The Super Bowl served up a feast of offensive football, but I was disappointed with the half-time show.
It was rumoured in the buildup to the game that Janet Jackson might make a surprise appearance during Justin Timberlake’s performance, and that had the reporter in me primed in anticipation.
It’s been 14 years since Justin and/or Janet conspired to expose her right breast during their notorious half-time show, and I was quite curious to see how America would react if it happened again.
Even if you didn’t watch that infamous game in 2004, it would have been impossible to avoid the controversy that erupted following Nipplegate. CBS was buried under an avalanche of outraged callers while the other networks fell over each other taking turns replaying the titillating clip over and over again.
The leaders of the free world in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives weighed in on the brahaha as well, resulting in the Federal Communications Commission issuing a record $550,000 fine to the beleaguered broadcaster in a ruling that dragged all the way to the Supreme Court before it was finally overturned in 2012.
All of this, even though Jackson, in defence of modesty, was wearing a nipple shield for the split-second unveiling, which raises the point even further about what the fuss was actually all about.
It was a fascinating glimpse into American culture, where the nipple is verboten on television in any shape or form unless it’s on pay-per-view or in a diaper commercial.
You can tune in just about any time of the day or night and watch slow motion decapitations or brains being splattered on a wall, but heaven forbid something as controversial as an adult human teat ever makes its way onto your screen. That’s unless, of course, the protuberances in question are attached to women in Third World countries, preferably standing in a jungle somewhere wearing grass skirts.
As a somewhat jaded journalist with a healthy infatuation with Montgomery tubercles that dates back to puberty, it would have been intriguing to watch how Nipplegate II played out, especially if Janet appeared sans metal cover the second peak around.
How different would the reaction have been in 2018? Would we be keeping abreast of debates on CNN while stone-faced talking heads interviewed politicians lined up to weigh in on how the moral fabric of America has been ripped asunder again? How would Fox News have handled it, and, most importantly for me personally, what would Donald Trump have tweeted?
Fourteen long years later would we have learned anything from the first areola uproar, or would NBC be staring down the barrel of a multi-million dollar fine? My hope is that it we have evolved enough as a species to the point where it would merely be considered a case of tit for tat.
Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.