Jonah Goldberg makes a good firm…point about Nipplegate:
This morning on CNN I caught Jack Cafferty (who’s great by my lights) reading viewer email on the whole thing. One viewer gave the hackneyed “we all have body parts, get over it” defense. I haven’t had time to scan the blogosphere, but I am sure there are already plenty of people having a good laugh at the “prudes” who took offense to Jackson’s display.
But here’s the thing. Shocking the sensibilities of the bourgeoisie is so old. The people who thought Janet’s boob-watch moment was a good idea — beforehand or afterwards — almost surely didn’t actually enjoy the spectacle themselves. What appeals to them is the idea of shocking other people. Clearly, they weren’t shocked — enjoyably or otherwise — by seeing Janet’s tassledness. They’re used to such displays. No, what was cool about it was that it would offend the sensibilities of fuddy-duddies. This sort of thing is the source of a vast, vast amount of bad “art,” music, fiction etc. The value of a song or a video is measured not by its creativity or excellence, but by its ability to elicit the desired response from the other side. This sort of thing is so unimpressive. It’s tired, it’s played-out, it’s Madonna. So I’m fine with being might peeved with CBS. But let’s not forget to mention that part of their mistake was being predictably banal.
And then lying about it afterwards. Heck, Orson Welles did that, in 1938, when he held a press conference after his radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds terrified a nation. His mouth virtually melting butter, he cooed to reporters that he had no idea of what would happen during the broadcast. He merely set out to tell an entertaining story! (I think there’s a clip of Welles’ performance–surely his best bit of acting, ever–in the Citizen Kane DVD.)
But then MTV is played out. It used to be fun in the mid-80s, back when it actually showed videos. If you’ve got VH-1 Classics on your cable or satellite system, you can actually see how tame much of those videos from the mid-80s were, and often how much fun. Then, perhaps with Madonna’s success in mind, MTV decided it needed to shock–really shock–people. Instead, ultimately, it merely anesthezied them. And once Madonna released her Sex book, shocking the masses was pretty much passe, anyhow.
I’m not a puritan–but there’s plenty of sex available already in popular culture. Heck, just turn to the #500 and #600 blocks of DirecTV channels at around 11:00 PM on a weekend, and it’s positively awash in “bare flesh, rouged areolae, moistened crevices, and stiffened giblets”, as Tom Wolfe once wrote. And ironically, there were plenty of puritans buying advertising space on the Super Bowl, as the second half was filled with interminable ads begging teenagers and young adults not to smoke, not to do drugs, not to drink and drive, not to buy booze if they’re underage, and heck, CBS turned PETA down for their ad about not eating meat.
In a way, this is the final triumph of the XFL. While Rod Smart, a.k.a “He Hate Me“, arguably the most famous player of the flash-in-the-pan wrestling-cum-football league played a minor role in yesterday’s game as a fairly anonymous kick returner for the Panthers, the standards of his old league became–at least for the post-season–the standards of the NFL and the TV networks that made it an enormous success.