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Spring Report '04 - Janet's dominat-dud

by Amy Zidell

Originally Posted 03.22.04

[July 21, 2008 note: It's funny, I've been doing some Web Site house keeping and had such read this previous article last night. Then, when checking news out this morning, I catch this article about the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court tossing out the FCC fine for Janet Jackson's 2004 wardrobe malfunction. So here's my article, from the archives, on the malfunction from 2004.]
DISCLAIMER: Some content addresses mature subject matter and may not be appropriate for minor children.

Originally Posted 03.22.04

It's been way too long since I've posted an article. I've been busy actually. There's been several articles I wish I had had time to put together, alas their prime time has past. My intention with Spring Report '04 was to briefly touch on a main point for each of a few subjects that were really topical at some point and curiously still are. Instead, I got to writing and behold, there was one item explored in an odd but complete manner. So this is part one of a multi-part Spring Report '04 - enjoy. [Note: You probably don't want to read this where a child could be reading over your shoulder.]

Janet Jackson and the Half Time Show


The problem was not what was shown but when it was shown. Everyone focusing on the nipple is missing the point. The Janet portion of the show featured performers in cross-dressed bondage apparel. Get ups so foreign to most that news reports about the show tried, but failed miserably in accurately, describing the outfits. I won't go in to why I apparently am able to recognize the 'wardrobe' as bondage wear beyond the explanation of research for a Web project. Though, if I had a closet-full of latex couture there's nothing wrong with that. I suppose the whole irony of the show was that Janet, portrayed as the dominatrix, is ultimately violently humiliated. Unfortunately, the audience was not given a safe word to make it stop, and had no idea what had happened. I'm surprised that dominatrixes, S & M practitioners, and BDSM aficionados across the board didn't protest how offensive this twisted dominatrix portrayal was.

If the costumers and choreographers were trying to make a commentary on the bondage of professional athletes by crippling injuries at young ages, I think they missed their mark.

The nipple was barely a bleep on the screen of the broadcast. Internet and news outlets promulgated close ups and digitally enhanced images of the breast and nipple. Plain as day in the broadcast and stadium however, were the clearly aggressive and assaultive actions of Justin Timberlake's on-stage portrayal in the manner of ripping Janet's costume. The prospect of this assault is the truly serious and most disturbing aspect of this entire episode. Even devoid of the lyrics (which I could not make out but were conveniently enumerated in reports and are obnoxious, bordering on insipid, i.e. "...I'll have you naked by the end of this song...,")  the 'message' of the 'dance' comes through loud and clear:  man must forcibly dominate woman. A stupid if not offensive theme. Presumably, the dominatrix represents an idealized modern woman: successful, confident, in charge and in touch with her entire being, self reliant, and independent. The message relayed through the images of this dance performance - that man must violently subvert woman - makes me angry. After all, if a woman in patent leather and spiked heels is vulnerable, and not in the good way, then everyone is. I haven't even touched on the race aspect but that analysis yields nothing to the search for redeeming value in a 'performance' of which there is none.

Themes and nudity aside, like it don't like it, a general audience audience is not the appropriate venue for such a performance. When I'm watching a G-rated event - my apologies to the MPAA association - I don't expect to see something raunchy. Even people old enough to see R, X, or whatever rated raunchy stuff were shocked. In the correct venue, rip your dominatrix bustier to shreds, crack a whip, hump the stage, just not in the middle of a general audience football game. What ever happened to the marching bands?

Unfortunately, the FCC pendulum is swinging too far. Howard Stern is what he is. People tuning in know this and in fact it's a big reason for why they do. If they don't like it, they can tune him out. The Janet affair was deceptively presented to a practically captive audience.

Please let's not acknowledge the argument that the football game itself is violent. That's just silly. Unless a foul occurs, which everyone knows is bad and wrong, full contact sporting activities can be rough and aggressive but it's a long way from that to violent. Besides, the players have protecting padding and they wear cups. Come to think of it, I think Janet may have been wearing one too.

The star burst nipple clamp Janet donned is clear demonstration that the 'wardrobe malfunction' was a calculated outcome not an accident. I'm surprised the costume lasted as long as it did and the metal points didn't rip through the costume on their own accord. Claims to the contrary are simply disingenuous.

This brings me to my next topic, that of John Kerry's claim regarding Botox that he, "...has no idea what that is... ."  I'm over 700 words at this point, so for now, I will tease the rest of the Spring Report '04 subjects after Botox Kerry that I hope to elaborate on before the topics' shelf lives are completely expired:
  • Mel Gibson's movie controversy: Premise - The individual offended determines what offends them not the offender.

  • Roving on Mars: Premise - Why isn't this a bigger news story? We're roving on Mars for goodness sakes!!

  • Martha Stewart: Premise - My fabulous experience with Martha recipes and my internal struggle of whether to keep the Martha Stewart Living Magazine subscription or not because of my inability to keep the magazines tidy.
Thanks for reading.

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