PLAYBOY HAS BEEN IMPROVING ITS CONNECTION TO NERDS
AMBER LOVE 27-AUG-2014 If you have ever come to AmberUnmasked for more than the pictures, you might be aware that when I was younger, being in PLAYBOY and similar mags was once a dream of mine. When I was 11 or 12, I had an official PLAYBOY one-piece bathing suit with a cut out of a bunny on the ass which was supposed to allow it to tan through and leave a mark.To an extent, I still have that dream but it’ll never happen with those magazines unless I undergo plastic surgery for years.
I used to love the sophistication that PLAYBOY had when other men’s magazines were focused on trashy appeal of harder core porn instead of cheesecake; it’s nice having options in what kind of porn you want and now there’s Tumblr for your hardcore quick porn needs. At some point,PLAYBOY swam like a salmon into the stream of artificial beauty standards of highly photoshopped bodies with gravity-defying breast implants that aren’t flattering or passable as natural, completely shaved pubic areas, and models that look like sex dolls with vapid expressionless faces. I’m sure that’s where the money was so they can’t be too faulted for being as commercially viable as possible. Or can they?
I don’t know how long there has been a “nerd” or “geek” culture. I can only think back to classic wholesome American TV shows like Happy Days, Leave it to Beaver, and Little House on the Prairie where bookish people were mocked and harassed. Other shows like Doogie Howser, M.D. and The Waltons, had a nerd narrative (Johnboy Walton was the grown narrator who became a successful writer looking back at his life.) that countered the trope of pushing down a nerd and stealing his lunch money.
Relatively recently, well known geek guy MARC BERNADIN joined the staff of PLAYBOY as a Deputy Editor; it seems that he may be leading the way to incorporate a nerdier approach to entertainment coverage than readers have seen before. I only follow Bernadin on Twitter and have no idea how much his influence was on creating “The Geek Issue” of PLAYBOY: PHILIPPINES edition but the timing certainly fits. If it’s not him pioneering the movement, it’s perhaps his senior editors that have recognized the potential in bringing people like him on staff full time. You’ll now see discusses about Spider-Man casting among other topical headlines in the Playboy Twitter feed.
Then I saw PAT LOIKA, famed superfan and wonderfully talented photographer and artist, post that his name was on the cover of this issue of PLAYBOY and it seems to be referencing an interview with him, “20Q: Pat Loika.” This is more fabulous news. From what I’ve seen of Loika’s photography and knowing how mutual friends admire him, I don’t think he’d misjudge the delicate balance of “sexy” vs. “gratuitous” when it comes to the female form.
Not to mention that PLAYBOY stormed through my feed this week because of their satirical infographic about when it’s appropriate to catcall women, adding to PLAYBOY’S new credibility of being female-friendly. Women LOVED this! This was getting shared all over Twitter and Facebook. The original tweet was RT’d over 300 times.
PLAYBOY even makes subtle nerd references like this one from the #Emmys 2014 coverage (I’ll even overlook the misspelling of Wonder Woman’s home island Themyscira but I can’t expect a boy to know how to spell that, can I? /endsnark):
Here’s the “but…”
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS COVER
BUT…. the cover of PLAYBOY’S PHILIPPINES GEEK ISSUE immediately had a glaring flaw. It’s only my opinion but I feel I should be safe in discussing what’s wrong with it.
From a design standpoint, the cover is beautiful with a crisp and clean graphic layout. The callback to REVENGE OF THE NERDS is as cliché and overused as “the geek shall inherit the earth” headlines. Unoriginal and boring. Another good point besides the layout is that the model is not blonde for a change; it’s not only the hair color of course, but they are finally taking risks on what would be considered “exotic” outside California or the cornfed Midwest of the US and having model diversity is long overdue. This Philippines’ edition model has a look besides “California blonde” – they also recently featured their first model from India’s Bollywood scene, Sherlyn Chopra, from photos shot two years ago. For the most part though, PLAYBOY’S ideal will still be a California girl in the American industry. Sadly, their “California Dreamin'” issue will be shot by Terry Richardson, the appalling photographer known for sexually harassing models and coercing women into having sex with him in order get a break. It would behoove them to cut ties with Richardson.
Back to the geek edition’s cover – the model’s plastic faux “nerdy” glasses is exactly what people are talking about when they argue that some women are “fake geeks” and only capitalizing on the uprise of the comics/gaming subculture. Every costume for dress up or Halloween that is supposed to represent a nerd includes fake eyeglasses. It’s hyperbolic and old. It needs to go. Now.
If what we are trying to do as geeks is gain validation and credibility that we’re, in fact, just like everyone else, then why perpetuate the initial fallacy that nerds are farsighted with “birth control glasses?” These are glasses that are intentionally not fashionable in order to evoke the continued ridicule that geeks can’t possibly a.) have good sight or b.) have good fashion sense. Do some geeks wear glasses? Yes, of course. Do some jocks or actors or mechanics or fierce soliders? Duh!
There are plenty of geek women that blog endlessly about fashions they love. If you follow them you’ll find some popular shopping outlets like HerUniverse, Superhero Stuff, and ThinkGeek. There are geek fashion blogs that feature how women incorporate their favorite fandoms into their wardrobes without needing to don a costume. These have tips like making dresses, shoes or aprons from popular licensed fabrics of DC and Marvel characters (all over etsy). And there are people who make items from custom fabric, like when I collaborated with artist Bill Ellis to make fabric featuring his version of Delirium of the Endless.
This PLAYBOY cover model, as pretty as she is, happens to be the image of what propels people into the discussions of #fakegeekgirl. I have searched through Google – even reversed it and image searched – and I can’t find the name of this model. I tweeted directly to the @Playboy account asking; and if they respond, I’ll update this with her name. The reason knowing WHO the model is comes into play is in defense of the alleged fake geeks. People will scream, “Maybe she loves Lord of the Rings! You don’t know!”
Seeing the model as only an object is troublesome but it is her job; I feel compelled to argue again (and again) from a modeling standpoint. She’s put into a role just like an actor. She is put into a costume – in this case, black panties that are modest, traditional bunny ears, and fake glasses. She has a tattoo showing which looks like a heartbeat line, not something particularly nerdy like a cartoon figure which would require trademark or copyright release from the tattoo artist and the IP owner. Unless there is an interview inside the magazine where the model expresses her love of video games or comics, we really have no idea if she’s “fake” or “genuine” by geek standards. Maybe, like the stripper some artists got me for my birthday, this model cosplays at San Diego Comic Con. Who knows? I don’t. But the fake glasses and generic presentation of her contributes to the argument that individuals and companies use imagery of fake geek girls to capitalize on solely for popularity and sales.
I don’t fault anyone for that. It’s just business. Actors are not necessarily superheros, international spies or hobbits, for fuck’s sake. They are hired to portray something. That’s all this model was doing. She was hired and “costumed” to appeal to nerds. So, nerds of my herd, is this imagery, in fact, appealing to you?
HOW PLAYBOY COULD HAVE IMPROVED THIS
PLAYBOY has featured one of the most hated “fake” geek girls, Olivia Munn. She didn’t even get naked from what I was told. She was popular and made a career of not reading comics (or seemingly any book ever except her memoir) on G4TV’s “Attack of the Show” program. I used to watch AOTS every night and was thoroughly unimpressed by her. She was the worst host on a show about geek culture and was shadowed by the likes of Alison Haislip, Morgan Webb and Blair Butler. Munn’s only appealing quality to me was that she would embrace all the humiliation they threw at her, like jumping into a pool of pudding dressed as a French maid. Her goal was always to be an actor and she left the show to pursue that. It paid off. She had a few seconds in one of the IRON MAN movies and went on to star in THE NEWSROOM. She’s probably much more satisfied with her career now, so good for her. It’s got to be better seeing her in an element of her choosing instead of how pained she looked when G4 dressed her as Slave Leia. The footage from that San Diego visit was cringeworthy. I hope her success somewhere outside of nerdom is bringing her happiness.
PLAYBOY could have taken an alt model and bonafide geek and put her on the cover. There are certain plenty to choose from. Consider that “Game of Thrones” hires real porn stars for their extras. Real women from a thriving nerdy fandom could have made this cover so much better. There are tons of fans that creatively portray their fandoms in sexy ways like I do, when it’s appropriate on their own sites or CosplayDeviants, D20 Girls, Suicide Girls, MyGeekGoddess, etc.
Lose the fake glasses. Whatever model they hire should more accurately reflect geek culture with a different “costume.” She could have been holding a book up to hide her breasts appropriately for the cover. She could have had some non-trademarked costume accessories like a headpiece/tiara or cape and gloves. They basically phoned this in and failed.
DARN THOSE FAKE GEEK GUYS
UPDATE: 2015, Playboy announced No More Nudes