The Wonder Ears

Via Playboy, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott

Left: Pop Magazine shot by Rankin 2005, Right: Playboy 2013
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by Mattie Kahn
December 5, 2013
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Kate Moss covers Playboy’s 60th Anniversary Issue

Oh, sure. We’re pretty fond of each other, but the truth is you all are our favorite contributors to The Man Repeller. Really! We’ve formalized that fact with “Let’s Talk About It.” This weekly column is a forum for conversation, communication, and complete distraction from the jobs you’re supposed to be doing right now. So get involved. We promise we won’t tell your bosses.

I have Reese Witherspoon to thank for properly introducing me to the Playboy Bunny.

Technically, the movie that witnessed her dressed as one premiered in 2001. But who can remember the specifics of that first broadcast? Not me! Given that I’ve now spent somewhere in the vicinity of several days of my life reliving it, the details of such an auspicious viewing have since gone slightly fuzzy. Like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before it, Legally Blonde endeared itself to me instantly. It chronicled an engaging story, defended sequins as daywear, and justified its heroine’s near-encyclopedic knowledge of hair care. (An innocent woman’s acquittal depended on it!) Also, it briefly paraded its protagonist around Harvard’s campus in a pink, satin leotard.

In the unlikely event that you do not want to relive this timeless cinematic moment care of a short video shared by YouTube user “playboybunnybabes,” allow me to summarize the incident. In a misguided attempt to befriend Vivian Kensington and her anonymous, vaguely insufferable sidekick, first-year law student Elle Woods attends a gathering of fellow grads wearing a baby blush corset, fuchsia tights, and floppy ears. Pinned to her ass, a fluffy pom-pom completes the look.

Inside “45 Dunston Street,” not a single other person has dressed in costume. An only marginally more tolerable version of arriving at school in your underwear, the scene remains as deeply mortifying to me now as it did over a decade ago. It may have prompted her to “show you how valuable Elle Woods can be,” but I still cringe at the spectacle of Witherspoon attempting to assert herself as a bright-eyed and literally bushy-tailed blonde. “What is she wearing?” I remember exclaiming in horror. As far as I was concerned, the outfit’s exploitative undertones were the least of its problems. More damning even than its implicit sexism was its essential pitifulness. “She looks so pathetic!” I wailed. I ask you: does any ensemble try so hard as a Playboy Bunny’s?

Take a second to remember the girl who wore one to your last Halloween party.

Exactly.

Still, the fact that we agree (we agree, don’t we?) does little to account for the images of Kate Moss that debuted earlier this week. Fronting the 60th anniversary edition of Playboy magazine, the supermodel graces Playboy’s December/January 2014 cover in a midnight black bustier, Saint Laurent pumps, and, of course, a pair of velveteen ears. The same appendages reappear throughout the accompanying eighteen-page spread which finds Moss lounging on brocade sofas, reclining in sheer thigh-highs, and implicitly reminding us just how much pie we all consumed at Thanksgiving dinner. In other words, Moss oozes her usual brand of good-old-fashioned sex appeal.

But not even the lethal combination of her hypnotic gaze, chiseled cheekbones, and imminent fortieth birthday can separate these photographs from their form. The abundance of silk bed sheets does not lie. This is Playboy.

Moss’s body is a wonderland and her evident confidence is impressive. Perhaps if I looked that good in French cuffs, I, too, would wear them to the exclusion of all else. And yet I can’t quite shake the feeling that Kate Moss is — as Elle Woods once was —dressed for the wrong party, and also for the wrong magazine. How would our opinions differ had this been not the cover of Playboy but instead of, say, French Vogue? Is this just a loose case of blinded by the label? Or am I simply not the target consumer?

After all, I read Playboy for the articles. What do you think? View the full (NSFW) spread here and let’s talk about it.

Images from the Playboy 60th Anniversary Issue, shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott

REPLIES
  • CDJ

    cannot believe I just accidentally looked at boobs on my work computer. i think i have fallen somewhere in the middle with this one, probably because i am not the target consumer. french vogue would not have her wear those ears or tail, but i would look at the shoot differently if it were in that magazine and not playboy. another thing to consider is how different we would view this if it wasn’t a “60th anniversary edition” and just a regular monthly (is it a monthly subscription?) issue. perhaps because its a special edition it makes it more vogue-ish and less girl next door? (don’t get me wrong, please, i loved that show).

    Can you guys stop posting stuff, I’ve gotten 0 work done today.

  • http://www.anorexicescapades.com/ BougieHippie

    This spread is EVERYTHING!

    http://www.anorexicescapades.com

  • Quinn Halman

    Playboy bunnies > VS angels
    OR
    VS angels > Playboy bunnies

    The two are so different yet so similar. Playboy is targeted at men, Victoria Secret at women, however the oozing sex appeal is present in both. Playboy is a magazine and has far more depth than the emails I get from VS but going back to that first point; does VS think they’re empowering women, do you think they’re empowering women? Maybe it’s a generational thing where I overhear boys talking about websites as opposed to magazines. Personally, I’ve never seen an issue of Playboy in the flesh and doubt any guys I know have the chutzpa to actually buy an issue.

    • Thamsa

      I agree, there quite a few similarities between the bunnies and the angels. Both are about exuding sex appeal but they just have different audiences. And of course VS doesn’t have the nudity. I don’t care for either though. I’ve read some comments about Kate Moss doing this cover, stating it was distasteful, unworthy for a supermodel etc. But where do people draw the line where nudity is artistic/pornographic? I am sure everyone who has followed her career has seen her pose nude for various fashion spreads. But is it the publication or the careful posing that render the images artistic and not pornographic?

      • Quinn Halman

        I think it goes back to what I wrote about Playboy having depth. You could say writing is an art as well as photography. That’s what I love about the arts; it is defined by you. Everything is in the eye of the beholder. My sexual compass points towards males so I appreciate the spread as photographic art and give big ups to Kate for her longevity in the business and ownership of her body.

  • Amelia Diamond

    I honestly think it’s an incredibly sexy spread, appealing to both men and women. She looks powerful and in charge of her sexuality, sure of herself and is essentially effusing, “I am Kate Moss, hear me roar.” If you told me this was the spread of a fashion magazine and not Playboy I wouldn’t blink an eye. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott are fantastic in their own rights, and I’m sure their vision and skills are part of why this shoot reads as as a fashion editorial (minus any actual fashion but when has that stopped us before?). I love it.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Also I agree with what CDJ wrote, the 60th Anniversary Edition also lends itself to the idea that this is special, not just your everyday Playboy.

    • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

      I would have to agree with you, Amelia. Being a teen girl, I am not in the least the target audience for Playboy. Had someone given me a few of the pictures from this spread, I would honestly guess that it was Vogue Paris or LOVE or Purple Mag or something before I would guess Playboy. And I wouldn’t have blinked an eye either, but maybe that’s because we always think of fashion as (typically) for women, by women. There is ironically so much nudity in fashion magazines and I really don’t think about it — it’s art in that context, not porn. I could just be blinded by the label then, too, like Mattie was pondering.
      And yes, the vibe feels way different from what I would sense a typical Playboy editorial would be like, but then again I have zero insight unto how show-y/ provocative they go.
      Go Kate Moss, Go being nearly 40, Go Clothing, Go Clothing Optional.

  • Leandra Medine

    So, my whole thing with this spread is that I seriously believe that if the bunny ears had been omitted from most shots (save for slide #2 where they are more like a mask), I wouldn’t even so much as venture to guess using the farthest stretches of my imagination that this was from Playboy. I’d think French Vogue or one of those obscure-ass indie magazines. The woman has no problem bearing breast and rightfully so. This could totally function as a case study in a reverse instance of blinded by the label BUT THEN AGAIN, why? Playboy was/can still be considered a fairly reputably testament to literacy. And that’s what opens doors, isn’t it? The beautiful photos just help us, the content consumers, walk through that door.

    • Quinn Halman

      I think Playboy also has this legacy about it. This is their 60th anniversary! Playboy has played a significant role in North American sexual culture from Legally Blonde to its reference in Mad Men. So, similar to what Amelia said, they are saying its special because 1. 60 years old and 2. Kate is special. It’s not like she didn’t have the option to not do this shoot. And similar to what you said, this is marketing at its finest. She has stuck around as a model for such a long time and her legacy is what’s making us talk about this.

    • CDJ

      reverse blinded by the label. so true. if people do lean that way, thinking it’s far below kate moss to do a spread in Playboy, then can the same be said for a accomplished musician deciding to take to the streets? (this all just reminded me of that youtube video of the professional violinist playing in the subway with no one recognizing him) The talent is still there, no matter where it is being showcased. for me, i just cannot seem to shake the thought of the playboy bunny necklaces/tshirts/belly rings that the bitchy/tramp-ish girls would wear in high school, i think that’s why i feel somewhat conflicted.

  • Karen Liesens

    I don’t like it. I think this she chose for the money and who can’t blame her? Anyway, playboy is not artistic at all for me so I’m disappointed that Kate Moss did this shoot.

    x Karen
    http://dressinginlabels.blogspot.com

  • Alava

    I love it. It has an old Hollywood glamour feel to it. It is far less risqué then what you would find in a Tom Ford perfume ad. Playboy or not. It is tasteful and sexy.

  • http://www.paigeone.com/ Paige

    The photos are very artsy which makes these photos not tacky which they could have been considering the outfit. I don’t like how she only has one expression in every photo! I think this shoot would have been better if she was laughing/smiling and less serious in some of the pictures.

    http://www.paigeone.ca

  • Patricia

    I love this! I feel it could be part of a spread in a fashion magazine about the history of Playboy. the look is certainly high fashion (granted you take the ears off and the tail) and she’s not being in the least vulgar or cliché, just classical, and legendary. To me it is just Kate Moss being and icon.

  • Mattie Kahn

    This whole conversation has me thinking about the August 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar Australia, which featured Elle MacPherson recreating her 1994 Playboy cover. In addition to functioning as possibly the world’s most excellent #TBT ever, there was something iconic about invoking Playboy in such a self-consciously high fashion context. Is that what Playboy is doing here? By choosing Moss?

    Peep MacPherson’s side-by-side covers here: http://fashionista.com/2013/07/elle-macpherson-recreates-topless-playboy-cover-for-harpers-bazaar/

  • Rebecca Arceneaux

    I love it. Kate Moss yesterday, today, forever.

  • Cucumber Sandwich

    I think that maybe yes you are blinded by the “Playboy” label. Kate Moss looks amazing and these photographs by Mert and Marcus are beautiful.

    http://cucsandwich.tumblr.com/post/68900681715/life-is-too-short-to-be-living-someone-elses

  • marie a

    That this is for the 60th Anniversary Edition is what’s important!! It’s a throwback to the old Playboy. Yes, Playboy has turned into something a bit ridiculous, but it wasn’t always that way. The cheap, trashy and artificial quality we associate with it now (think the show “Girl’s Next Door”) is fairly recent. It used to be known for a classier brand of sex appeal and Kate’s spread looks much more like the Playboy of its heyday.
    And regarding other commenter’s comparison to Victoria’s Secret: for me personally, Playboy’s heyday and legacy just makes me feel like its classier, more worthy of respect than Victoria’s Secret. Maybe its because Victoria’s Secret is such a production now and just screams SELL SELL SELL. I don’t feel empowered by VS and it feels kind of cheap.. Actually, the way I feel about VS is the same way I feel about the new Playboy – maybe VS is just more respected in society because they’re selling underwear rather than porn?

  • Kiri Yanchenko

    There is something about this whole thing that screams uncomfortable for me,
    For starters she looks quite uncomfortable on the cover. And the spread of her on the green couch is also not quite natural.
    I feel that she is not 100% comfortable with the idea of posing in playboy because she is not bringing it like you can see in many of her other fashion shoots in Vogue for example.
    So for me it’s not where she appears – I have no problem with seeing her or anyone else in playboy, It’s that she doesn’t look 100% happy and 100% like Kate Moss to me…

    X
    Kiri
    http://www.fashionblender.com.au
    http://www.facebook.com/FashionBlender

    • Anna

      I totally agree! I like Kate, and I don’t hate Playboy, but this just seems… stiff. It’s like taking two caricatures and marrying them, Kate with her baleful gazes and Playboy with its bunny ears, and then removing anything that ever made either of them special or at the very least entertaining. And the elbows and knees pose is just… awkward. And a little bit juvenile, somehow. Uncomfortable is a fabulous description, it totally sums it up for me.

      • anna louise

        Me three

  • Katie K

    Bridget Jones wore it first. She was the only who didn’t receive the memo that her uncle’s “Tarts and Vicars” party theme was cancelled, and showed up in traditional Playboy bunny garb. That movie came out exactly 3 months before Elle Woods infamous Dunston Street mishap.

    • Katie K

      ironically, both came out on Friday the 13ths of 2001

  • Tessa

    Hot hot hot. I’ve never thought enough to make valid opinions on Playboy, and it will most likely escape my consciousness once this issue abandons the shelves. But right now I can say that the combination of Mert & Marcus, Saint Laurent, the 60th Anniversary, Kate herself has convinced me fully. I’m honestly shocked at the fashion elements integrated into the editorial, and I feel it opens up the target audience greatly. I plan on making my first Playboy purchase ASAP (never thought I’d be saying that in my lifetime).

    Queen Kate for life.

  • JLC

    In TV, movies and literature (see Phillip Roth, John Updike), Playboy has always been the magazine that marks the rite of passage from little boyhood to adolescent male sexuality in America. Who doesn’t know a guy who found his Dad’s Playboys and obsessively rubbed the skin off his dick on that first randy afternoon?

    Since this is my frame of reference (all I can picture is a 13 year old’s jizz on the pages), I just can’t buy it. Metaphorically. Literally. . . just. EW.

  • JLC

    Oh my god. I just told my boyfriend that Kate Moss is on the cover and has the spread of Playboy’s 60th Anniversary, and he said: Wait, Kate Moss is 60?!!

  • http://lucieboshier.tumblr.com/ Lucie Boshier

    Love love it! Classy, sexy, distinguished. Divine. Thanks for sharing x

  • alejandra

    I like it. I like Kate Moss and I like the old school Playboy vibe. I also think that this particular spread comes off more “fashion editorial” then usual Playboy spreads because 1) Kate Moss is a MODEL not a celebrity and 2) it is Kate and we have all seen her nude a million times before. I think if this were a first time nude celebrity shoot it would have come off more tacky.

  • Oliver Lips

    Is there something she can’t do? Amazing.

  • saint bec

    i bought the playboy edition of madonna and drew barrymore – i thought of them as iconic. They kind of looked cool, rather than hooker. kate did id mag with breast naked on the cover – a lot lot younger and a lot lot less paid……

  • saint bec

    maybe i meant ironic

  • The Wears

    She obviously looks incredible – nothing to do with photoshop! But that aside I’m not sure about the whole Playboy thing, anniversary or no anniversary.

    http://www.theWEARS.net

  • ZB
  • Nikita Prosser

    great spread , bunny ears and all. She looks beautiful and I love the photography.

    xox

  • Malorie Bertrand

    I love the shoot. I think Moss looks incredibly sexy and shiny. What IS that sheen they apply to her skin? I’d like to have it on every day if I could so I’d look like I was constantly being sprayed with rosewater by a fairy. You know what? This spread reminds me of the 1970s Playboy issues. I wasn’t around then but I found an old one of my dad’s and this brought it back to mind.

  • ThinkIturnedOutOK

    One of my earliest hazy memories from when I was 3 (in 1973) was being dressed in a leotard and bunny ears and cuffs for halloween. Obviously I didn’t really know what was going on. I thought my neighbor friend Cassandra and I were being dressed as ‘fancy bunnies’ which I loved. Our parents aren’t psychos, they were only 23 years old themselves and from what I gather in the early ’70s the Bunnies were actually the height of glamour, like PanAm stewardesses or something. So I obviously have a different definition of the bunny suit. I think Kate’s spread is hot (ha ha) but I am sure that she’s too skinny for my husband. She’s MR fashion through and through and I think that having her on the anniversary issue instead of Kate Upton or whoever differentiates Playboy from the rest of the nudie mags, in just the right way.

  • sketch42

    I think the spread is fantastic. Like fine art levels of fantastic.

  • kari

    i think she (kate) looks fabulous i had no idea she was turning 40, the fact that one thinks to compare it to Vogue in general, is because of Kate Moss, she has been in the cover so many times, french or not french its impossible not to compare it to, Vogue and what would the mag would have done differently? (crisis face). Vogue usually portraits sexy differently than how Playboy portraits it. Perhaps its the readers inconformity or insecurity that really exhibits this feeling of past embarrasments, its only natural to cringe at the memoirs, but not every reader think or sees that reese incident of the fake custom party, as something to feel belittled by, i admire her characters confidence to walk in a room full of judgy eyes and still feel great about her self image, what i learned from that scene was to not feel alarmed in a situation like that, but own the moment with confidence.

  • JD

    I dunno. I hate that Playboy turns to Kate (and Mert and Marcus) and the fashion world to try and pretend their thing is nudity as art. Let’s be real. Playboy doesn’t give a shit about that. But they are desperately seeking ways to pretend that they are making money off of something other than the systematic exploitation of women’s naked bodies for a predominantly heterosexual male audience that thinks it’s okay to like their women objectified. Call it glamorous or beautiful or tradition or celebration or whatever but realize that it isn’t “natural” to see a naked woman this way…that perspective has been constructed by a patriarchal culture that wants us to believe it’s “empowering” for women to take their clothes off for men. Sorry, Playboy… we’re not stupid. Playboy needs us to see the objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies as glamorous, beautiful, traditional, and celebratory so their corporation can continue making money instead of being completely shamed, outed as exploiting gender inequality, and put out of business. We don’t need to justify them, or be maybe okay with it, or pretend that because the 60s and 70s embraced the company we should go on celebrating them in 2013. They’re just gross. I love Kate but come on… in this day and age Playboy’s a sad joke.

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