The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The above image is of Beyonce Knowles, in all her bootylicious glory, at the NBA All-Star Game. Matt at The Goat Belt wants to know why this instance of generous breast-tissue display didn't incite the same uproar as Janet Jackson's now-legendary Super Bowl revelation.

I respond, probably a little too succinctly. Let me expand a bit:

First and foremost, as irrational as it is, it's generally understood that a display like this can show off as much skin as possible as long as the critical zones stay covered up. Those zones in this case are the nipples. Yes, Beyonce probably showed off just as much as Janet did; but she made sure her pointy-pointies stayed in place (doubtless with the aid of some sort of adhesive, as J.Lo did a couple of years ago with that much-talked-about dress she wore to some award show or other). That was the difference. I'm sure plenty of uptight people got hot about this too, but because she technically didn't flash, it's not as big a deal.

The scope of the events is another factor. As popular as the NBA is (even in the post-Jordan era), it's not the NFL, and the NBA All-Star Game isn't the Super Bowl. Even if this were the NBA Finals, it wouldn't be the same, because the audiences don't measure up. The Super Bowl is the biggest TV event of the year, one which people plan parties around. The NBA All-Star Game? It draws an audience, especially among hardcore fans, but it's not a capital-"E" Event like Super Sunday. So the spotlight was smaller, even in anticipation of another Janet-like occurence (which the seven-second delay would have negated anyway).

Finally, the expectations. Generally, the NBA is perceived as more "ghetto" than most other sports leagues. That's manifested in both positive and negative ways; the negative, as it applies here, is that the NBA is almost expected to deal in a higher degree of lewdness than the NFL or other sports. The average viewer, looking at the combination of hip-hop acts, youth-targeted production, and overall showboating, frankly expect to get racier visuals from the NBA, fairly or unfairly.

I'd like to think that people are generally lightening up over such nonsense as televised semi-nudity. But that would be too easy.

UPDATE: Eric at Off Wing Opinion adds his two cents, and brings up an important point that I brainfroze on: That because the NBA All-Star Game was on cable instead of broadcast television, it falls outside the jurisdiction of the FCC. Therefore, Michael Powell would have no official reason to get into an uproar over Beyonce's exposure.

However, I'll point out that this wouldn't necessarily prevent the powers that be from taking action, if a Super Bowl-like flash had somehow occurred. Cable stations don't have a free pass on this sort of thing. For all the boundary-pushing cable does, especially with language, it still stays well within broadcast-like limits, because the media players know if they go too far too fast, the FCC will find a way to come down on them. If there were nothing for TNT to worry about in this regard, it wouldn't have bothered with the seven-second delay it used for the intermission show.