Monday, November 22, 2004


I watched the Super Bowl game, but I missed Janet Jackson's breast. I must have blinked. I regret missing the few seconds on television that some feel will single handedly ruin the morality of our children. Janet Jackson's bared bosom, which I understand had a jeweled pasty over the nipple, caused a terrible uproar among Americans trying to boost the morality of the decadent American public. They wanted the Super Bowl to go back to its usual wholesome family commercials.

This outrage led to the FCC levying a huge fine on the offending network, CBS, and there is now a new ruling that one cannot cuss on TV until after 9:00 p.m., which is when the FCC feels children should be safely tucked in their beds. At 9:01 p.m, I guess the programs can flex their adult muscles and unleash rounds of profanity and sexual activity, except for Howard Stern, who is opting for Satellite Radio. Does anyone watch Howard Stern, anyway? I tried it once and fell asleep.

But I didn't miss the current subject of moral outrage...the Nicolette Sheridan commercial. In this commercial, Sheridan is clad in a towel making untoward advances toward a football hero. At the end of the commercial, she drops her towel and leaps upon her target, but the picture fades before her unclad body is shown. Sheridan appears in the top-rated program, Desperate Housewives, as Edie, the neighborhood temptress, currently being stalked by a hit man. In real life, she is currently being stalked by indignant viewers.

The FCC is apparently looking into the matter of this commercial, to see if any rules had been broken and if any fine should be levied. The prospect of paying these huge fines has frightened networks. ABC recently decided not to show Saving Private Ryan, a classic movie, on Veteran's Day, for fear the graphic language used by the soldiers would cause conservative moralists to complain and lead to a heavy fine.

Think of it! About fifty years after the producers of Gone With the Wind fought with the Hayes' Office for the right to have Clark Gable utter the words, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!", the networks will not be able to show the movie because of that terrible word. Are we progressing or regressing?

I would feel a lot better about the FCC if I did not always hear Colin Powell's son on television acting as its spokesman. I guess the reason I have this antipathy for Colin Powell's son is because I suspect the reason that he got his cushy job at the FCC is because of the fact his Daddy had a cushy job as Secretary of State. We used to call that "nepotism". But, since George W. Bush used his Daddy's influence in many ways, I guess we now call it normal behavior.

Before this current wave of Moral Indignation, or before it became an affliction, we hardly ever heard of the FCC, let alone considered it the guardian of our morals. If we had, I might have complained about some of the scenes in the soap operas myself. It isn't that I mind watching two people in bed together, obviously making love, it's just that it is uncomfortable to watch such scenes in the early afternoon, while one is vacuuming or putting dishes in the dishwaster.

When I was a girl, sex scenes were even excluded from least the ones I was allowed to read. Instead, we had to use our imaginations. The book would read something like this:

"He cradled her in his arms lovingly, kissing her gently, while she clung to him, passionately, their arms around each other as he climbed the stairs."
Actually, it was the events going on during that lull that I wanted to know about, but I was young and inquisitive and I hope the Great Conservative Judges will forgive me for admitting that. As Jimmy Carter described it, I suffered greatly from "lust in the heart" for the dashing heroes in those romantic novels, with their piercing eyes, lustrous locks and pure intentions.

I don't know what happened to those literary lulls. Our novels of today go into sex scenes with intimate gusto and colorful phrases. On one hand, this openness is shocking and brings out the Calvinistic, puritanical disgust over physical intimacies promoted in America. On the other hand, being horrified by sexual scenes may not be such a good thing....and may not even lead to every teenager vowing to practice Abstinence after all!

When I was a girl, my saintly mother, as puritanical as they come, failed to inform me about sex, because if she had uttered the word, she would have probably felt she would be banned from the portals of Heaven for all eternity. My mother was so chaste that I didn't even know she had thighs until I was twenty, since she kept them...and everything else...completely covered.

Because sex was such a mystery, my friend and I went on a mission to find out what it was that was kept such a mystifying secret. We looked up words like "rape" in the dictionary. I remember the interpretation to this day...the "carnal knowledge of a woman without her consent". Well, that didn't help us much, so we collected pictures of nude men. One I remember was a snapshot of David, by Michelangelo. David wore a fig leaf, and I thought this was anatomically correct for a long while. My sister-in-law had a copy of Peyton Place, which she kept hidden in her room, so we would take it from its hiding place, voraciously devour the steamy paragraphs, then replace it so no one would ever know. When it came to sex, we were like howling wolves stalking their prey, lost in a forest of confusion.

Hiding sex from children, making it a mystery, heightens their curiosity, I think. It might be better to just relax and admit its existence. I think this is what Europeans do and they don't seem any more depraved than the rest of us.

But that isn't the only reason I resent the FCC levying fines on the networks. Frankly, it reeks of censorship. As someone said, and I can't remember whom, "I don't mind censorship at all, as long as I am the censor!". I'm not too fond of the idea of Colin Powell's son censoring my television fare. And, once we start this, it may well spread to books, music, Art, clothing and behavior. If there is anything we should avoid, its a policing agency like the Morals Police of the Taliban, whipping our ankles for infractions.

Besides, can't parents send their children into another room if they are watching a movie not deemed advisable for youngsters to watch? And, as for Nicolette's commercial, if parents do not make a big deal out of it, children won't either. They have more important things to think about, like their next video game.

There is just something unpleasant about a country that objects loudly to anything pertaining to the human body or sex on television, but says nothing about the constant parade of brutality (Abu Ghraib), mutilations and bloody warfare shown regularly. Personally, I would rather my children see a sexy commercial than a plethora of brutality and violence. But maybe that's just me.