Thursday, February 05, 2004

Forget Janet Jackson's breast, worry about Jerry Springer
By Paul Willcocks
VICTORIA - I tried to avoid writing about Janet Jackson's right breast, I really did.
I mean, how big a deal is it when a pop star flashes a breast for a few seconds, especially in the middle of the Superbowl, an event celebrating excess in every form, from the size of the players and the violence of their crashes to the outrageousness of the TV commercials and the ludicrousness of the half-time spectacle?
It was a real big deal, apparently.
I watched much of the game, even the half-time show, but was puttering around at the same time. Driven to inattention by Justin Timberlake, the ex-boy bandster, I missed the flash seen round the world. (Although as a man of the world I have seen breasts, both right and left, before.)
And then everyone went nuts. Timberlake and Jackson started talking about wardrobe malfunction, as if NASA had been involved. Jackson's name became the most searched Internet topic of all time, showing that a lot of people missed the flash and wanted to see one of her breasts. CBS and MTV started running for cover. Cameron Diaz, Timberlake's current steady, was supposedly peeved.
The American government acted the wackiest. FCC chair Michael Powell - the chief broadcast regulator - promised a quick investigation into the half-time show for violating indecency rules. "I personally was offended by the entire production, and I think that most of the complaints we have received are much broader than just the final incident," he said. A team of experts will be digging into the whole affair to find out just how far the rot has spread, he said.
I don't think people should flash during a football game, even the players. After all, the scantily clad cheerleaders don't deserve competition.
But anyone who thinks Janet Jackson's right breast is the big outrage on TV either hasn't been paying attention or is crazier than a loon.
I'd rather any children of my acquaintance sit through 100 Superbowl hide-and-go-peep shows than watch one day of Jerry Springer and his assorted companions on afternoon TV. (Shows that have drawn not a single investigation from Powell and the other guardians.)
Janet Jackson taught the kids at home that pop stars wear strange clothes, and are willing to shed bits of them for the sake of a career boost. Hardly shocking, or damaging.
But every afternoon Springer and company teach them that people are cruel, stupid, abusive, dishonest, mistrustful and violent. Worse, the shows teach them that a really good time can be had by dragging the most wrecked people on a stage and shrieking abuse at them. (Moms who are angry because their daughters dress like sluts, dads who get paternity test results on stage, people who regularly rip off their own clothes, or someone else's, are restrained by a beefy security guard and left to alternately sob hysterically and swear wildly while the audience boos.)
The daily damage to any sense of human dignity - at a time when kids are watching TV - is astonishing.
Likewise, I'd sit a class of kids down in front of Jackson's finale several dozen times before I'd let them watch pro wrestling, which celebrates an ultra-violence and sex fantasyland out of A Clockwork Orange. I'm not a prude, and am fiercely anti-censorship, but I'm astonished parents haven't boycotted WWE and its ilk into late-night time slots. Implants for the women, steroids for the men and a steady routine of sexism and merciless beatings - aimed at kids.
Jackson flashed one breast, out of some 12 billion out there. Inappropriate for afternoon TV, sure, even in an event so insanely over the top as the SuperBowl, which opened with a tribute to the space shuttle crew that burned up on re-entry last year.
But cause for this kind of global uproar? Not a chance.
Let it go. It's just a breast.
Footnote: Meanwhile in Canada more viewers were worried about a beer commercial that showed - oh, the horror - two women kissing, according to the CRTC. That may be a sleazy way to try to get guys to down more beers, but it doesn't seem like a major crime. Kisses are, when welcomed, a good thing. (I missed that commercial too, proving, that it makes more sense to advertise in your local newspaper.)

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