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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Let Hugh Hefner rest in peril

Hugh Hefner is pictured.

Chilly air, leaves falling, an ominous wind. Fall season is upon us again and one of the spookiest days of the year is imminent: Halloween. Don’t let the ghosts distract you from the real fear of Halloween: ugly costumes. 

There are the classic Halloween costumes that are expected to be seen every year, such as cats, witches, vampires, etc. However, within the past few years, a Halloween Instagram scroll would not be complete without a red bathrobe and pajamas, the typical Hugh Hefner Playboy costume. Since Hefner’s death in 2017, the Hefner Playboy costume still comes back strong each year, cementing itself into the cultural zeitgeist as a go-to costume for college-aged men. 

Hugh Hefner, in his lifetime, built his fortune off of the exploitation of women. Whether it was coercing women for sex, publishing nude pictures of underage girls or generally contributing to the objectification of women, Hugh Hefner was a pioneer in misogyny. His complicated history is often eclipsed by his final image. Before his death at 91, Hugh Hefner donned the human costume of an old harmless grandfather, resting on his treasures of being a visionary in the entertainment industry. His santized legacy includes embodying the American male fantasy, contributions to the First Amendment, the sexual revolution and strong support of Obama’s political campaign. Many look back at Hefner’s image as an adored celebrity who stood by his ‘progressive’ ideals of anti-censorship, anti-racist and pro-liberatian views, ignoring the blatant human exploitation he profited off of. 

When one criticizes the legacy of Hugh Hefner, they are always labeled as feminist, raising their fist at the indominable patriarchy. This quick assertion implies the separation of women’s rights from human rights, suggesting that only an uptight person informed about women’s rights would comment on their mistreatment, as if women are not also people. He was a criminal, coercing women for sex in exchange of help in furthering their careers, publishing their nude pictures without their consent, allowing a 10-year-old to pose nude on a Playboy-affiliated magazine and abusing women in his Playboy mansion. There should be no feminist element tied to the condemnation of Hugh Hefner, but rather a general human concern. 

From a non-scorned point of view, the Hugh Hefner costume is in no way original or often well done. It is more often lazily done, consisting of a red bathrobe and at least one woman and — if one can be so lucky — a pipe and a hat. Halloween is a time of fantasy, so for some, a Hugh Hefner costume can allow one to pretend they are powerful, important to others and desired by women for one night of the year. However, it redeems itself in its recognizability.

The Playboy Bunny costume, a needed accessory to the Hefner costume, carries a complicated legacy as well. Since the Playboy Bunny costume, different renditions of bunny costumes have arisen into pop culture: Elle Wood’s pink bunny costume, “Mean Girls” (2004), “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001) and Mai from “Seishun Buta Yaro wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai” (2019). These costumes have diverged distinctly from the original Playboy Bunny costume so that a bunny costume without the presence of Hefner is no longer synonymous with the Playboy Bunny. 

The Playboy Bunny costume was originally designed by the owner of the first Black-owned boutique on Broadway, Zelda Wynn Valdes. Valdes was known for costuming famous Black women such as Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. The original costume is intricately constructed with corset boning and lacing, no doubt taking intensive skill to design and sew. The piece carries the endearing vintage silhouette with the corset detailing, bullet bra and high-cut leg while also catering to a modern bombshell sex appeal, an unfortunately cute product from Hugh Hefner. 

Many articles dive into the generosity of Hugh Hefner and Playboy Enterprises, despite claims of abuse from his victims. His image has become so sanitized that his legacy is untouchable. The popularity of the Hugh Hefner costume reaffirms this glorified legacy and demonstrates the active ignorance of sexual predators. 

Like many men who have come before him and will come after him, Hugh Hefner is untouchable aside from the raging feminist army. It affirms that misogyny can be excused given the right press team peddling the glory of being the male dream. It is the publicity that has kept those such as Leonardo DiCaprio, James Bond, John F. Kennedy and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), above facing the consequences of their actions. 

Also, Hugh Hefner was an anti-vaxxer.