I Read It for the Articles is the Stock Phrase people use to avoid catching any flak over liking a media product which has parts to it that are not popular or socially acceptable - instead, the individual can cite the more respectable elements of the product and claim they have no interest in, say, the full-frontal nudity or the brutal violence.
The reason that particular joke became ubiquitous is that, at least in The '60s and The '70s, the excuse had a kernel of truth to it. Playboy paid writers nearly three times as much as other publications, meaning that it drew considerable talent, such as Jack Kerouac, Stephen King and Arthur C. Clarke, and interviewed interesting people like Martin Luther King Jr., Fidel Castro, and John Lennon, who gave the last major interview of his life to Playboy just four months before his murder. It used to feature a variety of short stories, snippets, and interviews that wouldn't be out of place in The New Yorker... just surrounded by pictures of naked women. In fact, Playboy is one of the top selling Braille magazines, even though it completely lacks its usual selling point.
Writers from the era will tell you that getting published in Playboy really was a big deal. In 2015 Playboy announced they were dropping nudity - largely because The Internet Is for Porn destroyed their business model, but also in the face of accusations that Playboy was suffering Magazine Decay (few articles, almost all exploitative Fanservice). However, they later announced that they were bringing back nude photo shoots after a year-long absence starting in 2017.
Changing social morals have rendered this something of an outdated trope, as audiences have shown they have no problem with explicit sexual content in TV and film. To whit: someone who watches a critically acclaimed or sexually explicit show like Girls or Masters of Sex has seen more than 70's magazine readers ever saw in Playboy. And with a staggering amount of pornography always just a few keystrokes away on the Internet, the idea of being scandalized by a few naked pictures is almost quaint. The modern-day version of this would probably be defending a series Best Known for the Fanservice, which has rather different connotations—less "that show is obscene", more "that show is trash."
Just to be clear, this is in-universe examples only. Works that you or the fandom consider Guilty Pleasures are not examples of this trope.
- The Discovery Channel used this trope to market the show Smash Lab when it premiered.
"If anyone asks, you watch it for the science. But we know the real reason."
- At least at one point, Playboy sold and advertised shirts with their logo in small and the trope name in large print.
- Playboy actually sold compilations of all its articles. You can get the last Playboy John Lennon interview as a book too.
- The founder actually stated that, without the naughty pictures, Playboy would have been a literary magazine.
- One commercial for the fanservice-ridden Dead or Alive 3 for has a player insisting he only plays it for the fighting.
- An advertisement for Heineken in Australian Penthouse in the 90s showed a cardboard six pack of the beer and claimed "We know you only buy it for the articles inside".
- Early in Death Note manga, Light's younger sister found a dirty magazine is his room, which he claims he only read for the article about Kira. In fact, he doesn't read it for the articles, either — the magazine is meant to keep the Death Note hidden by being a relatively-innocent explanation for all his security measures.
- In one sketch, the French comedian trio Les Inconnus mentioned the magazine Photo, an art photography magazine featuring naked models, which can "provide a good alibi" when in society:
"...it looks very smart, you can read it in front of people: '- what are you reading ?' '- I'm reading Photo... You know, I recently took an interest in photography...'"
- In the Robin Williams show Weapons Of Self Destruction, he takes a jab at NASCAR fans.
Robin: "I watch NASCAR for the driving." Yeah, and I watch porn for the acting. YOU LIAR!!!
- In Batgirl (Rebirth) #25, Mad Hatter associate March Harriet, is explaining her backstory, which involves being a thinly-disguised Playboy bunny who discovered her boss was marketing stolen Hatter tech. Explaining why Not Hugh Hefner would even have a tech launch she says "Some people do read Menagerie for the articles".
- From FoxTrot:
Andy: Peter, I found something interesting under your mattress.
Peter: Mom, I swear, I only read those magazines for the articles!
Andy: I meant this baseball mitt.
Peter: I put it there to break it in.
Andy: Now, about those magazines...
Peter: Oh, you mean my Scientific American collection?
- Another strip has Jason excitedly carrying a stack of National Geographics. Roger assumes that he intends to use it as Poor Man's Porn, but it turns out he and his pal Marcus actually were interested in the articles, particularly the Apollo 11 pictures.
- In another one, Peter claims to have bought the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition for an article on marlin fishing off Bora Bora. His mother offers to cut the article out for him and his impassioned response is "And read it out of context?"
- Parodied in Pooch Café when Chaz tries to convince Poncho that a collarless dog is still decent by showing him wolf photos. (Kinda gives a new meaning to National Geographic Nudity.)
- The Wizard of Id had a strip where the Wizard is told by his shrewish wife that his girly magazine arrived in the mail. The Wizard objects, noting the fine articles in it; she says that she's glad he thinks that way, because she cut out the pictures (which horrifies the Wizard).
- Alex: In one strip Clive his shocked when he flicks through his boss's collection of leatherbound Victorian pornography and discovers how explicit they are. Penny remarks that he shouldn't be, as they were that era's equivalent of Playboy and Penthouse. Clive responds that this is why he thought they would have the occasional article about Stephenson's Rocket or spinning jennys in them, so that a chap could claim to be reading them for that.
- Dragon Magazine had a one-shot comic in one issue of a red dragon holding a copy of the magazine saying "my wife thinks I read it for the articles."
- Subverted by Neil Gaiman's introduction to 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons by Gahan Wilson, where he says "I have an embarrassing admission to make: when I was a barely pubertal schoolboy I did not look at Playboy for the articles. I did not actually care about the articles. Interviews with American politicians or movie stars left me unmoved, reviews of stereo equipment or sports cars or cocktails meant nothing to me. No, I went to Playboy for the pictures." Then Double Subverted when he clarifies he means these pictures, not the photos of "pneumatic, terrifying creatures, quite unlike the girls at local schools I would stare at awkwardly".
- Played for Laughs in Conversations with a Cryptid. When All for One finds out Izuku also reads the Conspiracy, a niche dark web news forum for criminals:
Izuku: I read it for the articles on Quirks.
All for One: That was my excuse too. No one believed me.
- A throwaway gag in Harry Potter fanfic Make A Wish has Moody "find" a code in one of Mr Black's messages that Dumbledore identifies as the measurements of that month's Playwizard centerfold. He claims he reads it for the articles, but then Tonks mentions one of those articles and Dumbledore is mystified about it.
- In a review of The Bourne Legacy in The Irish Times, film critic Donald Clarke joked that people who claim to watch The Bourne Series for the plot are rather analogous to people who claim to read Playboy for the articles.
- In Major League II, catcher Rube Baker actually does read Playboy for the articles...which the coaching staff uses to help him get over his throwing problems.
- At the start of The Island (1980), Maynard comes back to his office to find his son Justin reading a Playboy. He asks if he's been reading it long, and Justin replies there is an interesting article.
- In Breakfast of Champions, although Kilgore Trout's novels once sold at a high price to people who bought them for the "wide-open beavers" advertised on their covers in banners larger than the stories' titles, they later sold at a far lower price to people who bought them for the words, since hard-core pornography had become so devalued that "even high quality color motion pictures of wide-open beavers were going begging in the marketplace." When Kilgore Trout buys an old issue of Black Garterbelt magazine including one of his own stories, the cashier thinks he's just buying it for the Poor Man's Porn.
- Dave Barry mentions this excuse in one of his books: "you read it for the articles despite knowing how hard it is to read sideways."
- Implied in Going Postal with the magazine Back-Alley Pins. While most pin-collector magazines treat acuphilia as Serious Business, this one mostly contains pictures of young women wearing leather. "But, to be fair, they're mostly holding pins." (This is a parody of the real British motorbike magazine Back Street Heroes, notorious for being crammed with pictures of scantily-clad Hood Ornament Hotties.)
- In the Most Unperceptive Review Ever Written, Country Life magazine praised Lady Chatterley's Lover for its description of the life and duties of a professional Gamekeeper, only noting that "regrettably, the reader has to wade through a great deal of extraneous material to reach the interesting passages..."
- The Remains of the Day: quintessential English butler Stevens enjoys reading steamy love stories in his off time; he insists to the reader he only does so to improve his vocabulary.
- In NCIS, Tony states this as the reason why he has such a large Porn Stash.
- In the episode "The One Where Chandler Crosses a Line":
Kathy: Oh, God, is that Baywatch?
Chandler: Yes, but I only watch it for the articles.
- Also a bit of an inversion in the episode where Playboy prints a joke which Ross (or Chandler) made, and Joey says, "You know they have naked chicks in there, right?"
- In the episode "The One Where Chandler Crosses a Line":
- Referenced in Coupling where the men visit a lap dancing club, Steve claims their visit is 'strictly for the articles'.
- An inversion occurs in the Christina Applegate sitcom Jesse when the title character finds a Playboy among Diego's belongings.
Jesse: Let me guess. You read it for the articles.
Diego: No, no... there are naked women in here.
- Another inversion happens in Mork & Mindy in an episode where Mork becomes addicted to advertisements. When Mindy finds a magazine, Mork says "I swear, I only read it for the naked women."
- In Will & Grace, Will mentions "actually reading Playboy for the articles" as something he used to do before he came out.
- Life on Mars (2006): Sam's excuse while hiding a tape recorder under Gene's copy of Juggs.
Gene: You know what the really sad thing is? I believe you.
- Theo uses this as a defense for Cliff finding a Biker Mag in his sock drawer on The Cosby Show.
- A non-pornographic version was used in the Law & Order episode "D-Girl", when Lieutenant Van Buren says she had heard about the victim of the week in the tabloids. That she only saw while she was in the line at the grocery store.
- Law & Order: Criminal Intent: While investigating the murder of a magazine editor in "Traffic", Nichols comments that his father used to read it and remembers an article featuring Ursula Andress in a brassiere that fired bullets. When Steven wryly asks "Your father read it?", he admits it was shared, then adds there was always a fight over the crossword.
- The Partridge Family:
- When Keith is caught looking at Playpen Magazine, he says, "These magazines have some great short stories!"
- When Reuben catches Danny looking at one of his Playpens, Danny tells Reuben, "I was in the middle of an article about oil wells in Northern Peru." Reuben says, "Look, kid, if you're old enough to look at an oil well, you're old enough to put it back the way you found it."
- Parodied in Frasier where it's mentioned that a teenage Niles would read National Geographic in bed with a flashlight. Niles said he was looking at the maps and Frasier said that's what makes it so scary.
- the 2002 Playboy (Stern) table has inserts for the playfield and backglass featiring fully-clothed, topless, or naked models, but of course, there's people who insist that they only play it because it's such a great pinball table.
- In Hamish and Dougal, the Laird reads Big Fit Birds for the gardening tips.
- One of Round the Horne's running gags is Kenneth Horne mentioning some absurd and often vaguely smutty-sounding publication and claiming to read it for the crossword/spot the ball competition/etc.
"Now the other day I was leafing through my copy of The Lady Wrestlers Home Journal, which I buy for the fat stock prices...""Recently I was leafing through my copy of Throw off Your Clothes and Live - I buy it for the chess problems...""As I was glancing through my copy of Forbidden Flesh Monthly - it's a vegetarian magazine..."
- Used on one episode of The Now Show with a song, one of whose lines was "you don't read The Sun for the news" (as well as going through every other example of Poor Man's Porn).
- In the Radio 4 adaptation of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Pepys's bookseller explains that L'escolle des filles is quite expensive due to the high demand among people interested in the story of a sixteen-year-old girl being "educated" by her older cousin, but that Pepys will of course only be interested in its literary merit, before leeringly adding that it has illustrations. (Pepys himself called it "a mighty lewd book, but yet not amiss for a sober man once to read over to inform himself in the villainy of the world.")
- Fallout 2: when asked by Miss Kitty in New Reno why you have some Cat's Paw magazines on you, you can reply that you read them for the articles.
- She gives you a quest to find a full set of the Cat's Paw magazines, since she runs the Cat's Paw brothel. When you bring them all back, she says there's two issues of #5, and some of the pages are stuck together,. so you can keep it. She unsticks them for you, since she's an expert at handling sticky things. An article in the magazine gives you an extra 5% skill with energy weapons. "What do you know. You DO read it for the articles."
- Mao of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice claims that his obsessive collection of comics and video games is merely research on heroes... it's pretty obvious that he's one of The Knights Who Say "Squee!".
- Guardsman Joey in Dragon Nest supposedly reads "Naughty Goddess" (a men's magazine, wink wink) for the articles, then uses the rest for toilet paper. So does your character. Even if your character is the archer (an elf girl).
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, after Snake escapes from Groznyj Grad's prison, should he have the magazines on him prior to capture, calling EVA will have her reveal that she knows about the magazines (although she nonetheless promises not to throw anything away), with Snake being unable to explain why he had them. EVA, however, isn't too upset that he has them in themselves, more that he would actually read them during a mission, or that he would use them to distract an enemy, explaining that he should request her help in distracting the enemy, at least.
- Referenced in Mafia II: The game contains a number of Playboy centerfolds as collectibles. The games stats menu shows the amount of time looking at said collectibles as "Time spent on Playboy articles."
- Taken even further in Mafia III, which once again has Playboy magazines as collectible items. Not only are the usual centerfolds there, but so are many of the articles, which contain interviews with famous '60s figures like historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., right-wing oil baron H. L. Hunt (known to modern pop culture as the inspiration for J. R. Ewing from Dallas), and anti-war Yale chaplain William Sloane Coffin.
- In The Love Boat Doc claims that he only reads Kitten Magazine for the articles shortly after commenting that Sandy, who posed for it once a few years ago, has nothing to be ashamed of.
- In Dragon Quest XI, upon reaching the Royal Library in Sniflheim, Party Talk will show Rab being engrossed in what he insists is a "spellbook". After acquiring the Blue Orb, Rab decides to make a Rousing Speech about how, now that the party has all the Orbs, they can finally set off to reach the World Tree, finger pointing at the sky and everything... and drops the "spellbook", revealed to be a rare issue of "Ogler's Digest", i.e., a porno magazine. The party's disgusted reaction is side-splitting, with Jade noting that the old man has not given up on his "obsession", and Veronica pointing out how weird this is after his speech. While the company leaves him in his shame, Rab desperately tries to convince them the he only reads it for the articles.
- Cyanide & Happiness has a comic that goes like this:
Wife: Japanese Playboy?
Husband: I, uh, read it for the articles.
Wife (happy): Wow! I didn't know you could read Japanese!
- Sam & Fuzzy has a character use an inversion of this. Sam, embarrassed to be caught reading a porn magazine's advice column, insists to his coworkers that he only reads it "for the pornography".
- Inverted in Fans!, where Shanna, who claims to be a lesbian, keeps around a stack of Playboy... which (being a closet scifi geek) she reads for the articles.
- Questionable Content has a comic where Pintsize swears he is reading an Apple magazine for the benchmarks despite a suspicious can of WD-40 lubricant nearby.
- Two Lumps: Eben's justification for reading "Cat Fancy".
- Igor of Dork Tower quotes this when trying to explain why he's a Dead or Alive fan, then immediately self-corrects to "I buy it for the gameplay." This does not convince anyone.
- Furry Experience: Cat's Goals, where she wants to buy a Playboy magazine to see what the articles are like, since everyone's reading them. This from a girl who runs in terror from just about anything to do with sex. The Alt Text comments: "Every time you find out someone has a Playboy magazine, they protest they have it for the articles."
- In one El Goonish Shive strip, Helena the Immortal tells a stream of Blatant Lies to prove that Immortals are capable of lying. The last one is "Men buy adult magazines for the articles."
- Ruby Larose of Sticky Dilly Buns has been known to declare that she reads Yaoi for the stories. This isn't totally convincing (though she does pay attention to the characters and plots). She does become a bit more honest about such things as she experiences Character Development.
- In Arthur, King of Time and Space, an unused "Guenevere the Vampire Slayer" arc strip (published in script form when Paul started wrapping things up) would have had Arthur-as-Xander claim he only reads Anita Blake for the articles.
- Josh Hadley, host of Radiodrome has actually said that he does read Playboy for the articles, because the "pornographic" content is so tame, that's all it's good for.
- The "I watch it for the plot" image macro meme follows this line of thought. The joke in this case was associating common literary devices (such as Character Development, engaging storylines, and humor) with images of (usually female) characters' chests and butts as a sort of Unusual Euphemism for Fanservice. Amusingly, the actual term "fanservice" in this context is meant in the classic Pandering to the Base sense, which the poster will object to.
- In Justice League, when Flash says that he knows who the Hugh Hefner expy is, Wonder Woman asks "So you're familiar with his work?" To which Flash responds "I just read it for the articles."
- Homer tries to use this excuse on Marge in an episode of The Simpsons, so she calls his bluff and cuts out all of the naked women. Homer sadly throws the Playdude in the garbage where Bart finds it, and apparently not realizing that something is missing, assumes the articles are what the big deal is about (But what about the articles on the other side of the paper?)
- In an older episode, Bart asks supernanny Sherry Bobbins what she'd do if she caught him reading a Playdude. Her answer? Make him read ALL the articles, including Norman Mailer's "latest claptrap about his waning libido".
- In "Homer the Heretic," Homer reads a copy of Playdude while his family is at church, and he actually is reading the articles!
- In My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Super Sleuth Christmas Movie, Rabbit's Christmas wish is to meet Santa Claus and find out how he delivers toys to all the children. He doesn't think it's possible, though, so he states that he's also asked for a subscription to Rutabaga Monthly. He then continues, hilariously, "for the articles, of course."
- In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh Five accuses Numbuh Two of reading Rainbow Monkey comics. Numbuh Two claims that he only reads them for the video game ads.
- Parodied in King of the Hill where Hank discovers a copy of The New Yorker in Bobby's room. When confronted about Bobby panics and swears that he wasn't reading it for the articles.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Daphne spots Fred with a copy of his favorite magazine "Traps Illustrated" with a female cheesecake photo on the cover. Fred's alibi is that he reads it for the articles. (This being Fred, it's very possible he's sincere.)
- Inverted in an Ed, Edd n Eddy episode where Eddy has Ed hide his "magazines". After the trio implies that Ed hid them in the sewer and Double D mentions how the text must be ruined, Eddy's remark is, "It's the pictures I'm worried about."
- Referenced again in the same episode. While Double D is trying to deduce where Ed might have hidden the box of magazines, he instructs the very impatient Eddy to "read a magazine or something." Eddy retorts that he would if he knew where they were; Double D rather snootily asks, "Oh, you read those?"
- Inverted in the American Dad! episode "G-String Circus," when ex-stripper Tanqueray declares: "I'm gonna try and get in Playboy. I've got a lot of good short stories. This suitcase is filled with science fiction."
- Ironically, it is the whole point of Porn Studies, actually an academic publication studying pornography. As the journalist from Time Magazine puts it : "I read through the issue and, for better or for worse, anyone looking for titillation is likely to be disappointed. (Unless what turns you on is sociological analysis, in which case its your lucky day.)".
- When Sir Terry Pratchett was a teenager with a growing interest in science fiction and fantasy, he discovered a bookshop with a huge selection of genre fiction ... because the proprietress bought second-hand books in bulk so that the books she was actually in the business of selling were less than 10% of the stock for legal reasons. She was apparently quite proud of her one "legitimate" customer.