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Virgin Mary on Christmas Playboy Cover – The Borrowed Kettle – Too Many Excuses

Posted by NT Wrong on December 18, 2008

The December 2008 Mexican edition of Playboy features a woman draped in a religious looking veil, standing in front of a stained glass window, with the words ‘We adore you, Mary’ across the cover. The model’s name is Maria Florencia Onori. She appears completely nude within the publication, in various religiously themed poses. The magazine was released immediately before Mexico celebrates the Virgin of Guadalupe, and in the month of Christmas.

Playboy has made a number of responses: a denial, a shifting of the blame, and a ‘sincere apology’ for any offense caused.

A denial:

The image “is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other religious figure… The intent was to reflect a Renaissance-like mood on the cover.”
– Raul Sayrols, publisher of Playboy Mexico

A blame-shift:

“the Mexican edition of the magazine is published by a licensee, and the company did not approve or endorse the cover.”
– Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc

An apology:

“While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies.”- – Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc

The problem is the magazine has too many reasons.

Freud tells a story about a borrowed kettle:

“A. borrowed a copper kettle from B. and after he had returned it was sued by B. because the kettle now had a big hole in it which made it unusable. His defence was: ‘First, I never borrowed the kettle from B. at all; secondly, the kettle had a hole in it already when I got it from him; and thirdly, I gave him back the kettle undamaged.'”

This story is a favourite of Zizek’s. He has another good example:

“Do we not encounter the same inconsistency when high United States officials try to justify the attack on Iraq? (1) There is a link between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaeda, so Saddam should be punished as part of the retaliation for 11 September; (2) Even if there is no link between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda, they are united in their hatred of the United States–Saddam’s regime is thus very dangerous, a threat not only to the United States, but also to its neighbours and the Iraqi people; (3) The change of regime in Iraq will create the conditions for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
– The Universal Exception, 289

Of couse, there have been a number of other, also contradictory excuses offered by United States officials for the Iraq war. But there is no mention that war and securing oil are good business and smart political muscle-flexing. There was no mention from Playboy Enterprises Inc that controversy and sex sells porno magazines, either.

13 Responses to “Virgin Mary on Christmas Playboy Cover – The Borrowed Kettle – Too Many Excuses”

  1. Gospel of Mikjij said


    Why are “Christians” “reading” the magazine to get “offended” by it in the first place?

  2. Geoff Hudson said

    So what was your ‘reason’ for looking within Playboy then Jeffrey? Was she an expert in Greek?

  3. Geoff Hudson said

    [comment moved to the Hobbyhorse Post]

  4. The problem is the magazine has too many reasons.

    Yeah, like 100. Thank you very much for this post!

  5. Since you mention Sigmund’s reasoning (and the Virgin all in one post):

    “Freud, a Jew, who as a child regularly attended Catholic Mass with his Czech nanny, believed that religion was the ‘universal obsessional neurosis of humanity’.”
    –Benyamin Cohen, My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith, page 24.

  6. I think her last name is Onofrio, with an “o” at the end.

  7. Nevermind. I just totally misheard her name in the Spanish news. 😉

  8. NT Wrong? said

    J. K. – 100? But all my reasons are perfectly consistent, held together by syllogistic logic. 😉

  9. Clutch said

    I read Zizek’s three sample justifications for the Iraq invasion, and can’t see the alleged inconsistency. Where’s the contradiction?

    There’s a pragmatic infelicity, maybe, inasmuch as each of the three has been presented as the real reason for the invasion, from time to time. But that’s not part of the reasons themselves. The analogy with Freud’s case is very weak.

  10. NT Wrong? said

    Clutch – the fact that each has been offered as the ‘real reason’ for the invasion is the context of each reason, and thus ‘part of’ the reason. It is precisely at this point that the offering of more and more reasons becomes equivalent to hiding — covering up — the ‘really real reason’ for the invasion. And in this respect (and analogies are always in some respect, not all respects), there is perfect analogy with Sigmund’s Kettle.

  11. Clutch said


    No. Freud’s examples are mutually inconsistent; no two of them can be true. Zizek’s three examples are mutually consistent; any two, indeed all three of them, can be true.

    This much would be correct, hence the analogy quite weak, even if the quote from Zizek claimed that each reason had been explicitly presented as the sole reason for the invasion; in Freud’s examples, no such appeal to contexts counting as “parts” of reasons is necessary. But in any case the quote does not make this claim (and if it did, it would be very dubious as applied to any single American spokesperson).

    Anger at the dishonesty of the Bush admin on this issue is no cause to do violence to the fairly clear concepts of logical contradiction and logical consistency.

  12. NT Wrong? said

    Clutch – No – you’ve gone off on a red herring. The issue of logical contradiction is quite beside the point here — not because Zizek is ignoring any logical rules, but because his point lies elsewhere. The analogy concerns something quite different, not involving any attempt to prove a strict logical contradiction.

    Each of the examples involves the piling up of reasons which — on the face of it — should offer further defences of the position taken. The usual expectation we have when faced with the offering of more and more reasons is that one will make a better and better case. The paradox, which Freud and Zizek are interested in (as the peculiarities of dreams; as a political parallax gap) is that, in these cases, the piling up of reasons actually fails to make a better case. The more reasons, the worse the case, because it unveils the real reason that is being suppressed.

    You’re approaching Zizek’s analogy as some exercise in logical contradiction, when the analogy involves the psychoanalytical unveiling of what is unexpressed. Wrong tools of analysis, wrong level at which the analogy is working, wrong conclusions.

  13. Clutch said

    Thanks for your reply. I doubt that I’m being, darn it, just too logical, in response to Zizek’s calling those three statements “inconsistencies”, and your calling them “contradictory”, and your claim that they are analogous to a clearly inconsistent set of reasons. It’s odd that something emphasized repeatedly in your post would suddenly become an irrelevant issue when it turns out to be incorrect.

    The analogy is a weak one for just the reason you identify as important: the three rationales considered by Zizek (clearly, obviously) comprise a proper convergent argument, not an inconsistent or contradictory one.

    1) Saddam was involved in 9/11.
    2) Even if he wasn’t involved in 9/11, he’s very dangerous to us and others.
    3) His overthrow will aid the cause of peace in the Middle East.

    The infelicity of this argument has nothing to do with whether its “piling up of reasons fails to make a better case”. It may well make a better case, to the slight extent that any of those three reasons is actually true. The problem is a pragmatic one, rather, as in the event, the reasons didn’t so much “pile up” as get discarded, rewritten, and reordered. There was a Before and an After in the Iraq invasion case, and the dishonesty largely consists in pretending that the Before reasons had really been the After reasons all along. The single biggest reason given Before was that Saddam had WMD, including the imminent development of nuclear weapons, and intended to use them against the USA. This reason was not retained along with others that were “piled on” — it was jettisoned and disowned, and new reasons trotted out instead.

    The issues here are transparency and honesty from public officials, not whether “Saddam was a bad man” is a better argument on its own than “Saddam was a bad man and getting rid of him helped various good things happen”.

    Bottom line, though: if your claim now is that neither you nor Zizek meant to say that those reasons are inconsistent and contradictory, the appropriate response is to retract your unambiguous claims that they are inconsistent and contradictory — not level the charge of red herring.

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