Update 9/10/18: Facebook has apologized for banning the Burt Reynolds centerfold.
Much of the world was sad to hear that actor Burt Reynolds passed away yesterday at the age of 82 from cardiac arrest. But to add insult to injury, when many decided to pay tribute to the Hollywood star and sex symbol by sharing an image of the iconic 1972 Burt Reynolds centerfold by Cosmopolitan magazine — an image of the actor sprawled out on a bear skin rug that contains no actual nudity — social media platform Facebook removed the image and banned some users for sharing it.
Burt Reynolds starred in films including Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, Boogie Nights (for which he won an Oscar) and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which he starred in beside country music legend Dolly Parton. The death was announced by the actor’s manager; Reynolds reportedly passed away at Jupiter Medical Center in Florida.
Though he became an on-screen star in the late ’70s and ’80s and his work speaks for itself, it was the early 1970s — 1972, to be exact — when Burt Reynolds became an international sex symbol. And he has Cosmopolitan magazine to thank for it.
He has since come out to say he was embarrassed by the now-iconic Burt Reynolds centerfold because it made him look like an “egomaniac,” but he’s also said that at the time he didn’t really have any qualms about participating in the shoot. The centerfold depicts him fully nude, splayed atop a bear skin rug with a cigarette in his mouth and his forearm covering “the goods.”
Reynolds has also said he was fall-down drunk during the photo shoot.
Check out the iconic Burt Reynolds centerfold here:
As proof of the iconic nature of Cosmo‘s Burt Reynolds centerfold, check out these two parodies of it, the first by actor and TV host Mario Lopez, the second by our favorite potty-mouthed super-anti-hero, Deadpool.
As many in the LGBTQ community are particularly well aware, Facebook has long had serious issues with the enforcement of its “community standards” on the platform. It’s not unusual for queer men to stumble across posts about Facebook removing images of two men kissing. If the image had depicted a man and a woman kissing — or even two femme women kissing — would it have been removed? Likely not.
Back in April, the nearly complete “Facebook community standards guide” was published for all to see, and it left us at Hornet scratching our collective head at some of the decisions therein. Even the ACLU spoke out against the platform, saying, “More needs to be done. Users need a meaningful, robust right to appeal the removal of any post — and before it is removed.”
Last September we reported that the influential social network made over $750,000 in donations to anti-gay political groups. In July 2017 we called out Facebook for banning lesbians when they referred to themselves as “dykes.” Just last month we uncovered that Facebook was giving a platform to neo-Nazi clothing brands, allowing them to sell their wares on its pages, and also that Facebook had been targeting LGBTQ youth with ads for conversion therapy.
Clearly, disappointment in Facebook by the LGBTQ community is of course nothing new.
Here’s what Facebook users were sent when their post of the famous Burt Reynolds centerfold was removed:
The Burt Reynolds centerfold of course contains none of those things: no genitals, no sexual activity, no female nipples and no explicit language.
Is Facebook’s removal of the iconic Burt Reynolds centerfold from its platform — the honoring of a sex symbol by queer men around the world — as serious an issue as any of the missteps by Facebook we mentioned above? Hardly. But it’s yet another reminder that Facebook does a (yeah, we’ll say it) horrible job of enforcing fair and smart community standards … and seriously needs to get its shit together.
Thankfully, though it took a while, Facebook did get its shit together — at least on this issue. On Saturday, Facebook released a statement to Entertainment Weekly. A Facebook representative told the magazine, “The image in question was mistakenly removed. We are restoring the image as it does not break our standards and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Though Facebook has apologized, some people who posted the photo have reported that their individual posts are still “Under Review.” In fact, this writer was banned from Facebook for seven days for posting the Burt Reynolds centerfold; that ban has not been revoked.