Over the weekend I had the privilege of watching a documentary on the Hef's life titled: Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. This film goes far beyond portraying Hugh as simply the founder of Playboy, the masturbatory companion of choice for countless men. It also delves into the aspects of Hefner's life that may be lesser known such as his commitment to equal rights and progressive politics.
Not only is Hef the most enviable heterosexual male around, he is a maverick, not fearing to tread where others dared not. Back in the '50s, he hosted a television show that included white, black and Jewish performers alike, at a time when this was unheard of or at the very least, sneered at with derision.
A few token "feminists" were included in the documentary, criticizing Hugh for portraying females as merely sexual objects. To which he replied, and I'm paraphrasing from memory: "They are sexual objects. This ensures the propagation of the species. But they are also so much more." He championed women's reproductive rights and the repealing of abortion laws, and brought to the forefront the idea that it's ok for women to like sex, and that "nice girls" like it too.
The Hef has been criticized time and again for his "questionable" morality. The documentary aptly portrays a man who is nothing but honest about his intentions, has never led any of his female companions astray with false expectations and lays his cards on the table. Even during his eight-year marriage to Kimberly Conrad, he remained faithful to her. If anything, Hugh Hefner is a very moral man. Much more so than the hypocritical Christian fanatics who are among his loudest critics.
While Ronald Reagan was selling out his fellow artists to the FBI during the McCarthyan Inquisition of the '40s and '50s, Hugh Hefner chose not to judge his neighbours based on political views but rather accepted differing ideas with an open mind. The Hef was also involved in freeing a man from a 15-year jail sentence for having received a blow job from another man, following a letter sent by the inmate to Playboy magazine describing his situation.
I already admired the Hef but after watching this documentary, my respect for him has only deepened. He is an intelligent, caring, courageous, generous man. Hugh Hefner is who he says he is, and his actions are not discordant with his words. He has done far more to advance black, gay and women's rights than he is given credit for, especially during periods of American history when it was incredibly risky to do so.
Hugh is indeed a rebel, but with a cause. He asked a simple question in his youth, when still following in his elders' footsteps, before founding Playboy: "Is this all there is?" It was his yearning for more, his desire to go beyond what was perceived as possible that indelibly changed the American cultural landscape forever.