Thank You, Janet

May 7, 2004

I may be the only person in America who wants to thank Janet Jackson for her trashy NFL debut.

I have nothing to add to the volumes already written about Janet’s breast.  How many times can you say disgusting?  Inappropriate?  Filthy?  Degrading?  My thesaurus is worn out!

Besides…I really need to thank Janet.  She accomplished more in the flash of a moment than all the letter writing campaigns and citizen phone calls did during the past twenty years.

I know.  I tried.

A short five years ago, while changing channels, my husband was assaulted by a porn-fest on our basic no-frills television service.  Up to that moment we had considered our home porn-free, having rejected any and all offers for HBO and similar pay-for-filth stations.  We just wanted the basics.

We had no idea that basic service would funnel XXX movies (relabeled NC-17) into our home right along with the Disney, Toons, History, and Food channels.  Right there, passing from channel 40 to 44, an IFC movie with blatant oral sex was in full swing.  And we decided to take action.

We called and we wrote.  I have a fat folder of all the letters and faxes demanding a change.  Our little battle campaign took months and involved everyone we could think of:  IFC, ABC, COX, FTC and FCC.  The answer in each case was the same.  WDC.

WDC…We Don’t Care.  The universal response to the filth funneled into our home, unbidden and unwanted was, “We don’t care.”  Each person had their own version of WDC.

The program director for IFC (Independent Film Channel) said she hadn’t seen the XXX movie because she didn’t “watch that kind of filth.”  She would sell it.  But she wouldn’t watch it.

The cable network said it was our fault.  “You should have known it was there before you turned on the television.  Read the television guide.  All of it.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) representative told me to buy a new television…”with a V-chip.”

They all agreed on the basics.  Basically, according to them, my husband and I were the guilty parties.  Our problem could be easily solved.

We should, they explained, carefully pour through the TV guide and make note of all the programs, on all 300 stations, all 24 hours, each and every day of the year.  As conscientious parents, we would then know for each and every minute of the day what potential filth might be there ready to attack us.  Like media sentinels, we would stand guard 24/7 in front of the household television ready to pull the plug at just the right moment.

Or…they told us…we could get rid of our television.  Really.  After all, being an American does not guarantee us the right to watch television.

I wrote the Federal Communications Commissioner.  What in the world was he doing to guarantee basic standards of network programming to homes with children?  What did he intend to do about stations that put nudity, profanity, and porn onto basic television service?

WDC.  His answer?  Silence.  We don’t care.

What did five months of letters, phone calls, faxes, and newspaper editorials produce?  Nothing.  Actually…worse than nothing.

Five months after writing the first letter of protest, while studying my television guide, I found the same XXX movie slated for rebroadcast, once again as a basic program option for all families.   There it was in the program guide, three separate broadcast dates in October, three opportunities to teach children the basics of sadistic sex and porn on family television.

Five years ago, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission put his stamp of approval on porn for families when he failed to care, when he failed to take action.

As much as it pains me to say it, “Thank you, Janet.”  You did what I was never able to do.  You got their attention.  Maybe you were crass, maybe you tarnished the image of America abroad, and maybe you defiled the ultimate family entertainment known as the Super Bowl.  But someone had to do it.

At long last, we have the attention of the FCC.  Legislators are serious about taking care of the needs of families and children.  Finally, we are ready to draw a line in the sand and stand for decency.

If we had been doing our job all along, we would never have suffered through this year’s Super Bowl fiasco.  And for that, we owe you, Janet.  Thank you.

See April 9, 2004, Dear Paul