Television in Crisis

Feb 172004
Authors: Jonathan Kastner

Of all the signs of apocalyptic corruption, there was none so sure as Janet Jackson’s overexposure at the Super Bowl. It was a moment that shocked society to its very core – on live public television, there was a brief, blurred, blocked glimpse of a quarter inch more skin than one could see in any other pop star’s outfit on a regular day.

This abomination has sparked several major changes in the media. There’s talk of the Federal Communication Commission raising the fine for breaking the obscenity code. Britney Spear’s video, “Toxic,” has been pulled from daytime MTV and will only be aired at night, when impressionable children can avoid seeing too much of her skin. As we all know, repression is the only way to keep our children safe.

More importantly, Jackson herself has issued a heartfelt apology. Her partner in crime, Justin Timberlake, explained that it was merely a wardrobe malfunction and also apologized later at the Grammy’s. I think it’s safe to assume that his hand was there only to check Janet for a pulse. Whenever anyone is wearing that much black leather, there’s a good chance they’re evil and quite possibly a vampire. Timberlake was just trying to protect the public from the undead.

Nevertheless, this lapse in decency is something that’s never been seen before in the media, ever. Up until now, television programming has been clean and pure, and we’re rightly focusing our attention on this lapse. Decency should be about quarter-inches of skin. CBS could learn from fine television networks such as Fox, where if in the course of milking a cow Paris Hilton flashed the entire audience, she would be blurred into decency. Or if, in the course of lying to her family for a million dollars, the Big Fat Obnoxious Fianc/ were to moon the bride’s mother, said fatso would be properly covered by a pair of nearly transparent white briefs. Fox has decency.

Of course the problem here is that television isn’t doing its part to protect the children. Impressionable, fragile children – the future of the nation – only have television networks as guardians between themselves and the filth spewed out by television networks. Sadly, there is no intermediate, parent-like authority, to protect the children when networks drop the ball like they did with Jackson. It’s the children who suffer from this lack of exercise in proper authority.

But children aren’t the only ones damaged by this unexpected half-second of obscenity. Some people have conservative opinions and this debauchery was a betrayal of them. Up until the disrobing, there was nothing inappropriate in their sexually suggestive dance, and it maintained the upstanding level of moral decency one would expect to find in a Super Bowl halftime show. CBS should apologize to all its viewers and vow never to expose that particular quarter inch of skin again. Instead, they should air classic wholesome television, like the episode of “Friends” where Ross tries to make out with his cousin.

Sometimes in times of trouble like this, it helps to have things explained by a close friend. If you or someone you know is suffering from Post Janet Stress, or PJS, then I immediately suggest you switch to less itchy silk, as flannel pajamas can cause a rash. But if the stress is Super Bowl related, I recommend you explain it to them through this helpful speech.

“Hello friend/parent/child/significant other/raving street hobo. I understand that what Jackson and Timberlake did at the Super Bowl may have created some questions for you. Why did that man do that to that woman? Did CBS know about this atrocity beforehand? Did Timberlake and President Bill Clinton perhaps collaborate on the exact definition of the phrase ‘wardrobe malfunction?’ I can’t answer these questions for you, but know that someday, somehow, life will be back to normal, and all will be well with television once again.”

Jonathan is a sophomore studying English. His column runs every other Wednesday.

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