Who can forget about the controversy caused earlier this year when Justin Timberlake pulled off a part of Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her right breast during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII? Seriously, if you’ve managed to forget it, please let me know how you did it. For weeks afterward we were forced to watch as outraged commentators raced to see who could be the first to work themselves up into having a stroke right there on the air. Because when you’re watching an event that serves as the number one advertiser for sex drugs and chauvinist beer commercials, it’s obvious that the biggest moral issue is a fleeting glimpse of a person’s nipple. Well, those responsible for policing broadcasts of football games are bringing us the same sort of moral guidance we have come to expect from them and 8-year-olds afraid of getting cooties. This time the controversy is over ABC’s opening to this week’s Monday Nigh Football game.
The scene features Desperate Housewives‘ Nicollette Sheridan in the Eagles locker room wearing, briefly, nothing but a towel and persuading Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens to make a play of an entirely different sort. Ministry of Truth chairman Michael Powell responded by saying, “I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud.”
Now such criticism is to be expected from Michael Powell, a man who makes Oliver Cromwell look like a fun guy. What is amazing is that anybody else would take this seriously. But ABC actually apologized for it, and the NFL called it, “inappropriate and unsuitable for our ‘Monday Night Football’ audience.” News anchors and media commentators have been getting in on it too with lines like “What were they thinking?” being thrown around all day long. I have to say, it’s a little sad to watch grown adults who have covered crimes, deaths, and wars pretend to be shocked and offended at a skit that was, in the grand scheme of things, incredibly tame.
I’d like to imagine that all of this crazed ranting is being driven by the same massive numbers that drove the FCC to fine FOX $1.2 million for its “sexually suggestive” show Married by America. The strongest argument these ethical crusaders seem to have for why ABC deserves to spend the next month being publicly crucified is hauntingly similar to what we heard during February’s “Nipplegate” controversy–”There could have been children watching!” Apparently, the thinking is that children should never see a naked female body ever. Their next project is likely to be to find a way to blindfold babies before they are taken out of the womb.
The argument is admirably exemplified in comments made by radio talk show host J.T. “The Brick” (apparently named for the object whose intellectual maturity he is on the same level as) on tonight’s Paula Zahn Now: “When you tune into ‘Monday Night Football’ and you’re a dad and you have a couple of little kids and you’re watching the game, you don’t want to have to stop and explain to your son or daughter why a beautiful blonde is dropping a towel and then jumping into the arms of a football player. You don’t want to do that where I live, in Los Angeles, at 6:00 at night, where kids are turning off Nickelodeon while their parents are turning on ‘Monday Night Football.’ It’s out of line.” After hearing this line all day long, I feel an obligation to inform the public of a simple fact. Football is by no means a family game. If your children are watching the game with you, you probably have a little more to explain to them than why Nicollette Sheridan is taking off her towel. We’re talking about game that needs a separate webpage to list all of the people who have been injured while playing it. In the immortal words of Stan Marsh, “I guess parents don’t give a crap about violence if there’s sex things to worry about.”
But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by these critics’ acceptance of the violence in football. After all, after making such a huge deal out of a woman’s naked back, conservatives have to prove their heterosexuality somehow.