Saturday, March 18, 2006

On the same theme:
Indecency, as Janet Jackson showed, is all in the context. People complained to the Federal Communications Commission about the performer's wardrobe malfunction because it happened during a Super Bowl halftime show — viewers don't expect lewdness until the commercials.

And fans of procedural crime dramas like CBS's "Without a Trace" expect to see sexual depravity and abuse only in dead people. When an episode showed graphic images of seminaked, promiscuous teenagers who were actually alive, it was something of a shock. It certainly fired up the F.C.C.: that guardian of network morals fined 111 stations that aired that episode a record $3.6 million.

And probably rightly so. For reasons that baffle the rest of the world (in this case, they don't hate us, they pity us), the United States is far more prudish about sex than violence on television. But as long as sexually explicit material is officially taboo, then the episode did seem to meet the test: the scene of teenagers holding an orgy in a suburban house was quite blue. The camera lingered on writhing bodies and sweaty threesomes just a little longer than was strictly necessary to make the point that sexually transmitted diseases are a growing problem in high school.

CBS defended the episode, saying that it had redeeming social value since the story was a cautionary tale about parents who fail to adequately supervise their children.
CBS's defense is no more absurd than Lindsay Beyerstein's earnest attempts to rehabilitate the authors of Go Fug Yourself.

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