Marjorie Jacqueline “Marge” Simpson, aka Marge Simpson, is perhaps the most timeless, iconic female cartoon character on the planet. The 36-year-old homemaker and mother of 3 has been appearing on our TV screens since 1989. But did you know that she also once graced the cover of Playboy? Her photoshoot was one of the most talked-about moments in Playboy history.
Marge Simpson Was Brought Onto Playboy to Appeal to Younger Crowd
Marge Simpson’s Playboy shoot rattled as many people as it excited. Newspapers everywhere had something to say. The Guardian tipped their hat to the forthcoming issue in early October, later publishing a discussion about it within the context of feminism. Was it empowering? Was it disempowering? What would Lisa think?
The Atlantic published an aggregation of what they thought were the juiciest bits of commentary. Perez Hilton and Tina Chubb were described as “reeling with excitement.” Daily Finance and Blogging Stocks writers thought it was “the beginning of the end for Playboy.” The San Diego Entertainer thought Marge in Playboy was a masterful idea. And a writer from The Examiner thought it was morally depraved.
Playboy’s CEO at the time, Scott Flanders, told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Marge Simpson Playboy shoot idea was an effort to boost dwindling sales and expand the magazine’s readership to a younger crowd.
Flanders said that it was “obviously somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It had never been done, and we thought it would be kind of hip, cool and unusual.”
“We knew that this would really appeal to the 20-something crowd,” said Playboy spokeswoman Theresa Hennessey. At the time, the average Playboy reader was a 35-year-old male.
Reuters reported that Playboy’s circulation had dropped by 9% in June of 2009, due to the prevalence of free and accessible adult entertainment on the internet. Flanders told Reuters that he didn’t want the magazine to stop circulating and that there weren’t any plans to do so.
“Over my dead body will we quit producing the magazine in print,” Flanders said. Of course, Playboy did in fact move to a solely online presence in 2020, after 66 years of running print. But that’s another story.
Marge’s Playboy Shoot Coincided with The Simpsons’ 20th Anniversary
Marge Simpson graced the cover of the November 2009 issue. Within the magazine was a 3-page spread and centerfold. The cover was a redo of African American model Darine Stern’s 1971 Playboy cover. Marge was sitting behind a white Playboy bunny chair. Her massive blue conical hairdo, like Darine’s afro, popped up between the bunny’s ears. Marge, like Darine, is completely nude but covered completely due to careful positioning.
Inside the magazine, Marge manages to keep it tasteful. In one photo, she’s sitting on a taxidermized bear rug while wearing a see-through negligee in front of a large stone fireplace. She holds a platter of donuts in her left hand and a single donut in her right, her doe eyes staring right into the camera. In Homorese, this is very seductive.
In another photo, Marge is emulating prior Playboy pinups, wearing high-waisted panties and sheer pantyhose. She’s topless except for a red pearl necklace and looking behind her. On the wall you can see Homer Simpson’s shadow, looking enticed.
The Marge Simpson Playboy shoot came out just in time for The Simpson’s 20th anniversary. While The Simpsons have never had any trouble with viewership, it certainly was a boon to Playboy. Marge was the first cartoon character to ever pose for Playboy’s cover, although she’d previously been on the cover of Maxim.
Marge Completed the Centerfold Questionnaire
With the photos came a story entitled “The Devil in Marge Simpson.” She even filled out a Playboy model questionnaire. In her interview questions, she mentioned that it was sweet of her husband to lie about never hearing about Playboy before. Marge also mentioned that it was sweet of Lisa to say it was empowering of her to be in the magazine. And as for Bart, she swore that he would never know it ever happened.
Marge’s turn-on was “Having enough saucers for your cups.” Her turn-off, in stark contrast to many previous answers, was “Slim men who work out regularly and take care of their bodies and whose oiled muscles gleam in the sun when they take off their shirts.” She noted that her ratios were 26-26-26 and that her height was a whopping 6’6” with her hair.
Playboy asked Marge how “a nice girl from Springfield [ended] up in Playboy,” following in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe and Madonna. Marge Simpson said that she was actually doing it for charity.
“A nice girl like me would never display her body if it weren’t to raise money for charity,” said Marge. “I’m donating my hefty fee from this tasteful pictorial to SPHG—Saving and Preserving Historic Gazebos. Gazebos are disappearing, people, and they’re not coming back!”
That’s right. Marge did it for the gazebos.
And for anyone who wasn’t totally happy with getting a cartoon character for their Playboy issue, the magazine actually offered an alternative cover in November 2009. Victoria’s Secret model Alina Puscau was on the other version. Alina was photographed by Brett Ratner. And, in case you’re wondering, Hugh Hefner said that Homer Simpson photographed Marge.