Making a Clean Breast of It

Janet Jackson. Superbowl. There. That should ensure a rapid increase in the number of hits this site receives. Bizarrely, it’s already shot up recently – been averaging 750 visitors per day this week – I think in part because we are ranked #36 on Google and #10 on Yahoo when you search for ‘Aileen Wuornos’. May Charlize Theron’s run to the Oscars prove long and successful…

The Superbowl last week has already largely been forgotten – quick, what was the score? – except for Justin Timberlake ripping off part of Janet Jackson’s top. Initially claimed as a “wardrobe malfunction”, this was clearly bollocks, and everyone knows it was a wildly successful publicity stunt aimed at reviving the career of one has-been well past their sell-by date. And perhaps helping Janet Jackson too.

We were up at Chris’s sister’s for the game, saw the incident, and then largely forgot about it – Rob, my brother-in-law was out of the room, and expressed mild sorrow about missing it. Kid Rock wearing an American flag as a cape raised more eyebrows, to be honest. We then moved on, and it was something of a surprise to wake the next morning to the resulting, er, fall-out. If you didn’t know what it was about, you’d probably have assumed, at the very least, that Janet had given Justin a blow-job on stage, rather than exposing a breast.

And not an entire breast either, since the nipple was largely covered by a metal solar medallion [which is what gives the lie to the “wardrobe malfunction” claim]. The not-entirely visible breast was on-screen for about two seconds, tops. Yet that sound you hear is, apparently, western civilization collapsing all around us.

My perspective, as a Brit, is one of bemusement. I come from a land where broadcast television is full of tits (and I don’t just mean Jeremy Beadle and Matthew Kelly), and the Sun’s Page 3 Girl was a formative influence when I was a teenager, in all her grainy, newsprint glory. [I still remember the stunned silence in the common-room at school, when the Daily Star had theirs in C O L O U R ] Thus, Jackson’s boob made no real impression on me.

Everyone involved is, of course, acting all shocked and horrified, but that stench you hear is one of rank hypocrisy. Barely a day goes by without some NFL player being arrested – usually for drug offences or beating their wife – while MTV has made its niche with edgy programming like Jackass. Worse of all is CBS’s reaction, given their willingness to let advertisers get away with anything once they’ve paid their $2.25m for a 30-second ad slot.

If the multiple penile dysfunction commercials somehow counted as “appropriate family viewing”, there was the Budweiser commercial where a couple are seated in a horse-and-carriage. The guy hands the woman a candle; the horse then lifts its tail and lets out a thunderous fart. The woman ends up looking like Wile E. Coyote after the dynamite has gone off. Or there’s the other one where a talking monkey tries to convince a woman to head upstairs. Given this, CBS’s claim to be the guardians of taste and morality is somewhat suspect, to say the least.

Despite the backlash, I like to hope that it actually does mark a watershed in American attitudes, just not in the moralistic direction certain commentators wish. Maybe in twenty years, we’ll be looking back with a much more healthy attitude to the human body, and wondering what all the fuss was about.