Friday, February 13, 2004

Nipples, Nipples, Every… er, Nowhere

Now we’re going great guns with hearings about the baring of Ms. Jackson’s nipple piercing during the Super Bowl.

An interesting opinion piece on it appeared at the International Herald Tribune site.  (Update: the IHT site is gone and its archives are allegeldy incorprated into the New York Times site.  This op-ed may have been the one I read at the time.)

I can only see two possible outcomes of this:
  • The “wardrobe malfunction” explanation is accepted as the truth, and it is termed the accident that it (presumably) was.  Everyone apologizes, maybe CBS pays some token fines, greater future scrutiny of such choreography is promised, the whole thing blows over, and we return to the status quo.  Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
  • The FCC will institute new regulations prohibiting live televised feeds which don’t have a several second delay in them.  This is already standard in talk radio, where there’s like a three-second delay between speech and broadcast, enabling the station personnel to touch a “silencer” button to keep potty-mouthed callers from spewing curse words over the air waves.  Instituting something similar for television would allow appropriate personnel to push a “blur” or “blank” button and thus protect (ahem) us from future glimpses of naughty bits.
On the surface, sounds like a great idea.  Of course, “appropriate personnel” is just a euphemism for “censors”.  While we might have few qualms about a few seconds of blurred screen being presented to cover up a “wardrobe malfunction,” what else is going to be blurred, blacked out, or silenced?  Will stations with a conservative agenda push the “quiet” button when tough questions get asked of a sitting Republican politician?  Will cable companies in the Bible Belt black out CNN stories on gay marriage in Massachusetts?  Will liberal stations blur… well, I find it hard to think of them doing that, but for the sake of argument, would they blur things that liberals find objectionable?

I haven’t watched old Warner Brothers cartoons in years, but the last time I did, I was shocked by the violence.  Or rather, by the lack of violence, and how that lack of violence had been instituted.  Apparently the prints of the cartoons would get sent from station to station over the years, and on occasion, some station management would take it upon themselves to save their young viewers from the evil violence and would “edit” (censor) the cartoon.  That print would then be sent on in its edited (damaged) form to the next station, who might also edit it, and so on.

I saw one of the two “Duck Season!  Wabbit Season!” cartoons recently (“Rabbit Fire” and “Duck!  Rabbit, Duck!” are the titles, but most people simply recognize the prhrase).  (Yes, there are two: one takes place in autumn and one in winter; same general schtick, though.  There's apparently a third in the “trilogy”.)  It had been “edited” so that the image froze just before each time Daffy got blasted with Elmer’s shotgun, and then the picture started again with the after effects on Daffy’s bill — but the sound continued unstopped.  So you got images of Elmer leveling the shotgun, then a static image accompanied by the sound of a gun being fired, and then Daffy’s bill full of holes.  Now that’s “dethpicable.”

Another trash job was on “Hare Trimmed”, where Bugs is trying to protect Granny from Yosemite Sam’s intent to marry her for her inheritance.  The chop job on this was even worse: a few seconds before any “violence”, they would just cut to the next scene.  But not just to the next scene but into the next scene.  So you would have Yosemite Sam going through a door where he’s supposed to fall through a hole in the floor and off a cliff (or some such), cutting immediately to Sam chasing Granny down a hallway, in the middle of the dialogue.  Very surreal, and impossible to follow.

So is this what we can expect to happen with a “delayed live feed” rule in place?  A Half-Time Show where the on-site operators freezes the image but lets the sound play through, a network which blurs the frozen image, a cable company which chops the offensive sounds, and then a V-Chip on your local set which blanks out the entire screen — all at once?

Updated on December 10, 2010

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