Wednesday, May 28, 2008

In Defense of The Girls Next Door

Jim makes fun of me for loving The Girls Next Door.  Actually, everyone does.  But I don’t mind, I’m a bit embarrassed about my love for the show, in fact.  But I’m going to explain why I love it.  I recently read this Elle article that has a similar perspective.

Allow me to explain. First of all, I understand that Playboy is all about women as sex objects, and celebrates a particular kind of beauty (blonde, huge fake boobs, tiny waist, etc – so Barbie).  The male gaze is how plaboy makes its money – a male fantasy of these idealized women who are always available.  That’s what the mansion and the clubs are all about.  But here’s the thing: in the show, the men never show up.  Hef is so old and, well, relational that you don’t feel that these women are objects to him.  You don’t even think of their relationship with him as sexual even though it likely is (although maybe not, the guy is OLD).

Instead, the world we see on the show is pure escapism.  It has so little to do with my real life, and that’s why I like to watch it.  I watch tv to escape.  Holly, Bridget and Kendra live this ridiculous life where they hang out with each other and with other women, they have little projects and trips and adventures, and they never worry about things like money or responsibilities.  It’s like girl’s night out, except it’s their whole life, and everyone is beautiful.  But you aren’t really invited to evaluate the women so much as it’s just taken for granted that everyone is that specific kind of beautiful.  Sure, now that I think about it, it’s troubling, but my point is it’s never foregrounded.  And isn’t all tv that way anyway?

There’s also some kind of old-femininity power in Holly – she gets her way by scheming and batting her eyes, but she does it in an unapologetic but also self-aware way.  It’s kind of endearing.  And they way that Bridget is always upbeat and happy and finds ways to advance her future entertainment career is quite savvy.  Not that I’m claiming it’s a feminist show, of course it isn’t.  But it’s good fun for some girls trying to unwind after a long day of thinking hard.  And I like it.  And now you know why.


alisa said...

Bethany, hi, I completely understand why you like this show. I used to watch it on tour at night after Chris went to sleep. My friend Leona's uncle is like best friends with Hef and she's met the girls a couple of times... apparently Holly is just as nice in person as she is on that show. I'm not a huge fan of Kendra but I really like the other two.

Did you ever watch the reality show where the girls were auditioning to be Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders? It was great for the same reason as "Girls Next Door" is.

I feel like NO MEN ever watch those shows, anyway. They don't care. The producers must know their audience is primarily women and I think they cater to them.

bethany said...

Yeah, I'm also ambivalent/annoyed by Kendra. But that Elle article made me a little more sympathetic to her.

kristen said...

I always have some students who make the claim that there are some third wave feminist tendencies shown in the show....sexual empowerment and some degree of financial control (although they live with HH so I'm not sure).

I just don't know...but I consume some pretty bad media as well. We all have our guilty pleasures!

bethany said...

Kristen: I wouldn't go so far as to say it's FEMINIST. I guess there are some moments when they leverage their control of their own bodies to get the things they want... But they still live with Hugh Hefner and have to ask him for things.

Amanda & Cameron said...

i love that show. holly is my favorite, followed by bridget, followed by hef, followed by kendra. i think if i were actually one of them, i would punch kendra in the face a lot. she's just annoying to me.

Bianca Reagan said...

It's a show about three whores and the old man they have sex with. Which is fine, but I think someone (me!) needs to point that out.

Andy Lester said...

My wife loves it, and I'm appalled at how stupid they are. Kendra manages to make "hot blonde with big boobs" unattractive.