Boob Job

When Janet Jackson stood there on the stage of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, for that split-second where her right breast was exposed to the world, she probably wasn't thinking about the controversy it would cause and, if she was, she certainly didn't realize how long it would carry on.

There's no way that she could have predicted that, weeks after the incident, that the media would still be hounding her about her overexposure, that the legal and political ripple effect would be continuing or that pictures of it would still be gracing the covers of newspapers, Web sites and magazines.

The reason for this is because, if you strip away the politicians pounding the table for tougher indecency laws, the lawsuit filed against her and subsequently dropped, the tearful apologies and the ongoing question of “Was it an accident?”, you have one thing and one thing alone left, a breast. Or rather, a brief one-second image of a breast shown on national TV.

It's sad to say, but the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world has been brought to a screeching halt by the appearance of a woman's breast. A simple piece of human flesh has taken headlines away from the ongoing conflict in Iraq, the emerging election year and countless other real news stories. It's caused politicians to turn their attention away from running the country and focus on how to best prevent another breast from getting on television.

If this doesn't make you feel silly, nothing will.

It's so ridiculous and so inane that it's not worth writing a column over. However, it's not worth any of the other coverage it's gotten either and that is the problem. Not that Janet Jackson may have intentionally shown her breast on national TV, or that we need stricter standards for television broadcasts, but that we're now a nation so deeply offended by a glimpse of a partially nude body that, when one appears at Halftime on the Super Bowl, we shut down.

No other industrialized nation has such an extreme fear of the nude human body. In Japan, topless women frequently adorn prime time television, in Europe, full frontal nudity is allowed on many time slots and partial is acceptable in most others. No one in those countries seems to be offended by it and, if anyone is, they've employed a tried and true tactic of turning off the TV.

However, in America, supposedly the leaders of the free world, we go into an uproar over a male butt on NYPD Blue or a brief flash of a female breast on the Super Bowl halftime show. The only other nations with stricter views of decency on television are Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran and I seriously doubt we want to pattern our concept of free speech and expression after countries with only state-run television stations.

The bitter truth is that, for some reason, in America, we're easily offended by the human body. Though much of this stems from the uniquely American idea that sex is, for some reason, taboo, it also stems from the notion that we should be offended by anything we don't approve of and that we should make television as safe and as non-offensive of an environment as possible.

The result of all of that is some pretty funny rules about what can and can not be shown on television. Scenes involving violence, harsh language and even clothed (or blurred) sexuality have been permitted, but nudity, even non-sexual nudity such as the showing of an elderly woman's breasts on ER, has been blocked with only a few notable exceptions.

The problem with this, as I've stated in other essays, is that we've got our priorities backwards. While gun battles, fistfights and acts of physical abuse are available for daily consumption, a brief glimpse of a woman's breast is enough to get your congressman worked up.

Say what you want about Janet Jackson's motivations or intentions, you still have to admit that the whole thing is not just silly, but downright mindless.

If we're going to progress culturally, as a society, we have to get over some of our odd hangups about sex and the human body. Perhaps the reason our televisions are filled with a mindless dribble of sitcoms , “reality shows” and action shows is that, basically, that's all we can run. When honest storytelling, or even just good fun, is hampered by the ill-conceived notion that the human form is offensive, more than just television suffers.

Indeed, this is a notion that doesn't just affect what we watch on TV, but it affects the quality of life we have in every way. It goes beyond the TV and into every aspect of our lives, our government and even our art.

And that's why we can't let this backwards mentality stand. Not only is it an embarrassment to the United States and it's notion of freedom, especially after something like Janet Jackson's “showcase” creates such an uproar, but it's a very poor reflection on our priorities as a nation and our ideals as a people and as individuals.

After all, when a breast can shut down the nation, one has to wonder how we're going to deal with real problems and real issues. And frankly, I don't think there are any answers to that, at least not any good ones.

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18 Responses to Boob Job

  1. Brad says:

    Damn dude!
    How can you write so much about so little????

  2. Andrew says:

    I think that this essay (commentary, whatever) goes back to the bmxxx article you wrote a while ago. It's so sad that our nation promotes serious violence and brutal injustices to human rights yet is mortally offended by a small show sexuality for mere seconds. It's also ironic that the female figure is so sexually exploited in pornography, beer commercials and popup adds yet is comdemned for obscenity on TV. Absolutely amazing…

  3. Brandie says:

    Exactly.
    Where do you think insecure teenagers get those stupid and silly ideas about their developing bodies from? And I wonder what those little kids' parents are telling them about after they saw Janet Jackson's exposed breast? Hmmm.

  4. Ashley says:

    It is rather pathetic that after all the drugs violence, etc shown on tv, everyone gets worked up over a flash of a breast. Its really not that big of a deal. It is amusing though….

  5. SaviourSelf says:

    order out of chaos…

    was this event planned in that the FCC will use it as a 'cause for alarm' – for the purpose of creating MORE Rights-Stifling Laws?

    …will the use this as a 'catastrophy' in which they will try to put forth the idea that we need a special "Patriot ACT III" to further Legislate 'morality' and push the seeming agenda of 'totalitarian control?

    "Nice people of America, due to the 'shockingly horrible events of the Superbowl halftime show' we need to institute these newer, more severe laws to furthere erode the Rights of the people – after all we, the run-away-Government know what is best for you."

  6. Lycosidae says:

    Wow. What an interesting and intelligent way to look at that particular situation. I, for one, did not see the half time show, but heard about it the next day and am continuing to hear the mindless babble of my peers. The fact that the meer sight of a breast on television can actually shut down our nation is, in fact, silly and mindless. Very good article, Raven.

  7. Indriana says:

    I agree with you, after hearing about all the indecency uproar I was worried about the state of our freedom, I mean what to stop people from block everything they don't like on tv or in print. I think people took this accident (or not) far to seriously…

  8. Bran. says:

    This just hit me – What if the terrorists overseas find out about this and start using these techniques: "Hey, let's go over to America and expose ourselves on the White House front lawn!" That would give the nation a total heart attack and be ripe for the picking.

    Yeah, it's a stupid idea, isn't it? 😀

  9. Jordan says:

    This article made me laugh…i've never thought of it that way, kind of funny though cuz something simaler happened here in Canada where some random girl flashed the camera, i think they talked about it for one day…on one channel.

  10. my_iron_lung says:

    the problem is… that our country views the breast as a sex object. there's no purpose for breasts except for nurturing young. women and girls all over the world have exposed breasts and because america has made the human body not beautiful, but a sex object, there's no room for expression and appreciation of our exterior. bravo raven.

  11. Sadien says:

    See Raven, what I don't get is that they make these rated R movies with naked exposures and sex scenes and everything else and people watch them in the comfort of their own home, and most adults have children now-a-days that just happen to walk in the room while their parents are watching this. No, it shouldn't happen, but it does. I have even done it myself. Walked in the room and bam! Boobs on the tv screen. Not something I wanted to see, but I dealt with it. Same with Janet Jackson. It happened on tv. Nothing different than seeing it in a movie. But people go on and on about it as if a part of the body hasn't been showed in a way to the public before. I say it happened, let's move on and deal with the more important things.

  12. Jess says:

    the discovery channel is nation wide ive seen plenty of nude women and men on there and ive never been offended plus i am a girl so it doesnt bother me. well kids can learn off the discovery channel and it is advised to watch yet it has worse on there do you hear ppl talk about it for months? this will go down in history like madonna and brittney kissing? big deal girls do it all the time plus madonna kissed christina too why isnt that big news? this nation is becoming a joke! you have a good point raven!!

  13. Kamie says:

    It's the idea that sex is somehow bad or wrong and should be locked behind closed doors that makes it so powerful. People love to get into things when theyre told they shouldnt. They also seem to flock together to pick on the faults of another, especially when they see that fault in themselves.

  14. Mel says:

    I agree with you 100%. everyone is making such a huge deal.Everyone has seen a breast before its called get over it.Every parent who didn't want their child to see it, why were they letting them watch the superbowl? crazy things happen.
    Get Over It!!!!!!!

  15. Jebus says:

    I think that you've done a wonderful job at addressing the real issue at hand. I wish America would just learn to grow up.

    But I was more annoyed by the media coverage than people I know talking about it. There was only one mention of it in the socializing time we have before class. It's the high school version of water cooler talk. The group agreed that everyone was over reacting and someone made a joke. That was the end of it, but then I go home and people are still talking about it on every other channel. I'm glad Nickelodeon doesn't take an interest in those kinds of things. Thank God for cartoons.

  16. Ophelia's Sorrow says:

    Heh. I, quite frankly, think it's sad, considering the fact that some people are trying so hard to get people to realize that the human body is a beautiful, divine thing, and then in one instant, all their work has been wiped away. I mean, come ON, America, ALL girls have breasts. Get over it.
    Ophelia's Sorrow

  17. Hugh says:

    Well at least Hugh Hefneir did not comment… ^^

  18. Katt says:

    I've been wanting to say this for a really long time and it seems you've conveyed the message a lot better than anyone else could put it into words. Logic seems to have no place in the world now. Follow those stupid rules of propriety that would do almost no harm if broken. If only people my age could understand things like this and not say "BUT IT WAS A BOOB AND THAT'S INDECENT EXPOSURE!" Ugh, what do 11 and 12 year olds know anyway? Well, this was awesome. You're awesome. 😀

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