Everybody Hates Chris: Everybody Hates Playboy
(S01E20) In this age where depictions of sexual fantasies which cover the entire spectrum from mildly titillating to mind-bogglingly depraved are available to anyone with an internet connection, a television episode about a kid swiping his dad's Playboy almost seems like something Norman Rockwell would have painted.
Those of us who grew up before the advent of the internet each have our own story about the time we first discovered our dad's hidden treasure of skin mags. I grew up on a farm and discovered my father's collection of Playboys from the '70s and '80s in an old wooden shed, resting inside a stack of dresser drawers. Like any boy who was too young to really be interested in sex yet, I found the magazines to be equal parts fascinating and repulsive. As much as our parents would try to protect us from such things, discovering those magazines was a kind of rite of passage for many young boys. You didn't know what you had found exactly, but it opened a window into the grown-up world you never knew existed. These days, that window no longer exists. In fact, the whole damn wall has been removed and replaced by an endless digital conduit of smut pouring out of the computer monitor of anyone with the ability to type the word "boobs" into Google's search field. An old copy of Playboy with nothing more than a nude female lounging next to a fireplace seems downright quaint.
In this episode, Chris accidentally finds a copy of Playboy in his dad's toolbox. Unlike me when I first found my dad's treasure trove of nudie mags, Chris is thirteen years old when he finds it, so his hormones are already going crazy, as are the hormones of his fellow classmates, whom he charges one dollar apiece to ogle the magazine. Naturally, Chris gets caught, or else this wouldn't be a sitcom. I was never caught with a Playboy, but I did have two copies of Mad Magazine confiscated when I was in the fourth grade. Given my teacher's somewhat melodramatic reaction, I might as well have had a Playboy. I'm guessing if I did have a Playboy she would have executed me right there just on her own principles. I don't even want to think about what she would have done if I had a Hustler. I'd probably still be hanging in a dungeon somewhere while hired goons take turns shoving wooden splinters under my toenails.
Chris needs desperately to get the Playboy back from the vice principal, while his father simultaneously must find out where it disappeared to without revealing he had it in the first place. While searching for it, he finds out his wife, Rochelle, has tucked away five hundred dollars she never told him about. Basically, everyone spends the episode trying to cover up their own dirty little secret. The "boy finding his dad's Playboy" plot is probably a sitcom cliché, but I like that it didn't take the usual route of having the mother discover it and go ballistic about how sick and perverted men can be. Don't get me wrong, the episode makes clear that's exactly what Rochelle's reaction would have been, but instead the show ends with a great father and son moment when Chris' dad explains to Chris he shouldn't take things that don't belong to him, and that such magazines shouldn't be seen by kids his age. There's no yelling and no long-winded lecture, just some sound advice and the unspoken understanding that it was probably inevitable anyway. Everybody Hates Chris is just a sitcom, but it knows how to work within those confines and produce something that's just a little bit different than what we're expecting.
Lastly, I just want to mention the one scene which really cracked me up. A subplot involved Chris' younger brother Drew and his fear of spiders, which their sister gleefully exploits. Knowing she's terrified of clowns, Drew uses his mother's make-up to paint his face like a clown and scare his sister. Their father yells at him, not so much because he scared his sister, but because he's wearing lipstick. If anything can equal a mother's disgust in finding out her little boy has been looking at Playboy, it's a father finding out his son has a penchant for Max Factor.