Synopses & Reviews
Launched by Hugh Hefner in 1953, Playboy
promoted an image of the young, affluent, single male-the man about town ensconced in a plush bachelor pad, in constant pursuit of female companionship and a good time. Spectacularly successful, this high-gloss portrait of glamorous living and sexual adventure would eventually draw some one million readers each month.
Exploring the world created in the pages of America's most widely read and influential men's magazine, Elizabeth Fraterrigo sets Playboy's history in the context of a society in transition. Sexual mores, gender roles, family life, notions of consumption and national purpose-all were in flux as Americans adjusted to the prosperity that followed World War II. Initially, Playboy promised only "entertainment for men," but Fraterrigo reveals that its vision of abundance, pleasure, and individual freedom soon placed the magazine at the center of mainstream debates about sex and freedom, politics and pleasure in postwar America.
She shows that for Hugh Hefner, the "good life" meant the "playboy life," in which expensive goods and sexually available women were plentiful, obligations were few, and if one worked hard enough, one could enjoy abundant leisure and consumption. In support of this view, Playboy attacked early marriage, traditional gender arrangements, and sanctions against premarital sex. The magazine also promoted private consumption as a key to economic growth and national well-being, offering tips from "The Playboy Advisor" on everything from high-end stereos and cuff-links to caviar and wine.
If we want to understand post-war America, Fraterrigo shows, we must pay close attention to Playboy, its messages about pleasure and freedom, the debates it inspired, and the criticism it drew--all of which has been bound up in the popular culture and consumer society that surround us.
"Fraterrigo asks us to accept a somewhat unlikely premise, [but] one closes her book largely convinced that she is right...Her research is phenomenally thorough and her conclusions are bold." --The New Republic
"Enlightening...the author takes Hefner seriously as a transformative cultural figure, a man who not only understood the times in which he lived but fought successfully to change their direction [and] demonstrates how successful Hefner was at packaging an attitude, a mindset, a philosophy--and one that ran counter to the superficial tenets of the era...Fraterrigo's book chronicles with thoroughness and exactitude." --Chicago Tribune
"With insightful observations and extensive research, Fraterrigo deconstructs the historical and sociological context of the magazine and its creator...This fascinating, scholarly portrait of the life and times of Hefner and his magazine holds appeal for readers interested in American culture, media studies, contemporary biographies, and the 'Mad Men' era." --Library Journal
"Don't expect backstairs gossip...[Fraterrigo] devotes herself to the chicken-and-egg question of how much Playboy shaped mid-century American mores and consumer taste and how much it reflected the profound changes that convulsed the country as it emerged from nearly 30 years of Depression and war...it's entertaining." --Wall Street Journal
"A confession: I've never paged through an issue of Playboy, whether by dint of my sex or age. So it's to Elizabeth Fraterrigo's credit that she managed...to interest me for 216 pages in 'a titty magazine that has been culturally irrelevant since the late 1970s.'" --DoubleX
"With keen insight into Playboy's tensions with feminists as well as moralists, Elizabeth Fraterrigo explores how Playboy promoted a bachelor lifestyle marked by consumerism and easy sex in rebellion against post-World War II domesticity, and how that lifestyle came to embody mainstream ideas of individualism and the 'good life.' A lively and engaging book."--Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
"This insightful book demonstrates that in its heyday Playboy magazine, rather than offering its readers a grand escape from the exigencies of adult life, proffered a vision of manhood that was both problematically and quintessentially American. Fraterrigo is particularly good at showing how the playboy, who mirrored Hefner's own dissatisfactions in fascinating ways, ultimately translated a male desire to run into a framework for sexual and intellectual engagement, gendered social status, and perhaps most importantly, unbridled consumer participation."--Jennifer Scanlon, author of Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown
"In this nuanced and compelling book, Elizabeth Fraterrigo reveals the worlds Playboy created and reflected in post-World War II United States. She uses Playboy as a window to explore battles over gender, family, and individualism, as well as the reconfiguration of social spaces in America and the development of a morality connected to the pleasures of sex and consumer culture."--Daniel Horowitz, author of The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979
"A fascinating history of a male fantasy." --Journalism History
"A history that situates a cultural icon at the very center of post-war America." --H-Net Reviews
"Elizabeth Fraterrigo is the first historian to devote a book to the Playboy phenomenon, with fresh information and interpretations that add substantially to our understanding of twentieth-century mainstream masculinity."-John Ibson, Journal of American History
About the Author
is Assistant Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago.
Table of Contents
1. "We Aren't a Family Magazine": Sex, Gender, and the Family Ideal in Postwar Society
2. "Work Hard and Play Hard, Too": Modern Living and the Morality of the Playboy Life
3. Pads and Penthouses: Playboy's Urban Answer to Suburbanization
4. The Ideal (Play) Mate: Gender, the Workplace, and the Single Girl
5. "For Us It Is the Good Life": The Ascendant Playboy Life
6. "Casualties of the Lifestyle Revolution": Playboy, the Permissive Society, and Women's Liberation
Epilogue: America's Playboy Culture