Sunday, February 08, 2004

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Yeah, that's right. Sorry, but I'm gonna put in my two cents' worth on this Janet Jackson Super Bowl halftime show thing.

Actually, I didn't even know about this until the next morning, because I didn't even watch the halftime "festivities". Haven't in years, because they've become huge, overblown Vegas style spectacles, with overblown, slick, boring artists that ceased to interest me, if they ever did, years ago. In the past I've checked out alternative programming such as, ironically enough, the Beavis & Butt-head or SNL shows, or, like I did this year, tuned in to ESPN News for some honest-to-God football talk. I suppose because of the Lingerie Bowl (which no one even mentions anymore in the aftermath of Nipplegate), there was a disappointing dearth of Super Bowl Halftime Show counter-programming, even on ESPN, which featured one brief segment, then went back to business as usual. So basically I flipped around and came back in time for the start of the third quarter, blissfully unaware of the controversy to come.

This whole thing has become such a colossal cluster fuck of sanctimony, stupidity, boorishness, and just plain silliness that it's difficult to know where to begin.

CBS either didn't want to know or stupidly didn't realize what they would be getting with performers of Jackson, Nelly, & Timberlake's ilk; one hour spent watching videos late at night on MTV would have clued them in fast. I find it difficult to believe that they thought MTV would show any inclination to produce anything but the crass, oversexed rap & dance-video ethos that has become the norm ever since Madonna made her first tentative pushes on the envelope of class & dignity. So I gotta believe that CBS didn't care, all they knew was that they were getting the sort of names they thought "all the kids are listening to these days". Dumb. Even dumber was the puffed up indignance when they got called on it after the fact...but they weren't alone. More on that later.

The NFL, of course, has gotten all indignant as well. My feeling is, as far as they're concerned, is the old saw "...when you lie down with dogs...". What did they expect? Julie Andrews? Up With People? Just shut up, Tagliabue.

Janet Jackson. Oh, Janet. Being such a fan of Prince, and his 80s side projects such as The Time, of course I followed the production career of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis after Mr. Rogers Nelson kicked them off a tour for being late to a gig due to producing the S.O.S. of course, I gravitated to Janet's records as well, and enjoyed almost every one that I've heard. She has made some excellent funk-pop-a-roll, in large part thanks to Messrs. J & L. Janet has parlayed the good will engendered by her relative normalcy (compared to the rest of her looney tunes family) and perceived sweetness into a successful career in which she has taken her fair-to-good vocal and dance skills and has ridden on the backs of producers and principal songwriters Jam and Lewis and choreographer Paula Abdul, along with the notoriety inherent in, again, her family name to fame and fortune. However, her fortunes have dipped a bit- a whole new generation of wannabe uninhibited disco dollies have sprung up since she charmed us all with 1983's fine Control album- Pink, Britney, Christina, Mya, Beyonce, not to mention the more "serious" teenstars like Avril Levigne and Michelle Branch (did you get a load of her feature in a recent issue of Maxim? Oy gevey) and her last album, The Velvet Rope (ooh- a soft-core porn feel there) underwhelmed everyone. Her star has begun, it seems, to lose a bit of its luster-completely unacceptable to someone of the Jackson lineage, Jermaine notwithstanding. In this "what have you done for me lately" music business, pun intended, Janet has become mostly irrelevant- following in Madonna's "shock 'em and show what a free spirit, grown-up lady and totally uninhibited sexual animal I am" footsteps, but never able to top her. Small wonder then, that she hit upon this little bit of preplanned desperation-smacked spontaneity, and you gotta admit it has worked, for what it's worth. But you gotta believe Madonna, Pink, Christina, or even Britney would have forced CBS to try and stop her from showing up for the Grammies. Instead, we get a repentant, withdrawn Janet who apparently doesn't have the courage of her convictions. I would also hope Miss Jackson-if-you're-nasty will think about getting a boob job at some point- that floppy teat has probably killed thousands of fantasies worldwide.

Justin, for his part, seems to be getting most of the slack anyone is inclined to give, viewing him as almost an innocent, hoodwinked participant in this debacle. But the thing that I had the biggest problem with about this whole affair was the perpetuation of the appearance of cruelty to women and male domination that was insinuated by not only the song they were singing but their actions as part of the performance as well. And I think ol' Justy gets a major part of the blame for that. So ta heck with him, too.

And even more nausea-inducing is the puffed-up, self-righteous, indignant responses of the knuckleheads who have the tendency to puff up and get all indignant whenever confronted with this sort of thing. These folks never fail to seize upon opportunities like hold their children up in front of them a la Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone and decry the effect of seeing such shenanigans on their unspoiled little angels, hurling verbal volleys in letters pages, threatening boycotts, and pissing and moaning about civilization and how we're approaching Sodom and Gomorrah-type levels while never acknowledging their own responsibilty towards not only monitoring, but talking about and explaining things like this to said children, which is often difficult and uncomfortable and therefore out of the question. Far easier to bitch to newspapers and TV stations and call for boycotts and such. And heaven forbid the little rugrats should see a female breast. I'm sure that tey could have found a far better (apparently) alternative- wasn't there a war hero movie on somewhere that would be more suited? Or a cop show or ER/CSI-type show with dead people laid out and cut open or stray body parts being found in dumpsters, as on last week's Navy NCIS? What utter horseshit. I hate to be the one to break it to them, but first of all their precious kids are more than likely already very well indoctrinated to the MTV ethos via not only MTV programming but also the proliferation of so-called reality shows. Sexuality of this nature has most likely already been rubbed in their faces more than they think. And if these same kids been raised with even a modicum of common sense and a clear cut out idea of what's right and wrong, never a given all things considered, these overbearing parental-unit types probably have nothing much to worry about anyway. Also, I'm almost absolutely positive their TVs have remote controls or at the very least channel changing buttons. They could always turn it over to ESPN News and get bored silly, like I did. I also honestly believe that this would not have become as much of a full-blown, tedious controversy if not for the reaction of these people. And you know who you are.

Gotta bitch about the news media, too- they simply refuse to let this story die a merciful death, therefore becoming cogs in the Janet publicity machine. Since CBS cut away abruptly from the ultimate moment of revelation, and didn't mention or show it again for the remainder of the telecast, then who's to blame for repeated showings? ESPN. NBC. ABC. CBS, even. Faux News. CNN. MTV. And even good ol' Yahoo! News, from whence I stole the above picture. THAT'S where this story has gotten its legs- from the various media outlets. So is anybody calling them out? Nah. Freedom of the press, buddy!

As far as I'm concerned, I'm kinda difficult to shock and offend, and from looking at my links list you gotta know that I'm not afraid of sexuality of any kind. I'm also certainly not averse to admiring the female form, not only in today's fine art and illustration as well as from days gone by. So I'm not indignant, only a bit amused and slightly disappointed that these performers and the people who make decisions for them via MTV and CBS are so desperate, so eager to be perceived as hip, free-spirited, cutting edge, sexually-enlightened-and-I-want-to-enlighten-you-as-well-ish, and so clueless that they would think it was perfectly fine to present this sort of soft-core bump-and-grind as entertainment at a fricking football game. Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to see the days of marching bands and Up With People return, but Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, there's a time and a place for everything, and this was not it. One would think a happy medium could be found, without trotting U2, Aerosmith or ZZ Top out again, snore, but I don't know what it would or could be. But perhaps this will have a positive effect- perhaps the suits, especially those at the NFL will realize that this is first and foremost a FOOTBALL GAME, and should look into scaling the Vegas back and concentrating on making this the most important FOOTBALL GAME of the season, not bread and circuses for the filthy rich who inhabit the good seats at the venue.

Well, one can hope, can't one? That's all I got to say about this whole situation, and look forward to this becoming trivia real fast at some date in the future.