The world is all a-titter about the exposure of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show yesterday. In fact, the FCC is starting an investigation immediately (it took how long to get investigations started into the 9/11 attacks and the validity of the intelligence used as a basis for the Iraqi war?) into not just the breast exposure, but the entire halftime show as a whole.
Powell said his unhappiness with the halftime show went beyond Jackson’s exposure. It “wasn’t even the most offensive part,” the FCC chief said in an interview. “It was the finale of something that was offensive. The whole performance was onstage copulation.” He added, “This really crossed a heinous line.”
The FCC has defined broadcast indecency as “language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities.”
Earlier this year, I had written about a scene on ER in which an elderly patient’s breasts were fully exposed.
Something threw me for a bit of a loop, though – namely, a pair of naked, on-camera, human, female breasts. Last I heard, those were a no-no on broadcast TV – unless, of course, the show is a nature documentary on PBS. Now, I’ve never quite understood why, exactly, it was ok to show the naked breasts of women in tribal Africa but not the breasts of white women in America, but it was one of those things I just sort of accepted as being the one exception to the rule.
This week’s ER, however, apparently decided that there’s a second exception to the rule. If the breasts are over a certain age, it seems, they’re safe to show. The woman who’s topless shot was included in the show is probably around 75 or so. Interestingly, she, like the African women, is black – and, in both cases, the breasts in question are saggy and what most people would consider unattractive.
Of course, we now know that attractive black breasts are also offensive. Glad that got cleared up. In what has to be a bit of unplanned irony, the ER episode in question was repeated this past Thursday and the breasts were still in plain view, having not caused any kind of a stir following the original broadcast.
Personally, I still think that if people are going to be concerned about the potential negative effects of something shown on broadcast TV, it’d do more good in the long run to focus on the effects of violence rather than nudity (not that I’m in favour of having the government step in and censor either – I’d prefer that viewers make it less profitable for broadcasters to exploit sex and violence to get ratings instead of producing high-quality programming, but that’s a whole different rant) – but I find this double standard about women’s breasts to be both bizarre and somewhat disturbing. As I wrote in my previous entry on this topic, I can’t imagine that it would be considered any less scandalous to show a 75-year-old man’s penis than it would be to show a 25-year-old man’s penis, yet here we see a clear distinction in how the public reacts to a 75-year-old woman’s breasts as opposed to a 37-year-old woman’s breast. I still don’t get it.