Blogs > Liberty and Power > ADULTS NEED NOT APPLY

Feb 5, 2004 12:33 pm


(I see that Chris Sciabarra has already been here. I should have known. Well, here are some additional thoughts anyway. And it's not fair: since he's on the East Coast and I'm on the West Coast, he has a three-hour advantage. I want the FCC to look into that!)

I have commented before on the immaturity and Puritanism revealed by the" controversy" over Janet Jackson's almost-exposed breast -- and Chris Sciabarra also discusses it here.

Now we have this news:

Like something in a B-horror flick, Janet Jackson's radioactive right breast has morphed into the monster that's eating Hollywood.

In the past 24 hours:

-- Jackson's name was stricken from the official list of presenters for Sunday's Grammy Awards telecast on CBS. That's the same network that beamed us the Super Bowl game during which Jackson's breast made its broadcast TV debut in a stunt that duet partner Justin Timberlake called a"wardrobe malfunction." According to one source close to the production, CBS and the Recording Academy are waiting for her to graciously bow out; if she does not soon, they will uninvite her.

-- ABC announced it will initiate a five-second delay on its live telecast of the Academy Awards so it can censor any"wardrobe malfunctions" or Bono-esque"[expletive] brilliant" moments.

-- The NFL canceled this weekend's Pro Bowl halftime show starring Timberlake's fellow 'N Sync-er JC Chasez because it was afraid of his choice of songs --"Blowing Me Up (With Her Love)" -- and the accompanying choreography. Chasez has been replaced with"Hawaiian-themed entertainment."

-- NBC cut from tonight's"ER" episode a shot of an exposed breast of an 80-year-old woman receiving emergency care, even though the network says it thinks the shot is appropriate.

These developments are part of the larger phenomenon that I discussed in connection with CBS's cancellation of"The Reagans" miniseries: As I said in that earlier post:
[John] LeBoutillier's perspective on this is overwrought in the extreme -- but if conservatives themselves choose to view the cancellation of an insignificant television program in this light, the rest of us would probably be well-advised to take them at their word. This"total victory" will likely only embolden them to try this kind of thing more and more often. And that could be very dangerous.

It is not that this is censorship. It isn't, since it is not the government doing this. However, as I pointed out a few days ago, the danger from these kinds of pressures is the genuine chilling effect that such pressures will have -- on views which are not in the"mainstream," which are provocative, or disturbing in any way at all to the powers-that-be. In other words, pressures such as these will tend to suffocate anything remotely original. What will remain is bland, utterly conventional, boring,"Father Knows Best" kind of programming -- a prospect which ought to disturb anyone over the age of ten. It certainly ought to disturb anyone who claims to be a grownup.

I went on to talk about the instructive, and tragic, lessons to be gleaned from Rod Serling's fate in television -- how a superbly talented, original writer was condemned to transfer his talents to"The Twilight Zone," because his abilities were too disturbing and upsetting to the powers-that-be when applied to this world.

I should note that, at this point, the specter of censorship is now beginning to be seen -- when we have the FCC threatening punitive fines and even the possible revocation of station licenses, if network programmers do not conform their fare to what is deemed"appropriate" by some bureaucrat in Washington.

More and more, the message from television, and from our culture generally, is a simple and very clear one: adults need not apply.

(Cross-posted at The Light of Reason.)

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

claude tessier - 2/5/2004

Sounds like a publicity stunt that went awry. Last night a friend who works at UPI told me how the photographers were told where they needed to be to get the best shot for something special during the 'performance.' Which explains why there were so many pix from different photogs. compare that to the very few shot of the streaker at the beginning of the second half.

Furthermore, he informs me that during the show the dancers went through costume changes and adjustments, and any interested photog could have gotten plenty of T&A pix if he wanted.

Powell and Ashcroft were just useful fools for the stunt. I wouldn't be surprised if CBS sent each a case of champagne for playing along.