I am not ashamed to admit that I like celebrity biographies and some reality TV shows. They are often a nice reprieve from the brain-hurt-y stuff I normally consume.
Back in the day I watched Girls Next Door, and always found Holly to be a relatively levelheaded and sincere person who probably did care for Hugh. She had a bit of an ice queen edge, but I came away with the impression that she cared about protecting Hef and being a reliable person in his life. I haven’t followed her since the show so knew little about her. I thought her whole story would be interesting but was particularly interested in how she ended up with Hefner.
I heard about her book from an article titled “Holly Madison Does Not Deserve Our Sympathy“. Which basically vilifies her for “playing a victim”, which is kind of funny because in these social justice warrior “we love victim narrative” days shouldn’t her “victim-ness” be lapped up and cause feminists to storm the Playboy mansion demanding an apology from Hef?
In the article there’s not one derogatory comment about Hugh being creepy or manipulative, or weird. The writer slays Holly by calling her a college drop out and a Hooters waitress – cos women love to tear each other down – and doesn’t mention the good things Madison has managed to do on her own (including paying for her own tits). She also calls the book an attempt to “stretch out her fame” – way to go sister.
I guess one can view Holly’s story as her “being a victim” but if you stop and use your brain for a minute and cast aside your notions of what a “feminist” is you won’t see this. If this book was about a nobody who was in a polygamous relationship with a working class man surely she would be being lauded. But because Holly was pretty and achieved fame status she’s simply a “harlot” and calculating”… did we read the same book?
Holly paints herself as someone who never quite fitted in from school to and I found the way she talks of her shyness and lack of self confidence very honest and I can see how she was manipulated and taken advantage of in the mansion. I think that is a quality that is hard to fake and it made this reader not question her motives in telling her story.
Down the Rabbit Hole is not a dirty tell all. I thought she was a lot harsher on Criss Angel than she was on Hugh and why are we not entertaining the fact that maybe Hef is fucked up and manipulative? Is it normal to have that many girls on your arm? how does that dynamic work? he is not doing it for religious or cultural reasons, he just ships in new girls when he wants, and this is ok because he is rich and famous so we deflect our criticism onto the girls?!? I can’t blame a girl for wanting to stay in that environment, women stay with men who abuse them and don’t get the perks of money and fame. Women stay in abusive relationships and nothing changes that until they are ready to change – which is essentially what happens to Holly.
Holly states that she was sick of people telling her story for her so she decided to do it for herself and I think she manages to do it in a tasteful way that isn’t really that harmful to anyone. I do not think she is espousing a victim narrative at all. Obviously if you judge women based on looks or that they use their sexuality to an advantage you are going to come into this book hating Holly. She is totally aware of her actions and accountable for them and for goodness sake she was young, what 19 year old has it together?
Rather than be known as a “kiss-and-tell” (it’s not really gruesome or exploitative enough, I mean come on there must be some really gross old man sex stories), we should be venerating Holly for telling her story and potentially reaching a wide range of young and impressionable women who got the wrong idea about Girls Next Door and Playboy. By telling her story maybe she’ll encourage women to stand on their own and stick up for themselves. Maybe not. Maybe women will just read it and judge, maybe some will seek a sugar daddy, but I think she has a great platform with this book and an incredible story to tell about just how fickle these so called treasures (fame/money) are.