Super Bowl LII

Is it time for the Maxim Super Bowl Party to grow the hell up?

January 31, 2018

The Maxim Super Bowl Party has been a celebrity destination since its debut in 2001. And like the magazine, it's loud, flashy, and unabashedly booze- and babe-centric. The game is a sideshow, a pretext for good ol' fashioned American indulgence.

But over the last six months, what's become known as the #metoo movement has foregrounded an old but all-too-often dismissed issue. We can't not address it, and this brings me to my question: Has the #metoo movement made it impossible for us to look at the Maxim Super Bowl Party (and other similar bashes) the same way?

First, to give you an idea of the party, imagine the Golden Globes crossed with a Ja Rule video. The offspring of Pit Bull and Bacardi. Dennis Rodman on DMZ. A Stefon skit. Or, probably most accurately, an issue of Maxim come to life.

Its storied history traces to 2001, when it first competed with the Playboy party for most extravagant Super Bowl event. This year you'll pay $750 for the privilege. The party attracts what it bills as "A-list" celebrities, which are themselves the attraction. The website warns you to also expect "VIPs, tastemakers, and athletes in attendance." There will be a vape room.

But the nagging question here is about the women. The words "Maxim Magazine" should tell you everything you need to know. And though the party's home page, says it's your chance to "experience Maxim," it says nothing about the women that magazine objectifies. The main attractions will apparently be sick new cars, tech, booze, and a bunch of live performances. And yet, a Google image search about the party returns this:

So yeah, no shit, the main attraction is ogling hot women.

So: How do you feel about this? Is it cool to attend or aspire to attend these kinds of events, where women's bodies are the main attraction—marketed and monetized to such a dehumanizing point where it's not even mentioned in writing, but immediately and tacitly assumed?

If not before, in the wake of #metoo it's now impossible to ignore how obviously terrible this worldview is.

First I gotta be clear about one thing, because #metoo is a PC third rail. Men often can't touch it. And honestly, I by and large hate #metoo think pieces written by men, but that's because I think they're bad and ignorant, not because I think men shouldn't be allowed to write them. A major component of the movement is directed squarely at men, and how we not only treat women, but also how we look at and think of women—or don't look at and don't think of women. Men should think deeply about that, and they should write thoughtful responses—as long as we don't tell women how it really is, or how they're supposed to feel, etc. I'll do my damnedest to do that here. After all, even filthy, rabid subway rats can sometimes touch the third rail.

We've had 17 years of this party. Which is depressing in itself: I was that age when I started reading Maxim. It wasn't long after that I stopped reading it, and I can't remember the last time I even looked below the logo on the racks. I've checked out the website maybe half a dozen times over those intervening years but can't stand its visual assault, so I click out after about ten seconds.

This isn't a conscious political choice. It happens to coincide with my politics, but I simply get nothing out of it. It's loud and gross and stupid.

But I know my audience, and I'm all too aware a lot of people will, following all of that, go into this article armed with their arguments, that I'm an overly PC snowflake ignoring "nature's way" or "the way things are." Or persecuting males, or doing damage to justice and probable cause and blah blah. I'm not. I don't think I'm better than the people who read Maxim. I love beer. I love to ball. And of course I love babes. (Not much of a car guy, though.) And people who read Maxim aren't dumb, not all of them. Many of them know exactly what they're doing, and know in the scheme of things it's useless, but it's a guilty pleasure, so what. The id is a little smarter than we give it credit for.

And so is Maxim. It's not like until now they've been ignorant of the issues that #metoo has foregrounded. They've been slammed for years as chauvinist and gross, but that's only because they are. On the other hand, this also means they've probably more aware and, in their own way, more sensitive than most men have been to the effects of the chauvinism and objectification that they still shamelessly champion.

But that "shamelessly" part is exactly the problem. Maxim has been self-aware since its inception, and though they've addressed it they're not exactly apologetic, but have continually doubled down on it. Here's probably one of the worst things they've published, but again, I'm not an expert on this mag.

But that article is from 2012, and as I said, Maxim is definitely self-aware. And to be frank, so is this party. It's so insane that it's a parody of itself—on purpose. Not all attendees are hip to that level of irony, and are there just for the T&A and most likely also to rub bellies with DJ Khaled, but Maxim knows and has always known exactly what it's doing.

Does that make it any better, though? Should we be okay with enjoying, guilt-free, a shamelessly carnal, superficial celebration of boobs that's so obviously about boobs it doesn't even need to say "boobs" or put a picture of a woman on its website?

We wish we had the answer.

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