The photo shows mommy, daddy, and their two very youngsters watching the athletes with rapt attention. Wide-eyed daddy has his fists clenched while mommy and older child beam and cheer their favorite on. The younger child is looking at the referee who monitors the action impassively. It is a Norman Rockwell capture. All that’s missing is grandpa carving the turkey.
It’s a recent picture from the Boston Globe of a fist fight between two professional hockey players. (Jan 23 p. e3)
Mommy and one child are rooting for their player to punch the visiting player in the face. Daddy is one mental molecule away from being on the ice himself.
I’m taken with the child who is not looking at the fight, but rather at the referee who makes no move to break it up. Clear tacit approval from the authority figure. Is the child wondering why he doesn’t try to stop this?
The child will soon learn the joy of voyeuristic violence in the family hour. When one player becomes successful in the logic of the battle; when he begins to bash the other fellow’s face in without resistance, the referees stop the action. It’s an ongoing build up without release. A perpetual tease.
Which, of course, leads us to Janet Jackson’s breast.
Not the gentle one she partially exposed briefly, but the other one; armored, angular, exaggerated, sharp. Covered. Suggestive, leering. The breast-exaggerating clothes Ms. Jackson wore were a constant tease; a continual look-here-young-man distraction to anyone who might otherwise have otherwise noticed the athleticism of her dancing. We were wardrobe-engineered to stare at, think about, but not see, body parts.
The tease permeates advertising. As skilled camera work draws our eyes towards the crotches of high stepping cheerleaders in Coors Beer ads, for example, we know we are being titillated.
But we don’t literally see any, thing. We are taken to the next carefully constructed near miss. It’s a perpetual come-on, a peep without show. A powerful, ongoing grab.
And so, mentally, we finish the deal ourselves. Our dirty little secret. And thus is family hour sexual voyeurism brought to our living rooms by a bedrock conservative Republican company. And we can watch with the kids because our private thoughts (and theirs) are safely out of sight.
But now comes that female icon of crotch-grabbing family dysfunction finishing the deal herself—“You looking at this? You thinking about this? Ok, sailor, here it is!”
And there goes its value as emotional entrapment. Because, despite the bleating of the cultural conservatives, there goes its sex appeal.
What makes it titillating is the movement towards the prohibited. When the sacred object is thrust in your face without resistance, it’s as sexy as watching one hockey player transform another player’s face into pulp.
A tension-ending turn-off for most.
I trust our happy, suburban family would not take the kiddies to an event entitled “fist fights on ice.” They rely on the fig leaf, the clothing, of an athletic contest with the occasional “incidental” outbreak of violence. Blatant non-seductive actions must be rejected, ghettoized.
So Janet revealed our dirty little secret, eliminated the attention-grabbing tension, and ripped off our living room fig leaf, engendering over a quarter of a million letters of outrage.
The essence of her scandal is not that a body part was uncovered, but that a cover was blown. She took the tease out of TV.
So CBS blew the whistle on her. She must be punished.
Perhaps a public spanking with a corporate sponsor.
How about Viagra?
That would keep us in the game.