Janet Jackon’s Ubiquitous Tit

So CBS has taken the FCC to court to protest the $550,000 fine they got for flashing Janet Jackson’s heaving mammary at the 2004 Superbowl. CBS dismissed it as the “unscripted, unauthorized and unintended long-distance shot of Ms. Jackson’s breast for nine-sixteenths of one second.” Which completely misses the point.

Let’s back up a second, in case this page is discovered in a time capsule centuries in the future. During the intermission of the 2004 Superbowl (a widely popular American sporting event), Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (two celebrity persons) sang a duet, during the course of which Ms Jackson’s right bazonga slipped the surly bonds of her leather bustier on national television (a device for broadcasting moving images). The incident, later famously excused as a “wardrobe malfunction,” was purported to be an accident. This was belied by several prior press releases promising “shocking moments” and the fact that Jackson’s aureola was attached to a large and imposing piece of hardware.

Boob ironmongery! Who knew? It was big, it was shiny, it was spiky, and nobody in their right damn mind would clamp it around a bit of eructile tissue without a very compelling motive. It was no accident that puppy slipped its leash.


The humble folks back home, gathered ’round for the big game, were not amused. They howled until the FCC slapped a hefty fine on CBS. Then the nation’s saggy army of aging hipsters got to do what they love best, which is making fun of middle America for being so uptight about a little flash of skin. Which, I repeat, completely misses the point.

The Point

Every era has its prevailing aesthetic. Ours, Gaia help us, is “edgy.” You wants the buzz, you gots to be edgy.

What is edgy? It’s naughty. It’s uncomfortable. It’s inappropriate. It’s on the edge of what you can get away with in public without doing time or being fined half a million dollars. The problem with edgy is that it’s near impossible to know if you’re on the right side of the edge until the cops get here.

The real problem, though, is that edgy by its own nature must escalate. It’s the shark of the art world; it’s got to keep moving or die. Things are only edgy the first time, and then magic goes away and you have to crank up the dose to get the same effect.

And that’s the thing. It’s not that we can’t handle the odd nipple of an afternoon. It’s that you guys are like toddlers: if we don’t yell “enough!” you’ll keep getting edgier and edgier on us until we do. You’re going to make fun of us for being uptight anyway, so we might as well get it over with before you make us watch the horse sex at dinnertime.

So enough!

We’re eating over here!

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4 Comments

  1. Posted December 1, 2006 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    There’s a myth taught in schools that good art has always been edgy and disturbing. No no no. So not true. The artists, writers and entertainers themselves were seen as decadent, but their work was always solidly in line with the tastes of the day. They’d starve to death otherwise. For most of history, that meant enthusiastically smooching the fat butts of the clergymen, nobles and other wealthy patrons of the arts and whatever words, pictures, plays or music appealed to them. It wasn’t until the 19th C just folded into the 20th that our modern concept of art-as-downer began.

    The idea that the purpose of entertainment is to rattle people and piss them off could only grow out of a society sick with its own prosperity and boredom. I think I’ll start calling the 20th Century the Vile Century.

  2. Posted December 1, 2006 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree. The emergence of shock-jocks alone is enough to validate your point. There needs to be a way to provide edgy material to an appropriate audience without intruding upon the public and their children. Something like adult access codes for satellite radio and cable TV.

    Unless that already exists. I’ve never had cable, because I’m a weak-willed channel surfing type of guy. I need to avoid wasting time watching the tube so that I can waste time surfing the web. I know they don’t have any adult access codes for XM-radio, though.

    It is the networks, of course, who have lost market share to cable because of broadcast regulations, and who are motivated to push the envelope as a result. They might was well just go to an all-cable format and leave the broadcast spectrum to public television. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about the fairness of allocating a natural resource to the benefit of private companies.

  3. Posted December 1, 2006 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Entertainment/artiste edginess is about as
    sharp as a dull butter knife.

  4. Posted December 4, 2006 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I wanted to see how Google was spidering stuff, so I did a search on the phrase “ubiquitous tit,” assuming that would be a fairly unique word combination. Silly me. I forgot what the internet is for.

    I got 132,000 hits without quotation marks. Thirty three hits, with.

    The first hit was to British Garden Birds (“The Blue Tit is the ubiquitous tit and so provides most people with the opportunity to learn its song and calls.”) Later down the page, however, we find http://www.tits-tits-tits.info.

    I’m guessing that last one is not safe for work.


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