If I were running Wal-Mart, there would be strippers in the aisles and strippers at the checkout line. In fact, it would just be a strip joint. But despite the fact that I have neither morals nor taste, I think Wal-Mart was right to pull the lad mags--Maxim, Stuff and FHM--from its shelves last week.
Wal-Mart, which I love not only for the cleanliness, prices and service but also for employing people who would otherwise be knocking on my door with religious literature, sells to a lot of the red states. And red states, as their color portends, get angered really easily. To make its customers happy, Wal-Mart has often done some stupid things, like pulling Midge, a pregnant, married doll; making Nirvana change the song Rape Me to Waif Me; and forcing the Goo Goo Dolls to redesign the cover of A Boy Named Goo because a Wal-Mart executive thought the boy with blackberries smeared on him looked like a child-abuse victim. But like Vin Diesel with his facial expressions, eventually Wal-Mart was going to get one right. Maxim is pornography, and finally someone figured it out. Why now, I'm not sure, but it might have something to do with the fact that one of FHM's May cover lines is SEX RECORDS! ASTONISHING FEATS OF NAKED AMBITION.
A store defines itself by its merchandise, and Wal-Mart is no more obligated to carry men's magazines than a women's shoe store is to sell beer and doughnuts. I hope by printing that here, I have copyrighted that idea. And while Wal-Mart sells guns, hunting knives, cigarettes, Wiggles DVDs and other things I wouldn't feel comfortable putting on the shelves in my shoe-beer-and-doughnuts store, its job isn't to be morality police. Wal-Mart's business is not to offend its customers, most of whom are, for reasons that may have to do with our nation's obesity, more comfortable with hunting rifles than nudity. Its job is to make families feel comfortable enough to shop and enjoy those 12¢ hotdogs together. Because that is where the real profit is, people. Trust me, I've tried them.
Wal-Mart isn't expected to sell Playboy or other pornography, and the lad magazines have been getting away with convincing the world they're something different just because they cleverly disguise a few minuscule body parts. After Wal-Mart decided to discontinue selling FHM, a spokesman for the magazine argued that unlike Details, the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit issue and many women's fashion magazines, it never publishes frontal nudity. But it has been working nudity loopholes the way our corporate brothers at AOL worked accounting ledgers. National Geographic photos and those imaging scans in the New England Journal of Medicine aren't porn, but whatever that fully clothed runner-up from Joe Millionaire did in those bondage films definitely was. I know this because while I spent a lot of time looking at the Joe Millionaire snippets, I have never opened a National Geographic.