Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Return of Nip Gate


Can we PLEASE let this GO?!?! Actually, the answer is finally, FINALLY, yes. Well, maybe. If I have to hear one more time about the "wardrobe malfunction" of the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show with Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and surprise unannounced guest, Janet's Nipple, I'm going to lose it. Yes, we all saw her breast. Yes, it was lovely. It's time to move on. But actually, I think this time, we might really be nearing the end of NipGate. Four freakin' years later.

It all started years ago, during a time in which halftime shows at the Super Bowl consisted of marching bands from high schools you never heard of from the rural midwest. Yet 2004 brought us Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, two names you hear a lot about, but really, not much more than that. (Seriously. The last time you saw Justin Timberlake in public was....? The halftime show in 2004. Correct.) As and they performed their song having to do with, um, sex? I guess. (Aren't they all about sex? Or wanting it? Or not getting it? Or thinking about it? Or having it? Something like that.) And 90 million people were watching (actually, it was halftime, so at least half of those folks were either in the bathroom, getting something to eat or outside having a smoke, so maybe 45 million. 55 million tops.) as they heard Justin Timberlake belt out, "Gonna have you naked by the end of this song!" Oh, how prophetic that phrase turned out to be.

Next thing you know, Justin reaches over to Janet's bustier-like-breast-push-up-made-out-of-leather-or-something-shiny-thing and simulates a grabbing/ripping-off motion. Only it wasn't so simulated. And that's when the "wardrobe malfunction" heard 'round the world did occur. In the words of Seinfeld's own Jerry Seinfeld, "I'm not sure, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think I see a nipple." Words echoing that same sentiment came flying out of the mouths of at least 45 million people that Sunday evening in January. "Was that...?" "Did I see...?" "That was her....." "Did he..." "I just saw Janet Jackson's boob."

Now the way that the press overreacted (shocker, I know), not to mention the FCC, you'd have thought they both stripped down and started filming a porno right there on the 50-yard line. The FCC fined CBS $500,000. CBS then immediately changed their policy to have video delay during live events. (Good plan.) They also challenged the $500,000 fine in court. And yesterday, 4 1/2 years later, CBS won. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" when it issued the fine. It also said, basically, that "the FCC deviated from its nearly 30-year practice of fining indecent broadcast programming only when it was so "pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience." And clearly, Nip Gate did not amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience, as it only lasted for nine-sixteenths of a second. Wait. What?

Correct. Nine-sixteenths of a second was how long Janet Jackson's right breast was exposed. (Hell, seeing a breast for nine-sixteenths of a second? That constitutes "a date" over here.) And four and a half years later, those nine-sixteenths of a second still come back to haunt. And naturally, there are those who feel the need to issue inflammatory statements about just such a ruling. "Those" meaning people who tend to belong to groups like the Parents Television Council. ("Those" also meaning people who tend to overreact to most things and also tend to blow things out of proportion and skew them in such a way that you'd reach the conclusion that whoever was responsible for whatever atrocity they were denouncing was, in fact, a Nazi.)

For example, take Tim Winter, of the Parents Television Council. His reaction was, "If a striptease during the Super Bowl in front of 90 million people — including millions of children — doesn't fit the parameters of broadcast indecency, then what does?" OK, if you think that a nine-sixteenths of a second glimpse at a nipple qualifies as a "striptease", then you have really been missing out on quite a bit, sir. But if it does fit your definition of "striptease", I still don't think that it fits the "parameters of broadcast indecency." If it were really a "striptease" it would fit the parameters of stupidity if that was the plan all along. But it wasn't and it wasn't, so it's not. So there.

So, finally! A bit of common sense injected into a court ruling. Who knew? Who cares? I'm just glad they were being reasonable over there on the bench. Thus, I'd like to thank that 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals for recognizing that accidents do occur. That's right. Sometimes, nip happens.

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