Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Naked Women, Ooohh: Playboy's "Women Of Starbucks" Issue Is Nothing So Exciting.

The Good: The articles are well-written (if incongruent), Nice, glossy pages, Generally decent photography
The Bad: Completely unimaginative, Short story was dull, Models are unimpressive, SARS story just freaks me out!
The Basics: In its quest to be respectable, Playboy thoroughly underwhelms with its “Women Of Starbucks” issue.

In the age of internet erotica, it is hard to see the relevance of magazines like Playboy. As I’ve frequently said (and heard others say ), “Life is too short for softcore.” If you want to spend your time in auto-erotic situations, there are so many outlets that Playboy is such a pedestrian option that it is almost more worth buying for the articles than actually for the pictures of naked women. I mention this at the outset of my review of the Playboy “Women Of Starbucks” issue because in its attempt to be classy, Playboy here mortgages any enduring worth in the titillation department.

It is important to note that “Women Of Starbucks” is not an ongoing theme for Playboy. Instead, it is the September 2003 (Volume 50, Issue #9) issue of the magazine. Due to the success of the sales of the magazine – which caused some controversy at the time, as Starbucks was not keen on being the subject of a Playboy spread and they denied the rights for any of their logos to appear within the pages – there was a DVD version of “Women Of Starbucks” available. Outside the “Women Of Starbucks” spread, which was derivative of women from other big companies baring all, this is just a typical issue of Playboy.

The reader (or viewer?) is greeted by Signe Nordli, a Starbucks employee, on the cover. Huge surprise: she’s blonde! We are meant to understand that she is a Starbucks employee from the green apron she is wearing. Inside, this issue of Playboy is typically packed with both glossy pages and advertisements geared to make manly men feel like they have to buy stuff like aftershave when they are done reading the magazine. Playboy – including the “Women Of Starbucks” issue – is almost two hundred pages, only a few are actually of women naked or in various states of undress.

On that subject, the Playboy "Women Of Starbucks” issue is particularly boring. Yes, it’s dull. The photography shows no real imagination and much of it is so airbrushed and softlit that there’s no real perception of any reality or uniqueness to the models. The models look like exactly like what one would expect from women posing in Playboy. In the “Women Of Starbucks” issue most of the twelve women pictured are blonde, with long hair and breasts that are disproportionately perky to their size. With their white eyes and clean smiles, it’s pretty clear that they are not wired up on Starbucks coffee the way the magazine would have the readers believe. So, they are pictures of naked women and they are hardly as scandalous as anything one might find on-line. In fact, they are pretty passé and none of them are particularly titillating. Instead, they are photographically bland and because the subjects fit such a narrow concept of human beauty they are actually surprisingly boring.

As for the rest of the magazine – yes, this issue has something more than pictures of naked baristas – the magazine has a serious problem with its focus. One of the primary feature articles is on a SARS outbreak in Hong Kong and how the spread of the contagion was being dealt with. I’m sorry, I know Playboy is trying for respectability and relevance, but pairing masturbatory fantasies with disease protocol is just a disturbing non-sequitor. Sure, the magazine is through and informative, but who wants to read about disease containment when they go looking for naked women?!

Fitting in with the whole manly men theme, Playboy’s “Women Of Starbucks” issue follows with an NFL preview article and an interview with an NFL coach which I cared not a wit about. There was also a particularly masculine article about speed and vehicles that make one feel the rush of speed. Arguably the most interesting article was actually about strange locations one might find a date – like a guy trying to get dates at a bar geared toward lesbians. Also good was an article on faith-based vacation spots and if I hadn’t known about such placed before, it would have been informative and surprisingly relevant to how I like to know where my money goes. Nicholas Cage is the subject of the “20 Questions” mini-interview which is otherwise pretty bland. While Playboy frequently republishes its stories in anthologies, it is hard to believe they would republish their sports-oriented story from this issue (“Tuba City”) as it was not one of their more engaging ones, at least to this reader.

Ultimately, the “Women Of Starbucks” issue is just an average issue of a magazine in decline. Playboy wants to be respectable and more edgy than Maxim still dares to be, but they promote a pretty narrow concept of feminine beauty and one has to imagine there are more beautiful women working at Starbucks than just the few Playboy chose for this issue.

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
Cuisine At Home
Hemming’s Classic Car
Entertainment Weekly


For other magazine reviews, please visit my index page for a guide!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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