Before the Bunny : Shaping the Male Consumer in Early Issues of Playboy
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Playboy Magazine is a cultural sensation specific to American history that has generated a range of criticism and admiration from people of all ages and backgrounds as a result of the publication’s nude Playmate pictorials and liberating discourse surrounding casual sexual activity. This essay explores masculine conspicuous consumption of the 1950s by analyzing features and editorials, not exclusive to the nude centerfold, that have shaped the magazine’s agenda during the first five years of its existence (1953-1959) and influenced a fresh breed of masculine consumers in the age of American leisure and a gendered consumer market. My essay focuses on the alternate Playboy masculine identity to that of the banal suburban father and husband-- an identity and lifestyle obtained via the reader’s active consumption of the magazine’s plethora of branded commodities. The stress of Playboy during its evolving years of existence was not on perversions, but instead on living “the good life,” wherein the consumption of a wide range of commodities created the ultimate modern and independent man.