During the Television Critics Association preview of NBC’s new fall show “The Playboy Club,” critic Tim Goodman tweeted the following, “I could be spectacularly wrong about this, but I think The Playboy Club is DOA. They are talking about “empowering” women up there.” Say what? Specifically, executive producer Chad Hodge said, “This show is all about empowering these women to be whatever they want to be.” If you’re unfamiliar with the show or its premise, here’s an extensive preview of what the first season holds:
Okay, what we have here is an obvious attempt to cash in on the “Mad Men” oh-so-60’s vibe with Eddie Cibrian (whose name I only know because of the whole Leann Rhimes infidelidebacle) playing an embarrassing Don Draper knock-off. And, hey, who knows the show might be fun. The mob’s involved! There’s a dead body! Neat! I’m certainly not going to write the show off after only a few minutes of footage. And, hey, you’re allowed to think those ladies look cute in their uniforms. They do. And those ladies and any lady is allowed to work wherever they want doing whatever they want. But you are not allowed to called it female empowerment. No sir.
The whole thing smacks of Zack Snyder’s feeble defense of his grimy sleazefest Sucker Punch. “So hopefully by the end the girls are empowered by their sexuality and not exploited.” No, wrong, Zack. They’re exploited. YOU exploited them. For profit. That exploitation is as old as the hills so I mind it FAR less that I mind any (but especially male) director or producer insulting my intelligence with this “empowerment” garbage.
Sex IS power? Okay. Sex CAN be power. It’s a power both sexes can wield. When a man or woman owns their own sexuality, it’s a thing of beauty. But there is NOTHING powerful about being part of a sex industry (which the Playboy empire undoubtedly is), stuffing yourself into a bunny outfit and being ogled and patted by men. Sure, ok, maybe you go on to do something empowering after you’ve been a Playboy bunny. Lead actress Amber Heard said, “There are many women who went on to do things, have careers, become entrepreneurs. There are women who have talked to us about their experience. I have yet to meet an ex-bunny who is disgruntled about her experience. I have talked to many women who look back fondly and are thankful for that experience.” (Some famous ex-bunnies include Barbara Walters, Lauren Hutton, Debbie Harry, as well as federal judge, Kimba Wood, and world-renown immunologist Patty Matzinger.) Well, first of all, Amber, love, of course NBC is only going to let you meet the shiny, happy ex-bunnies. Secondly, bully for them, honest. Maybe being bunnies allowed those ladies to pull down the kind of money they needed to pursue those careers. Lovely. But the point is, they objectified and dehumanized (these are bunnies, you see, not women) themselves in order to earn a buck. We’ve all done that. Eaten sh*t from bosses or customers in order to keep our jobs. Would you call that empowering? No you would not.
The beauty of a show like “Mad Men” is it’s an objective retrospective, not some post-modern retelling of an earlier era. I’ve known several people who cannot stomach watching the AMC hit because of the way the female characters are treated. They’re right. It’s dreadful. But it’s accurate. And that’s educational to women of my generation or younger who didn’t have to fight the same way our mothers/aunts/grandmothers did. All of the women on that show, without exception, are treated like meat and lesser-than. Yes, even intrepid Girl Friday Peggy Olson. I’d call “Mad Men” intriguing, but never once has creator Matthew Weiner insulted my intelligence by calling it “female empowerment.” So, seriously, Zack Snyder and all you Playboy Clubbers. Stop using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Joanna Robinson loves boobs. Has she mentioned that?