Friday, March 09, 2007

Go With The Flow?

Another year, another Superbowl, another flurry of FCC complaints. It's odd to think about, but the FCC would, once upon a time, receive fewer than 200 complaints a year. In 2000 the total number of complaints was 111. The number rose quite a bit over the next few years to 166,683(resulting, actually, in less than half the number of fines). Things REALLY got going in 2004, when the number jumped to 1,405,419. February alone had 200,000 complaints filed with the FCC. Those of you with decent memories will recognize that as the month that millions of arm-char quarterbacks sat up and said 'did I just see a nipple?' Yes, it was Janet Jackson's infamous Superbowl appearance where her outfit 'malfunctioned' and gave people a flash of nipple. I actually saw the event, which is surprising because I never watch football. And yes, I was instantly aware that a nipple had been revealed, but it was more the realization that it had happened; I didn't actually register seeing anything.

Still, it was enough to shock and anger the entire country. Or so we're led to believe. Certainly it was all over the news, and it was used by any number of christian extremists to prove a point about the end of days and how God will smite us all, but do YOU remember being upset? Do you, does anyone, actually believe that a flash of breast is enough to warp an entire society? I believe the majority of people watching that day were probably surprised and a little amused, but far from angered. In fact, according to the complaints found on the Smoking Gun(who did everyone a favor and paid the FCC for the transcripts of over 1,500 of them), the majority of complaints came only AFTER various 'pro-family' organizations petitioned church groups to complain. I would assume that many of these complaints were form letters church groups printed out and had their congregation send in. Certainly many of these complaints(find them here) have a repetitious feel, many of the same talking points trotted out.

I don't mean to imply everyone angered by the incident is a nutball. Some of the letters make good points, or are well stated, and some of them even show a functional reading/writing level over the 6th grade level. But not many.

This year's Superbowl had Prince, who one would imagine is even riskier a proposition than Janet Jackson. However he's recently turned over a new leaf and has even been self-censoring the sexuality inherent in his earlier songs when he plays them in concert. However, one look at his giant penis guitar seems to have made a few people nervous.

This schtick is nothing new. Prince isn't the first, or even the most shocking example, of a guitar being used as a phallic metaphor, but apparently viewers want their homo-eroticism to stay on the field where it belongs, not in their half time show. It's quite interesting what people claim to have seen in this performance, making it a bizarre Rorschach test. You can read a few of the complaints here, but I have to quote this one, and I nominate this guy as worst parent ever.

"During Prince's rendition of Purple Rain, which I think is a really great song, there seemed to be a shadow puppet of his (penis). The sheet? that was the backdrop seemed to be (stained?) with something (semen?) My children were watching and now I have to explain to them what a wet spot is on a cum covered sheet. Thanks CBS"

Those poor, traumatized kids. They'll have nightmares tonight. Still, they receive slightly LESS sympathy than this guys kids get. Keep in mind I have changed nothing, all spelling and syntax are as they appear in this guys complaint.

"It was obscene to show Prince, a HOMOSEXUAL person through a sheet, as to show his siluette while his guitar showed a very phalic symbol coming from his below-midrif section. I am very offended and I would preffer not to have showed it to my 4 children who love football. One of them has hoped to be a quarterback and now he will turn out gay. I am actually considering to check him for HIV. Thanks CBS for turning my son GAY."

This guy might actually be on to something. I've always found the level of homo-eroticism in the NFL games to be slightly disconcerting, and his son probably is gay. To quote from King Missile: "sports are always gay, because afterwards your showering with other guys, and that's gay."

There were also a few outrageous complaints about that Snickers ad that featured to men eating a Snickers bar from opposite ends a la Lady and The Tramp, only to find their lips lock. The ad has since been pulled amid all the complaints, but really it wasn't as offensive as many seem to think. If the FCC complaints are anything to go by, CBS was apparently airing gay porn instead of the Superbowl(not to belabor the point, but really, how could you tell the difference?).

All humor aside, the problem with this is that the FCC doesn't actually watch or monitor this stuff. They go by only what people complain about. Enough complaints and they investigate, and then penalize the networks held responsible. And of course no one calls the FCC to talk about when something pleases them, or when they aren't bothered by something. So, due to this, we've allowed a comparatively small segment of our population to force it's way into the mainstream through our complacency. It's the same segment of our population that has let Wal-Mart get away with destroying third world countries and has given Kirk Cameron and Casper Van Dien a career way past the point at which they should have been turning tricks for crack money.

So I ask you, any of you reading this, to take part in what I've started to do; Every once in awhile, fill out the FCC complaint form(conveniently linked to HERE) and just let them know that you've surveyed the television landscape and found everything fine just the way it is. Or better yet complain when you see something that promotes the right wing christian ideology to the point of being offensive to YOUR beliefs, or call them and complain whenever Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the View says something like "I believe that life begins at the moment of penetration" or "if the government wants to listen in on my phone calls it's okay by me!" Having her as a television personality on such a highly viewed show is MUCH more dangerous than a flash of nipple.

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