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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A decade of wardrobe malfunction

Next month marks the ten-year anniversary of the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake "wardrobe malfunction" at halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII. ESPN The Magazine offers In the Beginning, There Was a Nipple, a retrospective on the "controversy."

There is a lot of interesting stuff on the FCC, then-Chair Michael Powell, and the regulation and punishment of broadcast indecency. CBS' owner was fined a little over $ 500,000, fines that ultimately were successfully challenged in the Second Circuit. The story quotes Powell as saying, essentially, that the commotion over 9/16th of a second is really silly, suggesting his position of public outrage at the time was more for politics and show than any real concern for the health and safety of our children. But he said he felt bound by law and lacking discretion to not pursue this fully. Powell also describes this is as the "last gasp" of the old broadcast regime and "last stand at the wall" for people who believe government can successfully keep objectionable material out of the home.

There also is a nice discussion of the different effects this had on Jackson and Timberlake and the obvious race and gender narrative that presents.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on January 29, 2014 at 05:03 PM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Law and Politics | Permalink


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Thanks for this link--this was indeed a fascinating and very well written article. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of the "balkanization of the living room" and the breakdown of any distinguishable zones of decency versus indecency. The controversial act of disrobing at the center of the performance was itself was a perfect metaphor for the notion that indecency cannot be contained.

Posted by: Susannah Pollvogt | Jan 30, 2014 11:02:52 AM

"zones of decency" So much for recognizing that there is nothing innately indecent about a woman's breasts ; in fact, quite the contrary.

Posted by: oldephartte2 | Feb 16, 2014 3:55:23 PM

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