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The Super Bowl of Hypocrisy

February 14th, 2004 · No Comments

Almost 90 million people in the United States watched at least part of the Super Bowl on CBS back on February 1 – more than 41 percent of the nation’s households. I was with the slight majority who didn’t watch the game (I can’t even remember what I did instead), but I did videotape it to check the highlights later.

I didn’t anticipate the halftime becoming the game’s main highlight, since the halftimes are routinely an overindulgent bore. What’s fun about watching recording artists fail miserably in lip-synching a medley of their own greatest hits? The only one that is really memorable to me was the Michael Jackson halftime of 1993 (still the highest rated Super Bowl halftime ever), and that one was wonderful only because after Jackson shot up onto the stage, he stood there, silently and completely immobile, for at least a minute before he started singing.

Of course, Michael’s little sister has now one-upped him for Super Bowl halftime posterity. The 2004 halftime show was again an overindulgent bore. Nelly jumped around and grabbed his crotch, Kid Rock wore an American flag as a poncho and yelled “My Name is Rock,” and Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake sang some old song or two and did a lame bump ‘n’ grind dance, as Timberlake sang “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.”

The whole routine was all so tired. Then came the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake “wardrobe failure” which exposed one of Ms. Jackson’s breasts for one brief second in a blurry wide camera shot.

In the context of what we see on television, this brief exposure was a non-event. In fact, it may have actually been the result of a real wardrobe failure (Jackson’s gladiator chest panel reportedly was supposed to come off, leaving a red lacy fabric still in place).

But, who can trust CBS and its explanations? The network once known as the Tiffany Network has lost its luster in the last few months after succumbing to conservative political pressure and pulling a Reagan miniseries, and getting a sure-fire ratings hit interview with Michael Jackson on 60 Minutes with the apparent quid pro quo of showing what amounted to a Jackson infomercial.

The official outrage brought new meaning to hypocrisy. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue posted a statement saying the halftime show “was offensive, inappropriate and embarrassing to us and our fans.” This, of course, from the same NFL that gladly paraded out the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders in 1972, whose style spawned barely-clad cheerleaders for all major professional team sports.

CBS (a subsidiary of Viacom) also responded with its regrets: “The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended.”

One may wonder, what exactly are CBS’s broadcast standards? This is the network that approved the Super Bowl broadcast of low-brow Bud Light commercials featuring a dog biting a man in the crotch (always good for a laugh), a woman who gets blown up by horse flatulence, and commercials featuring Cialis and Levitra, the new rivals of Viagra for the erectile dysfunction set. As the Denver Post noted, at half-time, there were about 8 million viewers ages 6-11 watching. That’s more than twice as many children than watch SpongeBob SquarePants any given day.

CBS is also the network that refused a Super Bowl ad from Moveon.org that shows children doing manual labor in industrial jobs as it asks the simple question “Guess who’s going to pay off President Bush’s $1 trillion debt?” CBS explained it rejected the commercial because they don’t like to run ads that can be controversial. You can watch the ad yourself (www.moveon.org/cbs/ad/), and weigh its “controversial” nature against the ads that did play during the Super Bowl.

The Janet Jackson exposure wasn’t the most indecent event of the Super Bowl. (The broadcast also briefly showed the male streaker who ran across the field before the second-half kick-off. Neither CBS nor the NFL apologized for that.) The real indecency is the hypocritical stances of both the NFL and CBS, who feign concern for 6-11 year olds, then treat them to crude humor and erectile dysfunction remedies, and cancel the one ad that actually seriously addresses their future.

Tags: Media Economics · Music

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