Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (Phase 4, R)

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Since Hef has probably outlived most of his initial audience, Berman takes on a subject that spans over 60 years. It becomes too easy for her to get a little label crazy.



The iconic silhouette of a Playboy bunny inspires t-shirts, tattoos and tongue rings. Beyond the brand, Playboy sexually impacted the United States. The man behind the bunny, Hugh Hefner, socially and politically impacted the world. In Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, Brigitte Berman strips away Hef’s silk housecoat and pipe. She provides insight on both his personal and professional roles. Since Hef has probably outlived most of his initial audience, Berman takes on a subject that spans over 60 years. It becomes too easy for her to get a little label crazy.

From Gene Simmons and Joan Baez to Reverend Jesse Jackson, famous people regard Hefner as a savior for many different reasons. Coming from a strict family, Hef grew up during an era where many subjects were hush-hush. After starting his own family and working as a circulation editor for a children’s magazine, Hef decided there was a need for a men’s publication in prudent Post-WWII America. After scrounging up $8,000 and a nude photo of Marilyn Monroe, he started to change the way people looked at women and freedom.  It wasn’t all for the sake of sex. His business ventures in television, music festivals and nightlife impacted religious, gender, race and speech rights. Some argue that he pushes limits, but at least he has society talking about tough issues. And he looks pretty suave doing it.

Berman tries to juggle Hefner’s many hats. She never strays from telling his story chronologically, which creates a pretty long bio. His life journey is thought-provoking. But between awkward animated sequences and crucifying woman’s lib and Christian right perspectives, an audience gets confused on what matters most. Berman’s picture of Hefner screams, “I am a historical figure. Now, see what I have accomplished.” Still, she outwardly struggles with wanting to shove in some interviews for the sake of faked objectivity. It just doesn’t come close to fair and balanced. She can’t hide that she is a fan. Hefner is so many different things to so many different people. A few times he is compared to a director, because of his ability to change reality and create fantasies. It is as if no one really knows who he is and Berman wastes two hours telling you a lie. Directors are good fakers.

Today, Hefner still lives a life trying to continue the Playboy image. His impacts on modern society are obvious, but beneath the limelight, who the hell is Hefner? He is, sadly, still trying to find himself. At least Berman is sure about three things: Hefner is a playboy, activist and rebel. | Alice Telios

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