Marge Simpson’s "Playboy" pictures are out now in the November issue. It's the first time a cartoon character has been featured on the risqué magazine's cover, and I’ve got to admit -- at first I chuckled. Then I started thinking ... Why? Why Marge? Why "Playboy"?
Marge Simpson is a wife and mother of three kids on Fox's long-running series, “The Simpsons.” The "Playboy" pictures feature Marge (remember, she’s an animated character) sitting naked on a bunny chair, wearing nothing but her signature blue hairdo. The spread also features a story inside called, “The Devil in Marge Simpson.”
There has been much banter about this on the blogs, and I really liked what Hollywood Gossip had to say on the matter:
As a housewife and mother of three, we fear that Marge’s pictorial - which includes a three-page spread and interview -- sets a bad example. What will Maggie [her daughter] think when she gets old enough to use Google? How will Bart’s classmates react to these images? It’s really all the fault of Kate Gosselin. Clearly jealous of the attention that famous mom has received -- Marge set out to reclaim the spotlight. Mission (grossly) accomplished.
Why did "Playboy" choose Marge Simpson? What about Jessica Rabbit or Lara Croft or even Betty Boop? If we’re talking about sexualizing an animated character, why not choose one that was created to be a sex symbol? In an age when we worry about kids growing up too fast, we want our public figures to be good role models. So why did "Playboy" need to turn Marge into a sexy hottie when there are certainly enough others to go around?
Some argue "The Simpsons" isn’t really for kids. But I don’t care. Every kid knows who "The Simpsons" are, and most watch it. It appears on regular TV channels, and Marge is a cartoon character with special kid appeal.
The bottom line: I agree with the folks at MTV who said that "Playboy" is probably trying to attract younger readers. I guess that’s where my problem is. You put Marge on the cover, and all of sudden kids are going to pick up the magazine thinking it’s for kids, unaware of what's inside the covers.
Perhaps what makes this even more troublesome is that the cover appears right before Halloween, when we’re smack in the middle of the new trend of overly sexualized Halloween costumes. Remember the good old days of princesses, bulky coats over costumes, and bunny faces? Gone!
Now we see lacy garters, bustiers, and devils in mini-skirts. Susan Linn, director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood in Boston, says that corporate marketers are increasingly aiming at girls as young as preschool age as if they were teenagers! Linn, who also wrote "The Case for Make Believe" and "Consuming Kids," said much of it is based on a marketing strategy known as CAGOY, or "Children are Getting Older Younger."
"It's a marketing phenomenon, created by marketers, based on an assumption that children are acquiring the trappings of maturity earlier. There is no evidence of that," she says. Linn said there is evidence, however, that the commercialization of childhood intensifies serious issues like childhood obesity, eating disorders, low self-esteem and precocious sexual activity. It also interferes with imagination and creative play.
So if costumes are sending bad messages, and if over-sexualizing leads to a host of sociological and psychological problems, why open that Pandora’s Box? When will the media and marketers err on the side of caution and start thinking about what’s in the best interest of our children? Yes, this is the same media that criticizes parents for not doing their job protecting their kids. So here’s my question: When will society and the media start doing theirs?