Tom Purcell, 2/18/2008 [Archive]

SI Gets Semi-Naked

SI Gets Semi-Naked

By Tom Purcell

You've got to give the Sports Illustrated people points for being honest.

It's February, you see. In many parts of the country, it's bitter cold. The Super Bowl is over and baseball is yet to begin. We men don't know what to do with ourselves.

Our minds unoccupied, we lack direction. We dwell randomly on negative things -- our post-holiday flabbiness, old girlfriends who didn't work out and, for some, girlfriends who did.

But one thing -- the smile of a beautiful, scantily clad woman -- can make us forget our woes. SI has been helping us forget since it published its first swimsuit issue 44 years ago.

But this year it hit the mother lode.

The cover features Marisa Miller, a 29-year-old stunner who cut her teeth modeling for Victoria's Secret. As her curviness spills off the page, she gazes at us with angelic calm. She makes us feel like everything is going to be all right.

And maybe it is going to be all right.

Surely you know the origin of the swimsuit issue. The editors came up with the idea to boost magazine sales during the dead of winter.

It's been driving feminists batty from the start. They say it exploits women, and it does. They say it is wrong for men to view women as mere objects, and it is. But what angers them most is that the cover models often go on to fame and fortune just because they are gorgeous.

Then they marry a multimillionaire, eventually divorce him, and live happily ever after on a considerable pile of dough.

The evolution of the swimsuit issue is also worth noting. The early issues were simple and mild. But in the late 1970s -- thank you, Cheryl Tiegs -- things really started heating up. The swimsuits got scantier and the models more beautiful.

That trend continued until the late 1990s, when something went terribly wrong. The 1998 issue, for instance, featured bony women with frowns on their faces. It had more feature stories than photos -- such as interviews with beautiful female meteorologists who were covered up with more clothing than a winter mannequin at Macy's.

But in the past few years, Sports Illustrated has been getting back to the basics. This year's issue can be summed up in two words: yow-sa!

It features 19 of the world's most glamorous supermodels pictured, says the press release, "in visually dynamic photo spreads, all set in unique and exotic locations from around the world."

It features many body-painting photos -- the fine art of painting swimsuits right onto the models' skin. I tried getting a job like that once, but couldn't afford the $1000 a week they wanted me to pay.

There is a feature on Russian-born beauties for the simple reason that no magazine ever in the history of mankind ever went wrong featuring Russian-born beauties in scanty duds.

The Sports Illustrated people spent 10 days with supermodel Bar Refaeli in her native Israel. She's stunning and not wearing very much. I'm sure that feature will endear us even more with our pals in Iran.

Another feature depicts NFL cheerleaders wearing even less than we usually see them not wearing.

And let's not forget race-car driver Danica Patrick. NASCAR fans will sum up her dark-eyed beauty in three words: yow-ow-sa!

In any event, you got to hand it to Sports Illustrated for being honest -- for getting back to the basics.

In an odd way, in a nutty culture like ours, the swimsuit issue is a good sign. SI is admitting that the swimsuit issue is a disgustingly honest cultural icon -- that its purpose is to objectify women because boorish men will pay good money to ogle them.

They're admitting that gorgeous women have always exploited beauty for bucks -- that they've always used it to part men from their dough. And rest assured: if the swimsuit issue is about anything, it's about generating dough.

In these confusing times, in which we pretend men and women are the same, there's something refreshingly primitive about that.

Still, things are confusing. Did you know more women buy the annual swimsuit issue than men? Must be the Will Ferrell photos.

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. If you would like to see Tom's columns in your local newspaper call Sales at (805) 969-2829 for info. For comments to Tom, please email him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."

Download Tom Purcell's color photo - Download Tom Purcell's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tom Purcell's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

International Womens Day
By: Osmani Simanca

February 8, 2008

International Award Winning Cartoon
By: Osmani Simanca

November 14, 2006

Gender Equality
By: Ares

January 25, 2008

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829
Billing Information: (805)
Technical Support:

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service