MTV Meets the REAL “Real World”

Jackson and Timberlake showed the world how low the "entertainment” industry has sunk.

I was almost ready to send Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake a thank you note.

Don’t get me wrong. Like the rest of America, I was appalled at their vulgar, tasteless “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show. And, for the record, I don’t believe anything “malfunctioned,” except perhaps the parts of their brains that regulate stupid decisions. I believe they knew exactly what was going to happen. 

So why the thank-you note? What good could I possibly see coming out of such a tasteless debacle?

It’s quite simple. For the first time, Middle America really met the MTV elite who have been out to influence their children. And those insulated elites met the Middle America they didn’t really know existed.

And neither one liked the other very much.

Most people my age still think of MTV as the music video network we watched in high school or college. It’s songs with little skits. Sure the women may be a bit scantily clad, and the lyrics might be a bit suggestive, but it’s no big deal. After all, the suggestive lyrics will go right over kids’ heads, just like they went right over our heads when we were younger. (I was 25 years old before I realized that Peter Frampton’s “I’m In You” was about sex.) They don’t watch MTV themselves, but they don’t see any harm in letting their kids watch it.

Well, on Super Bowl Sunday, you got a glimpse of your children’s MTV. Not what you expected, was it?

It wasn't just the “wardrobe reveal” that was problematic. The whole show was tasteless. Kid Rock wore an American flag as a shawl. Justin Timberlake groped Ms. Jackson as he sang about having her naked by the end of the song. That’s not suggestive -- it’s obscene. And it’s not the kind of obscenity that’s going to go over any child’s head. It’s blatant.

Jackson and Timberlake both admit that they planned a “surprise” for the end of the show. The claim that the “wardrobe reveal” wasn’t supposed to be as revealing as it was – that Jackson was only supposed to be stripped down to a little red bra. I don’t buy it. As a friend of mine put it, “Do you think she was wearing one of those ring thingies on the other side?” I doubt it. And, as they walked off stage, Justin Timberlake was reportedly smiling and telling reporters “We love to give y’all something to talk about.” It was only after he began hearing the negative feedback that he expressed remorse.

Oh, and one more thing about that walk off stage. Janet Jackson’s “people” met her and wrapped her in a red, white and blue blanket to cover her up. Did they just happen to find that blanket lying around backstage? Or did they have it there because they knew what was going to happen? And why cover up anyway? Ms. Jackson had just flashed 72,000 fans in the stadium, and another 80 million or so at home. Why the sudden attack of modesty in front of a few stagehands?

So why would these two cook up a scheme like this? Because, in their world, it’s the way things are done. Jackson is releasing a new CD. Timberlake apparently just wants attention. In their world, you get attention by “pushing the envelope” just a little further, shocking the audience.

But they forgot who their audience was.

MTV’s primary audience is young, impressionable kids and adults who still think like young impressionable kids. In that world, singing about getting naked is commonplace. A girl would have to expose a breast (or French-kiss Madonna) to get any attention. 

But Super Bowl fans are not MTV fans. They’re the parents of the MTV fans – the parents who didn’t know what was happening on MTV. 

But now they do. And they don’t like it.

I think Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake honestly thought this was “no big deal” – or at least not the big deal it turned out to be. They live in an insulated “entertainment industry” world. They hang out with “entertainment industry” friends. And that world doesn’t hold the same values that the rest of us hold. Cameron Diaz, Timberlake’s girlfriend, saw “nothing wrong” with the show. People magazine is calling Timberlake, Jackson and MTV all ‘winners’ in this scandal.

Are they winners? Will their little stunt pay off? They will if they get what they wanted – more attention, more record sales and more money.

It’s up to us to see that doesn’t happen. Janet Jackson’s new CD, Damita Jo, is about to be released. Don’t buy it. Justin Timberlake is about to sign a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with McDonalds. Email the people at McDonalds and tell them that, if Timberlake goes on as a spokesman for the company, you’ll be searching elsewhere for your happy meals. FCC chairman Michael Powell has brought the matter before Congress. Let your congressperson know what you think.

Don’t let vulgarity pay.