Hail Mary Full of Grace? Not This Time, Playboy

Guest Post by Dawn Lauer

Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises Christie Hefner has been quoted claiming that fans of the brand “look to Playboy for glamour.” After this month’s Mexican cover features a model mockery of the Virgin Mary, I imagine she’d like to eat those words.  

Let’s face it: Playboy never pretended to make the Church proud, but blatantly insulting the mother of Christianity – of any religion – is a long-term marketing faux pas (even if the short-term sells magazines).  Issuing a public apology on behalf of the organization is a step in the right direction.  However, anyone with even a modicum of intelligence, let alone fellow Catholics out there, are likely more insulted by Playboy’s lame attempt to deflect responsibility for the offense.

Of course Playboy Mexico never intended to offend anyone as they say, because it could hurt sales!  The clincher for me, however, was the fact that the magazine still denies that the shrouded Mary in front of a stained-glass window with the words, “we love you, Mary” bears any resemblance to the Blessed Mother.  Hmm . . . talk about a divine coincidence . . . the magazine was published just days before Mexico’s Virgin of Guadalupe celebration and weeks before Christmas – draw your own conclusions. 

It’s more than sad that nothing seems to be held sacred anymore. Just my two cents, but for all you “edgy” organizations out there that think it’s a genius idea to defile a religious icon and then issue an equally insolent “apology,” think twice.  The spark you’re hoping for will most likely backfire. 

What baffles me is the “creative” at Playboy Mexico who thought the concept was a good one. Religion is not an area Playboy should be messing with. As a Catholic, I’d recommend to that individual that s/he go to confession, but just like Playboy's apology, something tells me the “Hail Marys” will fall on deaf ears . . .

11 thoughts on “Hail Mary Full of Grace? Not This Time, Playboy

  1. Part of a brand’s responsibility in licensing is to police, to approve, to reject, and to prevent, any execution that might harm the brand. So even if the magazine is published by a licensee, Ms. Hefner must hold herself accountable. Furthermore, basic license agreements dictate that if the brand owner did not approve it, the licensee cannot distribute. So Playboy’s mistakes here are severalfold: a) sanctioning creative that their loyalists and the public at large consider morally blasphemous, b) not taking full responsibility in a PR context which would generate some understanding and respect, and c) having a dearth of control mechanisms so a licensee can publish whatever they want with a brand that is owned, and has been nurtured, by other parties.

  2. I stand corrected….”Hugh Hefner and his licensees” could care less what others think about what they print!
    Merry Christmas!!!

  3. It should be noted that the Mexico Playboy is a licensee. Christie Hefner said, “The company did not approve the cover because the Mexican version of the magazine is published by a licensee.” Its not like the Playboy company is totally in the clear here but I don’t see how they could have prevented this other than to demand that they control the content of every single licensee out there.

  4. I didn’t miss any point, Dawn. I read your post a few times before responding.
    As a non-practicing Catholic and former alter boy myself, I find it’s disrespectful and most offensive for any insitution to promise, request or advocate a certain lifestyle and have its leaders deliver another. And some of the top dogs knew what was going on all along and they kept those at fault hidden from the authorities and blame.
    However, maybe I missed the part where Playboy magazine promised its readers it would provide family friendly reading and pictures? Nah.
    Hugh Hefner has been irreverent toward many an institution since his magazine first published. I don’t think he is concerned about his image or reputation at all when it comes to those who would never buy a copy.

  5. Lunch: I think you’ve missed the point completely. The Catholic Church has its problems just like any other organization in the world. That doesn’t excuse or make it okay to attack its holy mother, because for one it’s disrespectful to the religion as a whole, second it’s highly offensive to its followers (whom have nothing to do with the controversy you mention) and third, from an image and reputation standpoint, is just plain stupid on the part of the magazine.. Don’t forget, this was Playboy’s poor choice, not the Church’s.

  6. Great input, Sara. The cover is being judged by “outsiders” and not it’s target audience, namely the Mexican populace. The US moral police should butt out of this one. And consider the source: it’s “Playboy” for chrissake not “Highlights for Children.”

  7. Amen, brother. (And, I know this guy has sinned, but I never promised to be holier than thou.)

  8. The Catholic Church has bigger problems to fix than a magazine cover. Mr. Donahue should turn the other cheek until his church is without sin. Has it cleansed its own house of its guilty sinners? Has it made sufficient retributions to the thousands it has harmed? I think not.

  9. Interesting post Dawn. I generally agree with you, but there’s a missing piece here too. Being married to a Mexican, I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture over the last 10 years. The one thing I’m always amazed by is how deep their faith is, yet also how much more open they are about the “vices” we tend to get hung up on. Not to generalize too much, but their views on sexuality are not as conservative as they can be in the United States and the humor can be very different. I wonder if this is a case of knowing your audience. While this cover can be offensive to many in the Catholic community, I’m not sure the same can be said for the population of Mexicans reading Playboy Mexico.

  10. Nice post, Dawn, and thanks for doing. Trifling with any religious icon is tricky business. Look what happened to the Danish when they messed with Mohammad a few years back. As a former altar boy and current non-practicing Catholic, I limit my religious barbs to oral ones on the stand-up comedy circuit. Seems to be a much safer and smarter way to go.