The Bunny Hop

I spotted a few bunnies over the weekend. I like to fold laundry while watching E! News. The big hype this week is for the premiere of Pamela Anderson’s new reality show Pam:Girl on the Loose. Given Pam’s famous assets, the title offers many connotations.

The watercooler talk between my writer friends and I of late has centered on creating a distinct look to our websites and blogs. It’s hard to stand out in any business these days. While the internet is a great tool, with so much competition, how you “look” online can make a big difference. That’s where branding comes in.

Pam Anderson is a great study in successful branding. I’m not going to get into the morality of posing nude. It’s legal and she’s an adult woman. After seeing her media blitz this week via live interviews and print ones, I think she’s a damn smart business woman who knows exactly how to best promote her brand.

The fact that she has her own brand is impressive enough given that she got her start with Playboy, the ultimate fantasy brand. No other former playmate, with the possible exception of Jenny McCarthy, who is an actress and Autism activist, has been this successful post-pictorial.

What does she know that many don’t? Well I think she knows exactly what she’s selling. And she’s not ashamed of it. Her new deal with E! grants her complete creative control of the final cut. Meryl Streep and Bobby DeNiro don’t even get that.

She’s also using the camera to focus on her favorite charity, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Sure she can be silly and flash her boobs around, but she can also say something important about animal welfare. Sound like a crazy mix? Not in our YouTube, visual centered culture. I guarantee you, some horned up bloke will see the PETA emblem on her chest and take notice.

Activism needn’t be fancy to be effective. You can’t expect someone to take a great leap from an old, dated position to a new, progressive one overnight. A small hop forward is all that’s necessary to start thinking with a fresh prospective.

So where is this interest in Playboy and Pam Anderson coming from?

I blame my novel.

One of my main characters is a former Playmate. I’m at the point of revision where I’m doing research on all manner of little details: geography around Hollywood, agency names, hot-spot celeb hangouts. And for Eden, my character, how far back do Playboy’s online archives go? I wasn’t even positive if any archives existed. I needed to find out.

So I took a trip to the Playboy website yesterday. You can spend a lot of time and money there if you’re not careful. Although it was tempting, I did not scan the “Want to be in Playboy?” section looking for a call out to fortysomething women who do look like they’ve given birth.

Because I was on a mission.

It took mere minutes for me to find what I needed- the Cyber Club- home to the largest Playboy archives in the world. Small fee to join.

Happy that I could keep my scene where Eden references her online pictorial, I was about to exit out of the lion’s den when I noticed something small.

Yes, I’m very perceptive because there’s nothing tiny displayed on Playboy’s website.

I saw the words “For Parents.” Curious, I clicked. I was now on a page designed to help parents keep their children from coming to Playboy for a playdate. Supplied were the site’s different IP addresses and clear directions on adding them to your automated paternal control software.

It’s not save the world activism, but it sure is responsible.

They know exactly what they selling and they’re not ashamed of it. Just like Pam.

Well I’m not like that.

I know what I’m trying to sell- my novel. But, I confess here, sometimes I’ve been a bit ashamed of it.

My novel is a funny, fast beach read and counter to most of what I’ve been taught in my coursework in the Phoenix College Creative Writing Program. It is fiction, not literature. At my residencies I’ve sat and listened to the other Fellows discuss NPR and debate Hemingway vs. Faulkner (Faulkner all the way).

I have an oral sex joke that plays a prominent role in Chapter 23.

Why do I feel embarrassed? Commercial fiction vs. literary fiction is a battle as bloody as the Mommy Wars and similarly has no winning side.

Part of me feels I’m letting down my instructors by not writing something provocative with fancy metaphors. The other part thinks my novel would make a fantastic Lifetime TV movie. Do I have to chose just one side as a writer?

Which brings me back to Pam Anderson. Her boobs aren’t really that important but her activism is. Playboy isn’t enhancing the quality of life (though I’m sure some would debate otherwise) but it tries to protect children from its content, which is important.

I think it’s about time I figure out who I am as a writer and stand by my brand. It’s not like you only get one. I could branch out and sell perfume or housewares someday. Or even literature.

Because if I’m not proud of my work, then I look like a dumb bunny.

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