It’s not really about Hef. It’s about you, you smug SOB

Chuck Tatham has written an absolutely dizzying op-ed piece in the New York TimesYou really ought to read it for yourself.  It rubbed me in so many sore spots that I considered, only briefly, that I was having a neurological failure of some sort.

Tatham is an executive producer of a televised comedy series, so there is always the chance that this whole piece is a spoof, but I am going to take it seriously because—spoof or not—there are some issues embedded in the piece that I care about.

Let’s start with the headline—“Cynics, Step Down. Let Hef Love.”  “Hef,” is, of course, playboy bunny iconHugh Hefner, creator of the Playboy empire and serial bridegroom of beautiful women in their twenties who have long hair, long legs, and big boobs.  Cynics, it appears have the power to prevent Hef from loving.  How they could do that, I’m not really sure. 

Also, there are a lot of people who need love, especially at this time of year.  If my memory serves, his daughter Christie now runs the Playboy empire and I’m sure she would appreciate all the love her father can spare. And maybe a little help at the office.  It isn’t hard to find people to love, certainly.

Unless, of course, the word “love” in the headline has to do with sexual intercourse—always a possibility, given the context.  I didn’t like the collapse of the language of sex into the language of love.  Sex seems to me so…well…specific and there are so very many kinds of love.  In fact, if it weren’t for the actual patterns of our current speech, there is no reason that the expression “making love” could not refer to what Alicia Nash said about her husband in the movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” when she confided to a friend,  “…but then I look at him and I force myself to see the man I married.  And he becomes that man.  He’s transformed into someone I love.”  If language were fair and just, that would be called “making love.”  And then there is the further descent from “making love” to “loving.”

Chuck Tatham isn’t responsible for the cheapening of our language about love and neither is Hugh Hefner.  But it has happened and now we can read in the headlines that cynics will prevent Hef from “loving.”  A love like that would be a little thin, I think.  Unless, Crystal Harris, the next Mrs. Hef, is the cynic Tatham has in mind.

But we don’t really need to address any of those questions, because the op-ed piece really isn’t about Hefner—it’s about us.  Let’s see, just what are we like?

Well, we are “part of a rampant trend of cynicism that must cease.”

And, apparently, we sneer.

Also, we are part of “snarky observers whose raison d’être is to mirthfully degrade anything and everything, including a warm, loving relationship.”

Of course, it also might be that we are “jealous of the passionate connection between Hef and Crystal.”

We should know better because after all, “No one mocked [our] nuptials; what gives you the right to” mock Hef’s?

And, of course, we are smug.

Besides, what did Hugh Hefner ever do to you?[1]

The reason I suspect this is a spoof is that it contains all the put-downs Tatham says he is deploring.  Here are four from the treasure chest of this column.

Hef and Crystal have already “registered for silverware, bath towels and a defibrillator.”

Or, Tatham was chosen as best man because “I’m Hef’s blood type and I know CPR.”

Or, “The guests at the wedding won’t throw rice, they’ll throw Viagra.”[2]

Or,  “The wedding will be unique for a lot of reasons, including the fact that there will be a ring bearer and a pallbearer.”

There may not be any way to hold Hefner’s newest wedding up to the scorn it probably deserves, but the substantial protection it has—this is Tatham’s approach and it is increasingly common—is that Hefner’s wedding is really inconsequential.  What is truly worth talking about is the cheap, sad, and easy criticisms that are launched at Hefner.  So no matter what he does, the issue will be whether people have responded to it with appreciation and generosity.

You know, I don’t think that is always the issue that most deserves our attention.






[1] I like that one particularly because it establishes the standard that only the things that have been done to me, personally, give me a cause for complaint.  I have no reason to complain about the 87 gun-related deaths per day, it appears, because I was not one of them.  Of course, people who actually were one of them aren’t complaining either.  This “personal cost” standard is thoroughly perverse.

[2] This particular response is called “cheap, easy, sad.”

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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2 Responses to It’s not really about Hef. It’s about you, you smug SOB

  1. rdfeinman says:

    What is this about?

    • hessd says:

      Good of you to ask. It is about the great difficulty we experience in pointing to any behavior–and I mean any behavior–that we find outrageous. The ease with which the conversation is shifted from “This is an outrage” to “What is it about you that so needs to be outraged?” continues to amaze me. Hefner isn’t really an egregious example; just an unusually public one.

      I don’t find Hefner’s choice, over and over, to marry voluptuous young blondes particularly offensive. I find it terribly offensive that anyone who objects is the one who is doing something wrong.

      That’s what it’s about.

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