sexual revolution had been won and I made the point that it was not.” PTI BK JCH