FCC Ain’t Bringing Sexy Back to the Super Bowl

Last Sunday’s Super Bowl thrilled audiences because it was one of the greatest showdowns in football history. The excitement of the game rushed through viewers as they saw the Patriots’ empire crumble and the perfect season slip through their fingers. Yet a notable absence left many viewers feeling empty this season.
On Feb. 1, 2004, Justin Timberlake ripped Janet Jackson’s outfit and displayed her bosom during the MTV half-time show. For some indiscernible reason, “Nipple-gate” made America collectively crap its pants. As a result, almost every sexual Super Bowl commercial has been rejected, and half-time shows remain closely monitored. Furthermore, the National Football League banned MTV from ever organizing a half-time show again.
These moves take away from the entertainment value of the Super Bowl. Every time the commercials turn on, one can only wonder what will happen next. Joy fills the room when a sexually suggestive commercial airs, your jaw drops and you turn to your friend and shout, “Can you believe they got away with that?” Now the commercials seem neutered. They just don’t give off the same raw energy.
Due to “Nipple-gate,” the change in commercials is not without merit. No one misses the constant bombardment of erectile dysfunction ads or the over-the-top Godaddy.com spots. Writers should not rely on sexual humor. However, forbidding them from “going there” puts unnecessary limitations on creativity. It has been four years and advertisers have learned their lesson, so let them get back to shocking viewers.
The half-time show has suffered far more than the commercials. In order to prevent another possible mammary exposure, half-time organizers have hired every aging rocker on the planet. The participants over the last four years have included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. Each of these artists is a legend, but there is a lack of excitement in their shows. I’m sorry, but while Petty is amazing, seeing him stand in place in front of his flashing lyrics is a snooze-fest. It is time to push the limits once again.
Why have broadcasters refused to show anything remotely sexual since 2004? Jackson’s breast single-handedly jumpstarted the efforts by the FCC and Parents Television Council to push their agendas onto CBS and the U.S. government. Logically, it makes no sense to continue fussing over such a silly incident.
Broadcast companies changed their practices due to the enormous amount of complaints that CBS and the FCC received. In total, the FCC received 540,000 complaints. This sounds like an astonishing number. In fact, it’s the largest number of complaints ever received. But proportionately, it is rather pitiful. The Super Bowl gets an average of 35 million viewers a year in the United States, which makes the number of complaints less than two percent of estimated viewers. I had no idea that each complaint represents almost a hundred people.
Sarcasm and numbers aside, it is also easy to chip away at the moral arguments for censorship. Proponents of Super Bowl censorship explain that the event is a family affair. So is it better to have children sit for three to four hours and watch fat men push each other around? Speaking of the sport, football is a violent game filled with pain, concussions and fractures. I do not recall hearing any uproar over the snapping of Joe Namath’s leg or the constant replays of the incident.
Besides the double-standard of sex and violence censorship, complaints about sexual exposure are rooted in insecurity. Over-concerned parents are worried that exposure to sex will corrupt their children. However, young children usually do not know about sex and almost always find the opposite gender repulsive. If they do know about sex, then maybe it’s time to talk to them about it. Either way, there is no reason to penalize 98 percent of the viewing audience because some parents aren’t ready to have “the talk” with their children.
The point is that it’s time to move on. After four years, performers and advertisers understand the consequences of pushing the limits too far. No one is arguing that Timberlake’s and Jackson’s actions were appropriate, but their actions are not worth the penalties that viewers have paid. Give advertisers and half-time shows a chance to take risks once again.

Kevin Pease is a third-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at kpease@uci.du.