Diatribe: The Tenth Anniversary Of “Nipplegate”.
Recently, I’ve learned the true meaning of “binge-watching”, also called “binge-viewing” when we purchased the first three seasons of the popular PBS series Downton Abbey on Blue-ray Disc. After the first episode I was hooked. I am fascinated by the historical accuracy depicted in the British period drama. Life in those days was oh so prim and proper, was it not? Plus, I must admit, the way they refer to the Americans as a somewhat vulgar people is often quite amusing.
The characters of Downton Abbey, the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, endure scandal after scandal while trying to keep their “good name” from being drawn through the mud. What was scandalous in post-Edwardian England, of course, pales in comparison to what is scandalous today.
Ten years ago this weekend, on February 1, 2004, as part of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVII in Houston, Texas, scandal rocked the United States of America like never before. The New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers, 32-29, but all that anyone could talk about was the brief appearance (9/16ths of a second) of singer Janet Jackson’s right breast. During her performance with Justin Timberlake, the historic “wardrobe malfunction” occurred in front of an estimated 143 million people and, essentially, changed live television broadcasting forever. Timberlake was to have removed a portion of Jackson’s bustier to reveal a red-lace bra, but the bra was also torn away exposing her breast and the nipple shield that she was wearing beneath it.
One would have thought children and nuns were forced to participate in an orgy
The nation went berserk. The Federal Communications Commission received thousands of complaints by the following morning. Some saw the incident as a sign of decreasing morality while others thought they were making far too big a deal out of it. More concerning to many was the possibility of increased regulation of broadcasting regarding censorship and free speech. As a result of the accidental exposure, the FCC increased the fine per indecency violation from $27,500 to $325,000 and the NFL vowed to never involve MTV, who had produced the halftime show, in a production again.
“The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended – including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.” – Janet Jackson, February 2004.
Many believed that the display may have been intentional and, sadly, the many media conglomerates who were fined by the FCC essentially blacklisted Jackson who pretty much faded from the public eye after that afternoon. Ironically, Timberlake, who actually ripped the clothing off of Jackson exposing her flesh, went on to superstardom unscathed.
They say the incident led to the creation of YouTube and helped to launch Facebook and that it became the most watched, recorded and replayed television moment in Tivo history. It certainly pales in comparison to the twerking and drag racing antics of pop stars today.
Janet Jackson is a beautiful woman who has no reason to be ashamed of her body. On February 1, 2004, she was simply doing her job … performing in a halftime show at the Super Bowl … when her costume was torn. It’s not like she was impregnated by a servant from a neighboring castle while fox-hunting alongside a cousin with whom her sister was to be married in the spring if monsignor doesn’t fall ill and die of consumption before the dowager is able to identify the original owner of the painting that hangs in the library of the miserable old cottage between the lakes near the glen that was burned before Great Uncle Horatio failed to produce a suitable male heir.
Can you believe it’s been ten years? Oh, for Heaven’s sake, was all the fuss justified?
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