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From a Comment Thread:

A: "What? You expected the majority of the complaints [about the Super Bowl Janet Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction'] to come from 12 year olds? Seriously?"

B: "No. I expected most of them to have seen a nipple before. Most had and therefore didn't think it was a big deal."

My thought: The great majority had, but many had forgotten.

PLR:
Moot point. Use of high definiton replays and frame advance technology confirms that the 12 year olds did not see a nipple during that performance.

Or so I've heard, anyway.
11.12.2007 12:17pm
Fub:
The great majority had, but many had forgotten.
The great majority of the so-called "adults" who complained to the FCC had probably seen one before also, but they apparently never got over the original trauma. The poor dears are more to be pitied than censured. Whether they should be allowed out of their cribs without a keeper is another question altogether.
11.12.2007 12:44pm
Cornellian (mail):
Wasn't that the incident where it turned out 98% of complaints to the FCC had been written by the basement-dwelling, form letter-writing drones of one of those self-described "family values" lobby groups?
11.12.2007 1:09pm
Wugong:
The sadder thing is that to really traumatize themselves, the adults had to have Tivoed the thing and then watched in in slow motion with a sweaty finger on the pause. If they were really quick, they could have then been greatly offended.
11.12.2007 1:12pm
Wugong:
Cornellian,

As I recall, yes.
11.12.2007 1:12pm
Fco (www):
The problem was never the display of nudity on TV. The problem happened when she did this during an event that is generally regarded as family friendly and free of sexual content.

If Janet Jackson wants to display herself, there are dozens of venues where she can do so without a problem. But they have to be marketed and rated accordingly, so parents can know what to expect and choose to not allow their children to watch.

Or maybe parents should not be allowed to choose what content their children are fit to view?
11.12.2007 1:27pm
Wugong:
"The problem happened when she did this during an event that is generally regarded as family friendly and free of sexual content."

Nothing is as family friendly and free of sexual content as constant ads for alcohol and for a pill to keep your dick hard. Or did I miss something?
11.12.2007 1:32pm
jvarisco (www):
Most of us have seen porn. That means it's ok for primetime tv?

Let's go after the people who have to force the FCC to implement its own rules. Sounds like a great idea.
11.12.2007 1:40pm
Fco (www):
Wugong:


Nothing is as family friendly and free of sexual content as constant ads for alcohol and for a pill to keep your dick hard. Or did I miss something?


If you feel this is also inappropiate, feel free to write a letter. Maybe enough of you will complain and those ads will no longer air during Super Bowl. Best of luck.
11.12.2007 1:40pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Actually, I suspect the overwhelming majority of the people who saw the incident actually had nipples of their own.

And most children wouldn't have thought to be shocked unless their parents let them know, through their words and behavior, that they should be.
11.12.2007 1:41pm
Wugong:
Fco,

"If you feel this is also inappropiate, feel free to write a letter. Maybe enough of you will complain and those ads will no longer air during Super Bowl. Best of luck."

I don't really care about it one way or the other. My point is that the notion that NFL football games and their attendant commercials are "generally regarded as family friendly and free of sexual content" is ludicrous. I would personally find it much less difficult to explain an exposed nipple to an 8-year-old than to explain what V***** is (apparently the name for a well-known anti-impotence drug can't be used in a posting on this blog because of spamming problems).
11.12.2007 1:46pm
pct:
It seems to me that the majority of the comments, as well as Prof. Volokh's original post, reflect an attempt to reframe the actual historical event in order to advance a particular agenda. Even had Jackson's wardrobe not malfunctioned, the Timberlake breast-grab that precipitated it was a choreographed part of the act, an act that was steeped in references to S&M and rape lite. It was the violence against women depicted, rather than the nipple per se, that occasioned outrage.
11.12.2007 1:58pm
Oren:
pct - The majority of the complaints were precipitated by the PTC. I can assure you that their motives do not include advancing second-wave feminism.


Actually, I suspect the overwhelming majority of the people who saw the incident actually had nipples of their own.

But we all know that the FEMALE nipple is to be shunned while the male nipple is just humdrum. Considering that they are anatomically identical one has to wonder just how they make that distinction.
11.12.2007 2:08pm
Porkchop:
pct:


It was the violence against women depicted, rather than the nipple per se, that occasioned outrage.


That's not how I recall it -- it was the "wardrobe malfunction" and consequent semi-exposed breast that got the family values folks all up in arms. "Semi-exposed" because JJ's pierced nipple was covered by a "nipple shield" in the shape of a sun. In the end, all anyone really saw was on a par with those blurred breasts from the "Girls Gone Wild" ads on late-night cable. Tasteless? Yes. Obscene? Not in my book.

I know this because I accidentally viewed the slow-motion replay on the internet 27 times. It just couldn't be helped as I was inundated with e-mails with links I was required to open in order to fully understand the crucial social significance of the matter.
11.12.2007 2:17pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
The complaints didn't come from 12 year olds, 98% of them they came from one right-wing christian nutjob group, the Parents Television Council. Just because nuts claim their 12 year olds were upset doesn't make it true.
11.12.2007 3:13pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Nothing is as family friendly and free of sexual content as constant ads for alcohol and for a pill to keep your dick hard. Or did I miss something?"

Not to mention all the swearing that goes on by those who watch football, and calls of "get that f****** faggot off the field" and other family friendly conversation.

What could be more wholesome?
11.12.2007 3:25pm
Randy R. (mail):
I also recall a stat that the video of the wardrobe malfunction was viewed more times on the internet than the fall of the twin towers.
11.12.2007 3:28pm
Oren:

98% of them they came from one right-wing christian nutjob group, the Parents Television Council.


99%, but whose counting (link above).
11.12.2007 3:39pm
Stephen F. (mail) (www):
I know this because I accidentally viewed the slow-motion replay on the internet 27 times.

Why would anyone view the replay on the internet 27 times? After all, we're constantly reassured that the wardrobe malfunction was nothing that everyone hasn't seen a thousand times before. How can it simultaneously be the most TiVo'd moment ever (at least at the time), and at the same time no big deal?
11.12.2007 3:44pm
Porkchop:
Stephen F., I you may be humor-impaired.
11.12.2007 4:10pm
Porkchop:
Stephen F., I think you may be humor-impaired.
11.12.2007 4:17pm
Elmer:
A report on the lingering effects of the incident can be found here.
11.12.2007 4:31pm
non-native speaker:
"My thought: The great majority had [seen a nipple], but many had forgotten"


My thought: Not only seen; the great majority had even sucked a nipple, but many had forgotten too.
11.12.2007 4:53pm
Fub:
Elmer wrote at 11.12.2007 4:31pm:
A report on the lingering effects of the incident can be found here.
The Onion sums up the moral case quite well.

For more detail, directly from the FCC:

Statistics of indecency complaints and NALs.

NALs issued since the incident, are here.

Forfeiture orders (only 1 since) are here.

Consent Decrees.

Complaints denied.

Other orders.

Pleadings, letters and other miscellany.
11.12.2007 5:10pm
WHOI Jacket:

But we all know that the FEMALE nipple is to be shunned while the male nipple is just humdrum. Considering that they are anatomically identical one has to wonder just how they make that distinction.


Why am I reminded of the Family Guy episode where Peter decides he's a woman?
11.12.2007 5:19pm
Ken Arromdee:
Stephen F., I think you may be humor-impaired.

I think he's aware that the "27 times" is a joke and that you probably didn't see it 27 times for real. But behind the joke is a real statement about a very obvious fact--that people are watching it specifically for the tittilation (pun not intended) of seeing partial nudity. If the wardrobe malfunction was really nothing special, if you could really see it everywhere, then this would not be happening.
11.12.2007 8:08pm
Mr L (mail):
Stephen F., I think you may be humor-impaired.

He's got a point though. It's kind of disingenuous to argue that it's 'no big thing' when it's pretty clear that it was a 'big thing'.

Besides, you shouldn't brag about watching the incident repeatedly, anyway. Janet Jackson's a ripe old hag at this point.
11.12.2007 8:52pm
Fub:
Ken Arromdee wrote at 11.12.2007 8:08pm:
I think he's aware that the "27 times" is a joke and that you probably didn't see it 27 times for real.
Not just a joke, but a venerable and pointed joke. Brother Dave Gardner used the joke in his routines at least 45 years ago, and it was ancient even then.

The joke is about protestations of innocence, such as the FCC complainants engaged. In Brother Dave's version, a man is arrested for murder. He protests his innocence along these lines: "I was just standing here on the corner cleaning my fingernails with this stiletto, and this fool ran right into it. Seventeen times."
But behind the joke is a real statement about a very obvious fact--that people are watching it specifically for the tittilation (pun not intended) of seeing partial nudity. If the wardrobe malfunction was really nothing special, if you could really see it everywhere, then this would not be happening.
Behind the joke is the fairly obvious fact that those who complained the broadcast offended them likely didn't just see it just once involuntarily.

As Brother Dave put it many times, let them that say they don't want none have memories of not gettin' any.
11.13.2007 12:18am
Hewart:
My own recollection of the halftime show, which I happened to be watching from the UK at the time as my only exposure (no pun intended) to US TV in nearly a year, was:

1. Kid Rock comes out with a US flag ripped and worn like a poncho, which he then tears off and throws on the ground.

2. Nelly comes out with a song, the majority of the duration of which he spends grabbing his crotch as if he had to pee.

3. Then the Jackson-Timberlake bit of juvenile titillation.

I realized then that I had not missed terribly much from US television in my time overseas.
11.13.2007 12:49am
Jen:
That very Superbowl game was the first time I had the privilege to hear the words "if you have an erection lasting more than four hours...." on national TV. That made my jaw drop a lot more than the nipple jewelry at the time.
11.13.2007 1:23am
Oren:
I prefer Colbert's formulation:

"If you have an erection lasting more than four hours, you're welcome."
11.13.2007 11:02am
Jen:
Hilarious!
11.13.2007 12:47pm
neurodoc:
I feel sorely put upon by those whose abhorrence of abortion no matter the circumstances (life of the mother, rape, incest, etc.) goes well beyond loud denunciation of the voluntary termination of pregnancy, with earnest attempts to persuade others that theirs is the morally correct position, and seeks to criminalize the procedure, hold our political system hostage to their uncompromising demands. I am similarly unhappy with those who want prayer in public education, and the teaching of evolution banned or presented along with the Biblical account or "creationism." But I have no problem with those who object to a Super Bowl half-time show like the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake one. Indeed, I am glad they can get some satisfaction as a result of their protest of that vulgarity.

Who cannot see or read what they want in this country, especially if they are willing to pay for it online, in movie theatres, on cable TV, at the bookstore, etc.? There are few, if any, real limits (no snuff movies?) except on network TV, and those limits aren't so very severe. I don't think we are any less free or otherwise poorer as a country if the FCC will not allow broadcasts of material like the Jackson/Timberlake stuff during an event with the largest viewing audience of the year, when we could see far more flesh and lasciviousness when Tony and his crew were doing business at the Bada-Bing, and holding our interest without a lot more engaging material than what Jackson/Timberlake offer. Our culture is coarse enough (e.g., ganster rap) that the least common dominator doesn't have to be permitted everywhere, no matter network vs cable vs podcast or other broadcast means, hour of the day, and make-up of the expected viewing audience.

As for those who cannot see why exposure of Ms. Jackson's breast should be a big deal given that most have had occasion to see a naked breast or two, would they be equally OK with it had Mr. Timberlake been wearing a codpiece and Ms. Jackson ripped it off as a dramatic flourish to the act? If not, why not?
11.13.2007 5:26pm
Fub:
Neurodoc wrote at 11.13.2007 5:26pm:
There are few, if any, real limits (no snuff movies?) except on network TV, and those limits aren't so very severe. I don't think we are any less free or otherwise poorer as a country if the FCC will not allow broadcasts of material like the Jackson/Timberlake stuff during an event with the largest viewing audience of the year, when we could see far more flesh and lasciviousness when Tony and his crew were doing business at the Bada-Bing, and holding our interest without a lot more engaging material than what Jackson/Timberlake offer. Our culture is coarse enough (e.g., ganster rap) that the least common dominator doesn't have to be permitted everywhere, no matter network vs cable vs podcast or other broadcast means, hour of the day, and make-up of the expected viewing audience.
If video were the only issue for which NALs and forfeitures were issued, you might have a point. Read a few of the NALs and forfeitures in the links I listed above, and you'll see that plain old radio broadcasters get nailed for broadcasting a few seconds of somebody, presumably a woman, moaning.

I don't know if you have any experience in broadcast or not, but most small listener supported stations are running scared. One with which I've been affiliated for decades is unwilling to risk the farm just to broadcast what anyone in his right mind would consider perfectly acceptable material, including many literary classics. But maybe the religious nuts who file these complaints by the thousands aren't in their right minds. The FCC must, and will, act on their complaints anyhow.

Small independent listener supported broadcasters, who would be bankrupted by a $50,000 forfeiture, are the ones who are hurt. These prosecutions cause great self-censorship just to be assured of staying on the air by the stations who bring new, non-mainstream, art, music and drama to their communities.

Heck, we once even had a complaint filed against us because some religious loon wanted a show so he could rant and rave about Jeezus, and he was denied a show. Thankfully, the commission wasn't authorized to act on his complaint. They certainly would have if they could have. During that time the commission was packed with religous fanatics.

Personally, I think the indecency statutes and regs reduce adult radio listeners and TV viewers to the status of children, with the government as nanny. The religious fanatics like it that way, apparently because they think that people who read classical literature, or who listen to dramas or music that have any sexual references, are liberals. They think can use "indecency" and "coarseness" as a weapon to silence what they view as the worldly opposition to the Kingdom of Heaven that they are going to bring to America, using that most unAmerican tactic, censorship.
11.13.2007 6:19pm
Ken Hirsch (mail):
The article that Oren links to says that "99.9 percent of indecency complaints—aside from those concerning the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" during the Super Bowl halftime show broadcast on CBS— were brought by the PTC"

The Wikipedia article says "In addition, the Federal Communications Commission received nearly 540,000 complaints from Americans, with about 65,000 of them coming from the PTC."
11.13.2007 9:03pm
neurodoc:
Fub, I have no broadcast experience of any sort, and clearly you do. But I didn't have in mind more than network TV, and in particular the event that gets more eyeballs than any other in the course of a year, many of those eyeballs those of children, that being the Super Bowl. I don't think that the half-time entertainment must be so bland that no one could possibly take offense (maybe a performance of Chinese acrobats or jugglers, accordionists, etc.). I do think, however, that we are better off with some limits when we are on something like the common green with network TV's broadcast of our premier sports event, and very much more elastic ones when it is not something to be shared by so many. For me, Janet Jackson's nipple whether exposed or unexposed isn't a big deal. If only for the sake of political comity, though, I do see it as better to keep it/them covered until after the all-important Super Bowl is decided. (And why would we let Timberlake rip off her clothes exposing some of her anatomy, but not let her rip off his codpiece so those who were interested in his private parts might have a look?)

As for other uses of the public airwaves, I have nothing useful to say. As for "coarseness," my objections are secular, not religiously based ones.
11.13.2007 11:58pm
Oren:
Ken, you're right - sorry for the confusion (if I could edit my post to be more clear, I would).


As for those who cannot see why exposure of Ms. Jackson's breast should be a big deal given that most have had occasion to see a naked breast or two, would they be equally OK with it had Mr. Timberlake been wearing a codpiece and Ms. Jackson ripped it off as a dramatic flourish to the act? If not, why not?


I'm comfortable with the male wang. I suppose you wouldn't take your children to see Michaelangelo's David?
11.14.2007 3:03pm
LM (mail):

I think he's aware that the "27 times" is a joke and that you probably didn't see it 27 times for real. But behind the joke is a real statement about a very obvious fact--that people are watching it specifically for the tittilation (sic) (pun not intended) of seeing partial nudity. If the wardrobe malfunction was really nothing special, if you could really see it everywhere, then this would not be happening.

Anyone looking for sexual titillation who can't do better than a fleeting shot of JJ's not really exposed nipple just isn't trying hard enough. In fact, unless you're one of the two or three people who still can't manage to stumble their way online (which would make you more likely to be over 100 than under 18), there are probably more breasts in your e-mail inbox than in Hugh Heffner's swimming pool.

As Brother Dave put it many times, let them that say they don't want none have memories of not gettin' any.

That's a brilliant bookend or sorts to Mel Brooks' "we mock what we become."
11.14.2007 5:16pm
LM (mail):
of sorts.
11.14.2007 5:23pm