Your views on Hugh Hefner are likely defined by the era you grew up in.
For those of us that came to Hefner in the later period of his life, it's difficult to look past the image of the controlling older man dating women a quarter his age. The E! reality show The Girls of the Playboy Mansion further detracted from Hefner's legacy, positioning him as a dottery figure compared to the much younger Playboy Bunny stars on the show. And the claims last year by Cosby accuser Gloria Allred are difficult to look past.
But, it's not all entirely black and white. To consider Hefner only through that lens ignores part of the greater context of Hefner as an influential and progressive cultural figure who, for much of his life, had been a strong advocate for racial and gender equality. Even in his later years, Hefner was active in campaigning for same sex marriage. In an article Hefner penned for Playboy, Hefner argued against those campaigning against same sex marriage on religious grounds. He wrote:
"Today, in every instance of sexual rights falling under attack, you'll find legislation forced into place by people who practice discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Their goal is to dehumanize everyone's sexuality and reduce us to using sex for the sole purpose of perpetuating our species. To that end, they will criminalize your entire sex life."
The 2009 feature documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel goes a long way to providing context to the remarkable life and accomplishments of Hefner. With great humour and insight, the documentary details Hefner’s fierce battles with the government, the religious right, and militant feminists.
You can watch Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel streaming now via SBS On Demand: