Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl, Mar 04 | Janet Jackson: A Revealing Look at America


HOW MANY BOOBS does it take to unscrew a country? Bush andBlair and Cheney and Rumsfeld, et al, aside.

If your answer is “One,” you probably saw the Super Bowl.You know what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Janet (that’sMiss Jackson to you) and her jaw-dropping, show-stopping—no, makethat, game-stopping—no, nation-stopping exhibition at halftime.

Ah, the Super Bowl.

Kind of like Disneyland meets the World Wrestling Federation at the Colosseum.I prefer the name “Hyper Bowl,” or “Hyperbole Bowl.” Forone thing, most games are blowouts, rarely living up to the hype. Andthe feeding frenzy each year over the hyper-expensive advertising spots(super-bowling for dollars) makes the network carrying the event the envyof every red-, white-, or blue-blooded free marketeer this or that sideof a Caribbean tax haven.

Companies spend mucho beaucoup dinero on ads to hook you into buyingtheir stuff. Ads run the gambit: some off-color, some clever, some hot,some goofy, some good stupid, some bad stupid. And nearly 150 millionpeople watch this event. It’s all about exposure, which brings usback to Janet Jackson.

For the record, I’m a huge fan. I saw her in concert in Chicagofour or five years ago and she was amazing. Killer band, killer songs,killer dancing, killer outfits, killer looks, killer voice. By the endof the night, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

I love Janet’s brother, too, loved him since he was knee-highto a grasshopper. Though I’ve never seen Michael in concert, heis high on my list of dream shows. It seems people love him or loveto hate him. All I know is anyone who can knock Fred Astaire’ssocks off can dance with the best of them.

I have a dear friend who’s been working for Michael for years.Wonderful guy. Once, visiting him in California, I helped drive one ofMJ’s cars to the shop, just to help out. It was a customized Bentley,very sweet. Anyway, if you heard the inside story, closer to the eye ofthe hurricane than the tabloid madness, you might come to different conclusionsabout the man.

“Yeah, but look what he’s done to his face,” peoplesay. I say, “And?” We want our superstars to be different,but not too different. By definition, artists break norms. Business capitalizes.Artists create. Corporations cater to a mass audience to move product.Weird sells. Too weird and it’s sayonara chollie.

Back to the breast with the sun-shaped nipple ring.

I watched the halftime show. The robotic performances: Nelly grabbinghis crotch, Kid Rock draped in an American flag, Justin and Janetgamely strutting their respective stuff. As if the lip-synching wasn’tbad enough, the hired dancers in the front of the stage drove me nuts,bouncing up and down like cardboard cutout velveteen dashboard puppiesjacked up on THG.

But you want to know the biggest bummer? I was watching and didn’tsee a thing. Must’ve blinked because I didn’t find out whathappened till the next day. According to the NewYork Times, Lycos, theInternet search engine, reported that the number of searches for JanetJackson tied the record set by 9/11-related searches on and just after9/11.

“That a single breast received as much attention as the first attackon United States soil in 60 years is beyond belief,” wrote AaronSchatz.

Wow, this was what all the hubbub was about? A middle-aged breast, asone columnist put it, unceremoniously flopping for a mere two seconds?I was more shocked by the ad for a new erectile dysfunction medicationthat said in its side-effects-disclaimer (always my favorite part ofmedication ads), “Should your erection last more than four hours, you shouldseek medical attention immediately.” No outcry from that.

In the media, article followed article about the event and the outrage.TiVos and VCRs worked overtime. The NFL said they will never hire MTVto organize a show again. CBS, who is the go-to network for Victoria’sSecret Fashion Show, wrings its hands, gnashes its teeth, counts its money,and watches its stock climb higher the next day. (Viacom owns both CBSand MTV. Oh yeah, and VH1.)

Emails flood Washington, DC. Congress rails against licentiousness ontelevision. The FCC threatens huge fines. FCC Chairman Michael Powell,son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, is livid, indignant, practicallybreathing fire through his nostrils. He promises to launch an investigationto see who knew what when, where, and how. He vows to get to the bottomof the alleged “wardrobe malfunction” and discover for himselfif it’s fake or real? The wardrobe malfunction, that is.

Wait a minute. The flap at the Super Bowl has Michael Powell so bentout of shape? What about the flap his own father made at the U.N. promotingthe stampede to war with Iraq? A flap about erroneous intelligence thesenior Powell admitted a few days ago would have changed the calculusabout invading in the first place.

My point? Is the bra half empty or half full?

America is a land of extremes (the most strip joints are in Bible Beltstates) and polarities (92 percent of Republicans support Mr. Bush; 78percent of Democrats don’t), a place where common decency and uncommonhypocrisy often skinny dip together (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker), whereirony roams free.

If somebody outs a pop star’s boob, the FCC is on it like whiteon rice. If senior administration officials out a CIA covert operative,it takes three months before an investigation even begins. Go figure.

When Miss Jackson decided to forego the Grammy Awards, I was glad. Afterthe flap, they dis-invited her, then said she could come if she offereda public apology for her lewd behavior, a live mea culpa, as it were,even though she had already issued a public statement saying she was sorrythings got out of hand and if it offended anyone.

I find our national fixation kind of endearing in a way, a welcome respitefrom the Saddam-Osama drama. But one thing makes me feel bad. Maybe I’mbeing too sensitive, but, man, I really feel for the breast that got leftout––I mean, in. You know what I mean? How would you feelif your sister got all the attention? Call me Mr. OCD, or old-fashionedand naïve, but I believe in equal justice.

As far as Janet’s revealing affront to America’s sensibilities,we as a nation have survived Elvis the Pelvis, the sexual revolution,women’s liberation, and 40 years of Sports Illustrated SwimsuitEditions. Now that the Attorney General has covered up the breast on theSpirit of Justice statue at the Justice Department and the FBI have theirhands all over our privacy, Americans are feeling a little vulnerable.

I think it’s important we stay abreast of the issues and alwayslook at things from both sides.

That’s what the Super Bowl means to me.