Janet, Vanessa, Bill and The Line

Does anyone else see the irony in the outcry over a glimpse of Janet Jackson’s breast. It happened during a segment of a garish, tasteless intermission show in the that most unrelentingly commercial of all television spectacles, The Super Bowl. This game, of course, is the pinnacle of competition in one of our most violent national sports, football. It’s estimated that some $2 billion changes hands in gambling on the games in any ordinary football Sunday – we can only imagine the spoils from betting on this game. OK… I think we’ve established the setting.

Back to Janet… she’s dressed in skin tight leather, doing your basic Mating Dance with Justin Timberpuddle, “singing” some tune about him getting her into bed. He, in a violent motion, rips part of her clothing off and – gasp – there it is – that third most obscene of all objects, the female breast! All was acceptable until this hideous moment.

Earlier today, I was watching an the 1984 Miss America Pageant on Trio (my new favorite TV network.) If you recall, Vanessa Williams became the first of many African-American winners. She displayed real poise, a beautiful physique and a powerful singing voice.

The pageant itself provides scholarships for all contestants and certainly has some value beyond the spectacle. However, publicly, it is primarily this spectacle. And the subject of the spectacle is the female body, faces and forms. The contestants parade in swim suits and evening gowns. They’re heavily made up and they carefully smile with tongues tucked behind white teeth dutifully bared behind glossed lips.

The 1984 pageant featured several musical dance numbers performed by a herd of half-assed hoofers, fronted by Gary Collins (can this guy ever sing!!! NO!!!!!!!!) and a couple of former Miss Americas (Susan Powell, Debby Maffett) and the mysterious Deanna Fogerty, who looks familiar but registers not a single hit on Google. Of course, Mr. Collins is covered from head to foot at all times… as are the male dancers. However all the women are scantily clad at all times. In one number, the costumes are cut away on the side to maximize the skin exposure. There’s very little left to whatever imagination the viewer might have left after being exposed to the banality of the music and the choreography.

Now, I’m just fine with this – and believe me, I really don’t want to experience any part of Gary Collins, let alone an exposed part of his body. But here’s the problem… after Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America, it was discovered that she had, at some previous time, posed for some pictures in which her breasts were exposed. And for this, she was pressured into abdicating the throne and, of course, all the scholarships and awards that went with the title. She, like Janet Jackson, went over that line.

Now, to draw a parallel… just suppose some smirking tyrant brutalized several thousand people, destroyed their homes and their social order, killed their families and took over their country. He lied about so many things that we lost count. He took not only our money, but the money of our children and grandchildren. And we thought this was all OK.

But another man -- he had sex with an intern… that’s over the line!