Even before Justin Timberlake pulled at Janet Jackson’s top during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII, exposing her breast and nipple shield, she was dancing in an outfit so tight it looked as if it might have been made of spray paint.
MTV, hardly a programmer of preschool fare, produced the infamous halftime show; no matter whether you believe the wardrobe malfunction was an accident or intentional, that should have told you something.
Nine years later, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about this year’s game involved the kiss from that awful GoDaddy spot and the accusation that it was so inappropriate for family viewing.
Entertainment productions aside, where did we ever get the idea that a live sporting event with the pressure of the Super Bowl was truly a “family-friendly” event?
Consider this: MVP Joe Flacco’s F-bomb during the post-game celebration opened CBS to a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission. Bad behavior, certainly not the kind you’d call “family friendly” doesn’t only happen during post-game celebrations. Yes, even admired sports stars sometimes use salty language. Especially when they’re on the field. I doubt I’m breaking any news here with such a revelation.
Just watch the coaches and players of any game: swearing and other unsportsmanlike conduct is as much a part of the game as the actual game play. There’s something in us, I think, that enjoys watching players and coaches — especially coaches — right up in an official’s face, screaming at the top of his lungs, launching every profane word in his verbal repertoire. Even if you don’t hear the tirade, it’s often not that difficult to read lips. And you can bet it’s not that difficult for your children to read lips, too.
And then there are the injuries. Football, no matter how much you like it, is a violent game. Just ask any of those longtime players who now have daily rituals like icing various parts of their bodies even though they haven’t set foot on the gridiron for years. Some games have injuries that are potential career-enders. Back in October, University of South Carolina player Marcus Lattimore suffered a “gruesome” knee injury during a play. I’ve heard about the video and what it shows. I still can’t bring myself to watch it. Nor can I imagine watching it with a young child and having them see exactly how gruesome the great sport of football can be.
There are so many variables that can go into a live sporting event and a live musical production, the notion of “family friendliness” seems to be in question from the moment the cameras go on.
Yet a disgusting, 10-second closeup of a kiss gets singled out because children might be in the room?
I’m not trying to badmouth football here, but where did we get the notion that live coverage of a football game — particularly one with as much riding on it as this one — was one we’d be “safe” letting the kids watch? Where does this feigned “shock” come from, exactly?
Live television carries an inherent risk of something indecent happening. (And it’s worth noting that what‘s “indecent” for some is merely “fair game” for others, so we don’t even have a workable standard to deal with.) I think deep down, most parents are already well aware of that.
With that risk comes the constant need for a parent to act like one, to be ready with a finger on the clicker and an explanation for a young, inquiring mind.