Next year, put your kids to bed BEFORE the Super Bowl.

I’ll admit it, I like a good football game, and this turned out to be a very good one, after a boring, slow start. But what everybody was talking about the next day was the baring of Janet Jackson’s right breast. Justin Timberlake’s little grope and tear-off of Jackson’s bustier was the finale to their simulated-sex dance done to a song called “Rock Your Body,” which ends with the romantic line, “I gotta have you naked by the end of this song.” And that’s just what he did. But that was only the crude climax to what Washington Post television critic Tom Shales called “the Super Bowl of Sleaze.”

The rest of the MTV-produced halftime show had lots more bumping and grinding, crotch-grabbing rappers, and background girls tossing off their wardrobes to “I’m getting so hot, I wanna take my clothes off.”

Then there were the commercials, often creative and funny at Super Bowls, but this year featuring horse flatulence, a trained dog that bites men (again) in the crotch to steal their beers, a monkey leering at a girl’s breasts and suggesting they go upstairs, and several ads for erectile dysfunction. Bud Light clearly won the night’s award for most stupid, crude, and banal ads, while only Homer Simpson seemed to offer any healthy and funny alternative fare.

My 5-year-old son, Luke, was playing with his friends in another room but walked in just in time to see a spot for Van Helsing, an upcoming and yet unrated horror film that featured very disturbing and graphic images of horrific violence. Seeing the fanged monsters leering at us through the screen literally stopped him in his tracks.

After substantial public outcry, CBS and MTV issued unconvincing apologies about how surprised they were at Janet’s bare bust (in this first public revelation of the Jackson family values), while young Timberlake tried to blame the whole thing on a “wardrobe malfunction.” Two days later, Jackson admitted the stunt had been planned, saying: “The decision to have a costume reveal … was made after final rehearsals.”

You want to know why people join the Religious Right? It may have less to do with wanting to take over the country than being desperate to protect their kids from the crass trash and degrading banality that media conglomerates like Viacom (which owns both CBS and MTV) seem to think is just fine family entertainment for Super Bowl night. Fortunately, my kids were in bed before the halftime show, but next year we may just go with Mary Poppins in the other room.

Some people think that only right-wing conservatives care about such moral pollution. Wrong. Most parents I know, liberal or conservative, care a great deal about it, as do most self-respecting women and men. It defies stereotypes to suggest that a healthy moral consistency applies to personal and sexual ethics as well as to social and political values. It’s time to break out of those old ideological shibboleths and forge a unified front against the amoral corporate greed that violates all our ethics–personal and social–creating a system that sells beer and breasts in the same advertising plans just to make a buck.

I don’t recommend joining the Religious Right, but do call Viacom, CBS, and MTV. Tell them that you’re not a member of the Religious Right, not a puritan, and not afraid of sex (but think it’s great with somebody to whom you’re committed!). Especially if you’re a liberal progressive type, tell them that. And if you’re a parent, ask them if they have any kids and if they would want them watching the lowlife ads and actors they put on TV last Sunday night. Tell them to put it on cable where the voyeurs who want to watch Timberlake and Jackson paw each other can pay for it. Tell them that you’re angry. Tell them that they’re not entertaining, interesting, or even sexy. Tell them that their soulless and mindless “entertainment” won’t sell anymore, at least not to you. And tell them to keep their garbage away from your kids.

To call each network executive:

Tom Freston
Chairman, MTV

Leslie Moonves
President, CBS

Sumner Redstone
CEO, Viacom

Jim Wallis is editor in chief and executive director of Sojourners. Source: Sojourners 2003 (c)

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