by Jerome Grapel…..
(With the trauma of Super Bowl weekend now upon us, I dug back in the ar-chives and found this essay pertaining to the infamous Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction”, which relegated the game itself to the smaller type of after thought in its aftermath.)
I feel somewhat ambivalent about the now historical halftime incident at this year’s Super Bowl, where a sacred part of Janet Jackson’s anatomy was briefly exposed to the world. I’m not here to say it was the proper forum for such an act, but the severe seismic jolt it has sent through our culture, considering the sever-ity of the “crime”, seems even more ridiculous.
There is always an era in any great imperial power’s rise and fall where its dominance and hedonistic manifestations reach its apex. In the case of the United States, this era began at the conclusion of WW II and still seems to be ascending, although this latest Bush Oil War and the financial pressures it is put-ting on the enterprise known as the United States — without even mentioning the universal ill will it is engendering against the Empire — might be the summit in this climb. Whether the American nation can find a more benevolent and con-structive way to use its power — which, ironically, would help to preserve rather than weaken its strength — still remains to be seen. But that’s another story.
Perhaps no regular cultural event on the American calendar more represents this muscular, imperial braggadocio than the Super Bowl, along with the sport that gave birth to it, American football. As the vaudeville of its presentation has evolved, the elements of merciless physical violence as manifested by the Pav-lovian conditioned monsters on the field, and the sexual innuendo embodied in the bouncing siliconed cleavage of the cheerleading nymphs on the sidelines, have joined hands in the Circus Maximus of the 21st century. All this violence and sexual energy, which is diffused over many games during the regular season, is focused in one great gladiatorial event on Super Bowl Sunday. This is the golden era of Rome, the Pax Romana of the Emperor Augustus in its most shrill, plebe-ian form.
Although the exposure of Janet’s boob took everyone by surprise, the fact that it took place at this floozy-like display of contemporary American culture is, upon some reflection, far less surprising.
In trying to make sense of American society’s reaction to all this, one finds it difficult to not see a tremendous amount of cynicism and hypocrisy. If we exam-ine the Godzilla-like proportions of the sex business in America, this fact is put into better focus. Through some information source that has now faded from memory, it was recently brought to my attention that the porno industry now moves more money than all of pro sports combined. I’ll give the reader some time to digest that fact … before mentioning that some of the world’s most power-ful, respected corporate organizations are growing fat feeding at the all-you-can- eat buffet of these erotic enterprises. First and foremost here are the gigantic communications beasts — names like Viacom, Comcast, AT&T, etc. — whose cable TV and Internet operations provide this glut of manufactured breasts and panting sluts, complete with a limber array of acrobatic positions in a professional smorgasbord of the sexual act. Cunts, cocks, tits and ass in an ever growing ava-lanche of erotic debauchery whose satiation point still seems way beyond any discernible horizon.
Another extremely respected part of the global economy’s infrastructure found gorging itself on sexual profiteering is the “hospitality” industry. This is a euphe-mism for those who shelter us from the elements both on vacation and business trips. The average American male seems to go into an alley cat rut once he is within the privacy and disconnect of his away from home hotel room. A good pull on the pole with the visual fantasies made real on a TV screen is a lot cheaper and less complicated than the hire of some live female flesh. As a result, such impeccable corporate citizens as Sheraton, Hilton, Marriott, Doubletree, Holiday Inn, Ritz-Carlton, etc., along with all their subsidiaries of cheaper hotels and weigh stations for the weary traveler, as well as any conglomerate giants that may include them in their holdings, are creaming in their pants (ha, ha) with money earned in collusion with the purveyors of porn. Although I cannot offer up this next comment as a hard-core fact, I seem to remember hearing that the mountain of money earned from the masturbatory client has now become an im-portant, if not exclusive element in the profit margin of the lodging business.
Now, before someone starts complaining that there is a big difference be-tween a free-willed adult amusing himself in a private place (are there such places left, or are the “security” cameras rolling here too?) and Janet’s boob be-ing shown before the largest TV audience of the year, I say “hold on a minute …”
Yes, the distinction can be made. But when we juxtapose this thoroughly rain soaked terrain of sexual permeation against the few seconds of Janet’s peek-a-boo titillation, we see that her actions were not performed in a vacuum. They rest upon a strong erotic foundation that has been constructed with the acquiescence of some of the most respected players in the global economy, and fed by the likes of John Q. American.
OK, let’s get serious. What provided the spark for this essay occurred while watching ESPN Sportscenter two days after “the event”. Although I did not see the act as it happened, in the less than 48 hours since it took place I had seen the quasi-impaired rendition of it on various TV outlets at least 20 times. Just 10 minutes into the Sportscenter in question, it had already been shown 3 or 4 more times, with the usual outrage and consternation — Paul Tagliabue explaining, Janet Jackson apologizing, CBS explaining, Justin Timberlake contrite, MTV ex-plaining — alright already! The KKK was beginning to look like a wholesome, family values organization compared to anyone connected with this Super Bowl.
When they finally decided to move on to something else (they got back to Janet later), it was a rundown of the best hockey fights from this or that … who knows, but they showed extensive footage of this Neanderthal activity. Hockey fights can be some of the more gruesome spectacles on ice, air, land or sea. Fighting on skates is a very precarious endeavor; a slip here, a loss of balance there, a sweater pulled over one’s eyes and voila! … one of the moronic partici-pants finds himself in a very compromised position. This means his foe gets to pummel him gleefully with a deluge of unanswered blows until whoever is re-sponsible for this business enterprise deems it appropriate to stop the slaughter. (This usually happens about the time the loser’s face begins to resemble a ½ pound of chopped meat.) I phrase it in such a way because the hockey business actually sells itself with such exhibitions, which are no more than organized dog fights with human contestants.
Unlike the Janet Jackson story, which was painted over a background of self-righteous indignation and outrage, the hockey fights were given to us with all the light-hearted banter of a Leno monologue. This was family fun. Nobody was hast-ily rushing the kids out of the room or hiding such “filth” behind the techno de-fenses of the “parental discretion” button. Boys will be boys. “Junior” might even find a role model here.
Perhaps I’m the “pervert”, the sick person, the one who needs spiritual guid-ance and rehabilitation, but I’m going to make the following confession anyway: I found this medley of hockey fights far more offensive than Janet’s 2 seconds of shame. If a son or daughter of mine had to eventually stumble upon something I’d rather they not be exposed to, I’d much prefer it to be Janet’s boob than these semi-programmed dog fights the hockey business deems necessary for its sur-vival.
If we strip all the meat from the bone and get to the nub of it all, we find that human beings only truly respond to 3 things, and in this order: hunger, sex, vio-lence. Unlike the first two, which are biological needs that must be appeased, violence is environmentally influenced and caused in greater part by hunger and, to a lesser degree, by sexual tension. In the modern world of plenty, the violence caused by hunger has been displaced somewhat by the violence caused by poor living conditions. Violence is not necessary. Violence is spurred on by frustration. Human beings cannot only live without violence, they would really prefer to. Most people will try to avoid it at all costs.
Once we get to the point where that hockey fight is considered more obscene than Janet’s boob, we might really be able to say our species has moved on to a better place.
I began writing essays in the early 90’s, the collection “Because You Never Asked” being a fractional but representative cross section of an output that is still in progress today. I restrict their content to anything that may be relevant since the dawn of time to the end of eternity. They’ve given me a kind of therapeutical way to voice my objections to the paradigm of our culture and the negativity it is leading us into. All cultures attempt to inculcate their constituents into someone’s narrow minded, self serving version of reality and this book is an attempt to translate these subterfuges into the truth. Although a number of my earliest essays are included in this collection, the vast majority of them are more contemporary. Regardless of their chronology, they should all still be pertinent to whatever is happening at this moment.
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