DATE: 2/07/2005 01:03:00 PM
Penalty! Unnecessary Snark! - Tom Shales critiques the Super Bowl broadcast, and yea, there was much snideness.
America could go to sleep safely last night knowing there had been no eye-popping "wardrobe malfunctions" during this year's Super Bowl halftime show, and that the game itself hadn't been the inflated bust, if you'll pardon the expression, that it sometimes was in years past.
Perhaps still smarting from last year's absurd hysteria over the inappropriate appearance of Janet Jackson's nipple, the NFL and the Fox network played it super-safe at Super Bowl XXXIX, with a Don Mischer-produced halftime show that tastefully starred Paul McCartney tastefully singing tasteful songs that the whole world loves.Tom, you see, is enlightened. Public displays of sexuality are, in his esteemed eyes, progress. Like so many other television critics, he applauds nothing more than artists or shows that "push the envelope" or "titillate viewers." Entertainment doesn't have worth unless it "shocks the sensibilities" of what was formerly known as "small-town" or "middle" America. Now, though, "red-state" America is more commonly seen.
In the article, Shales uses the same tired joke about three times, calling the attention of the "censors" to potentially inappropriate content that appeared during the broadcast. The whole column is a pathetic statement of independence, of Shales' open-mindedness: "See, America! See how sophisticated I am? The sight of an exposed breast doesn't offend me! In fact, I see it as a major step forward for America! Progress can only come with exposed body parts on national television!"
Like most television critics, Shales never gets around to explaining exactly why pushing the envelope is such a good thing. Is nakedness and profanity in and of itself a social good? What is the ultimate goal? Pornography during prime-time? The broadcast premiere of uncut, hard-R movies? What does Shales want, and why does it matter so much?
And, as it has been asked on so many issues of late, where are the feminists on this? It seems that more often than not, 'pushing the envelope' on television means not only more cussin', but an increase in nudity. Specifically, female nudity. Once upon a time, feminists were against the portrayal of women as nothing more than empty-headed sex objects on television. Their silence indicates that they're okay with such uses of women, so long as it annoys conservatives.
There's something kind of creepy about the spectacle of a middle-aged man tsk-tsking that this year's Super Bowl didn't objectify women enough during the broadcast. Shales and his fellow critics can use all the rhetoric they want to justify their beliefs - that we need to have more enlightened (read: European) attitudes about sex; that the Janet Jackson and Nicole Sheridan episodes actually showed empowered women; that we need to be more open-minded about such things. In the end, though, it all comes down to a bunch of guys complaining that there just ain't enough nekkid women to ogle anymore.