"Bethany Whisper"

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Girls Next Door: The Portrayal of the Women on the Show

I would like to say starting off that I do enjoy the show “The Girls Next Door” and am not in any way trying to talk down about the show. I am simply trying to analyze it, because that is what I was told to do. For anyone that is judgmental of the show and think that these girls “act dumb”, if they did not act like that there would be no show. People watch the show because the characters are entertaining.

“The Girls Next Door” is a show on E! that follows Hugh Hefner’s three girlfriends that live with him in the Playboy Mansion. These are all girls that started out as Playboy Playmates, and he chose as the select few with which he is intimate with. The three girls are Holly, the oldest and leader of the girls, Bridget, and Kendra, the youngest girlfriend. In fact, Kendra is 21 years-old, and started “dating” Hefner when she was only 19. The relationship that Hefner has with these girls is questioned by many, and in this television show, even more questions can be raised.
The two episodes of the show that I watched tied into each other because they both feature Hugh Hefner’s 80th birthday parties. The first episode ends with a party that is more “classy” and guests are required to dress in formal attire. The second episode ends with his “lingerie” themed party, in which, as implied, female guests wear lingerie. Throughout the episodes, the girls are shown preparing for the parties, and also interacting with other people, including their families.
Considering these girls have been shown naked on the pages of Playboy Magazine one would think that these girls have to be very self-confidant and secure with their bodies. One of our readings for class titled “The More You Subtract, the More You Add: Cutting Girls Down to Size”1, talks about how girls are taught that less is more. That being thinner, wearing less clothing, and talking less are all ways to being “attractive”. This is seen in advertisements, and can be seen by young girls in Seventeen magazines.
In “The Girls Next Door” this is seen in many different ways. When Bridget’s parents are visiting, she doesn’t eat so that she appears thinner. Also, she wants to be thinner when she wears her outfit that consists of very little. She wants to feel attractive not only by being thin, but also by wearing almost nothing. This is emphasizing that “girls of all ages get the message that they must be flawlessly beautiful and, above all these days, they must be thin” (Kilbourne, 260). Even a girl who is considered pretty and “flawless” enough to be in Playboy Magazine, a magazine known for beautiful women, is still self-conscious about the way she looks.
The girls are also often shown spending hours getting ready for parties. They have their personal stylists, hairdressers, and make-up artists. This is just emphasizing the stereotype that women should spend lots of time in order to try to look “perfect”. This perfection is important in order to be attractive to males. Women should not have to put on a fake exterior in order to try to make men find them desirable.

1 Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add". Dines, Gail. Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, California. 2003.

The Girls Next Door: Male Dominance

At times, it seems like Hugh Hefner is more of a father-figure to the girls, rather than a “boyfriend”. They are always trying to please him, and have rules in the Playboy Mansion that they must follow. In another episode I have seen, the girls go to Las Vegas, but have to follow the rules of the mansion and get home by 9 o’clock, their “curfew” time. These girls are seen naked on the pages of Playboy Magazine, and yet Hefner gives them a curfew they have to follow. I guess in that way he is not very fatherly. Most fathers would not be willing to put naked pictures of their daughters out for the public to view. However, most men would not be willing to put naked pictures of their significant others in the public eye either.
The girls are seen almost as objects that belong to Hugh Hefner. They are always vying for his attention. When the girls are talking about the presents they bought for Hefner for his birthday, they are all nervous that he won’t like their present. However, in the show, it is very rare that they show the girls getting any affection from Hefner, other than in a fatherly way, like kisses on the cheek. It is true that no one sees what goes on behind closed doors at the Playboy Mansion, but one can very easily question whether or not the girls have a sexual relationship with Hefner. It is also strange that these girls are capable of being such good friends with each other when you would think they are all fighting for the love of one man.
The “present” that stands out the most is Bridget, who plans on performing a strip tease for Hugh at his big birthday bash. Before the party, her parents come to visit and they have a big meal together. However, Bridget eats only a few vegetables because she wants to look good for her “performance”. He stepfather however is shown chowing down on anything put in front of him. The camera is shown going back and forth between the two of them to emphasize the difference in their eating habits.
A little later, Bridget does a “dress rehearsal” for her mother and stepfather. Keep in mind that her strip tease ends in her only wearing a thong and pasties (little stickers made to cover the nipples). As she is performing they keep putting the camera on her stepfather who is sweating, and obviously enjoying his stepdaughter’s performance. This obviously does not make her stepfather look like a very good man, but is it possible that the way the camera is moving around is purposely to make him seem that way. He could have been making those facial expressions and movements at a different time, but the people producing the show chose to add these moments at this point in order to show this man in a bad light.
When this whole issue is looked at, these are women that have made a living by posing naked for men to look at their pictures. It’s realistic that these women are looked at as “objects” to be gawked at by men. This is the way that they have chosen to be seen by men. Even by doing the television show, they had to know that they were going to get a mostly male audience who were going to watch simply because they tend to wear very little clothing throughout the show.