Swimsuits, Centerfolds and the Female Media Form

SI and Playboy made a notable splash this past February.

At the beginning of February, Dree Hemingway, the great-granddaughter of writer Ernest Hemingway, was revealed as Playboy magazine’s first non-nude centerfold. Two weeks later, Sports Illustrated was heralding Ashley Graham as the Swimsuit Edition’s first plus-size cover model. In 2016, for the first time, there were three separate issue covers.

The very first issue of Playboy arrived in December of 1953; the inaugural issue of Sports Illustrated, Aug. 16, 1954; and the first retail version of Photoshop, for Macintosh computers only, hit stores in 1990.

Graham, who hates the term “plus-size,” was extremely proud of the fact that her cover was in no way Photoshopped. As she should be. Her cover followed an advertisement appearance in the 2015 Swimsuit Edition, alongside an inside-page showcase of another plus-size model, the magazine’s first such inclusion of any kind.

The Hemingway centerfold seems less likely to stand the test of landmark-time.

As Keith J. Kelly reported this fall (burying the lede in fact), while newsstand sales of the sanitized U.S. print edition of Playboy were up around 13,500 to 47,203 for the period of March through August of this year, paid subscriptions during that same span dropped a whopping 23.2% (around 175,000 issues). A lot of subscribers canceled.

The Playboy Enterprises CEO who ushered in the non-nude U.S. website and print magazine approach is gone, with Hugh Hefner’s son Cooper recently handed, by dad, the keys to the editorial kingdom. Perhaps as early as February of next year, the Dree Hemingway-tagged era will be officially confirmed as an asterisk rather than an obelisk.