Jason Zasky in Failure magazine:
In “Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America” (Oxford University Press), Elizabeth Fraterrigo—assistant professor of history at Loyola University in Chicago—examines the magazine’s place in postwar America, a time in which sexual mores, gender roles, marriage and family life were evolving, at least in small part due to Playboy’s urging. Though the Playboy brand may be in the midst of a long, slow decline, Fraterrigo’s measured academic analysis (there are 47 pages of footnotes), reminds the reader how Playboy both molded and mirrored American culture in the mid to late twentieth century.
Failure interviewed Fraterrigo by phone to discuss: what readers can expect to learn from her book, what made Playboy so successful, and a handful of Hefner’s pre-Playboy business failures, which in hindsight seem to have been quite fortuitous…
What was Playboy’s agenda in the postwar period?
The kernel of that agenda was there from the very beginning but it really came to fruition by the late 1950s and early ’60s. From the get-go, Hefner was trying to create a magazine that he felt didn’t really exist in American culture. He felt that most of what you saw—whether it be in popular magazines or literature or television—was geared toward families. There wasn’t anything that spoke to the kinds of things in which men were interested. Hefner wanted to create a magazine for adult men but he also wanted to create a vision of a lifestyle that showcased the pleasures one could enjoy in a blooming, blossoming postwar consumer society. So that it wasn’t just about showing up for your job every day and bringing home a paycheck to support a wife and kids. He wanted to have this alternative world where one could indulge in pleasure and materialism.