Monday, July 21, 2008

Cuffing the Purity Police

Censorship of anything, at any time, in any place, on whatever pretense, has always been and always be the last resort of the boob and the bigot. ~ Eugene O'Neill

It was 4 1/2 years ago that the great "wardrobe malfunction" occurred during the Super Bowl 38 (you work out the Roman numerals) halftime show. The show, which had already featured a rapper groping himself endlessly (apparently to take everyone's mind off his "lyrics"), brought together Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Unfortunately for CBS, it brought them a little too close together. Timberlake was supposed to rip off a bit of Jackson's costume; regrettably, he ripped off a little too much, exposing a Jacksonian breast.

At least, I heard he did. I was watching the show with the son (the best Super Bowl commercials are often aired at halftime), and, quite frankly, neither one of us saw a thing. The son, who is a fully grown adult and knows what a breast looks like, only noticed that something appeared to go wrong at the end of the routine. Beyond that, we forgot about it, thankful that one of the worst halftime programs in Super Bowl history was over.

Well, by golly, some people saw it. In fact, every conservative in the country must have Tivo'd the thing and played it back 20 or 30 times to work into a proper righteous rage. Once they were fully worked up, they wrote en masse to the FCC to punish those profligate souls in charge of CBS. And yea verily, the FCC did smite CBS to the tune of $550,000.

For a boob getting flashed for less than a second. Accidentally. During a live broadcast.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that the FCC acted "arbitrarily and capriciously", which is a nice legalistic way of saying the regulators don't know their heads from a hole in the ground.

Generally speaking, censorship gives me the hives. It's not that the networks don't try to get away with everything they can. Regular programming is full of language that would have made my parents blush -- not because they didn't know the words, but because there's a time and a place for it. And putting the stuff on TV when the kids are watching isn't it.

However, CBS wasn't intending for Janet Jackson to flash the crowd; rappers can grope themselves (seriously, the guy looked like a poster boy for a jock-itch ad) and all the songs can have suggestive lyrics (which every kid watching had heard when the songs first came out) but everyone knows that the female breast is a complete no-no on "family" programming. For the FCC to hand down a half-million dollar fine was ridiculous.

Worse, it seemed to set off the Purity Police, those viewers who force themselves to watch these awful adult-oriented shows just to complain to the FCC. It apparently hasn't occurred to these people that if they choose not to watch, they won't have to be offended. Nobody asked them to be our watchdogs. In fact, society is in no need of such watchdogs.

If people don't like such programming, all they have to do is not watch it. Feel free to write the network to tell them you aren't watching. But don't try to decide what I should be watching. And especially, don't try to get the FCC to exercise de facto censorship by demanding that they issue egregious fines for minor incidents.

Like the boob flash that most of us wouldn't even have known about if you hadn't made such a big deal about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment