There's a price to pay for moralizing. And today, at halftime of the Super Bowl, you will pay dearly for pretending to be outraged by Janet Jackson's breast. Not only will there be no beer ads with bikini-clad women and sex jokes, the sanitized halftime show will feature Paul McCartney, a man whose last Top 10 single was not only 20 years ago, but was "Spies Like Us." It's as if you're not only paying indulgences for Janet but for the far more disturbing 1993 halftime show, when the NFL somehow let Michael Jackson sing with 3,500 local children.
But there are bigger repercussions. Just as rich men in Victorian Britain sneaked into morgues to see naked women's bodies, the post-Janet Jackson nipple clampdown has wrought this: "The Girls Gone Wild Halftime Games."
"Last time I checked, men like naked women," "Girls Gone Wild" auteur Joe Francis said. "And now they've created an environment where you can't get this stuff anywhere else."
Yes, the NFL wanted men to go three hours without breasts. But Francis would not have it. Taking advantage of the hypocrisy of a culture that used the news to watch Jackson's one-second flash ("I missed it. And I have a trained eye for it," he said), Francis created a pay-per-view show whose slogan is "Wardrobe Malfunctions Guaranteed."
The show features midget referees and a series of competitions ranging from an obstacle course with a tequila water slide to an obstacle course without any tequila whatsoever. Jaime Hammer, a member of Team Rack Pack, saw through the subtext of the events, which will send losers to the showers and winners to the massage table. "They put you in situations where if you're wearing a bikini, your [breasts] could fall out," she said.
Francis is so convinced of viewers' need to break up their violence with sex that he's making today's show one hour -- twice as long as the halftime break. The winning "Girls Gone Wild" team, however, will be decided at the end of the first 30 minutes. As for the second half, Francis says, "we're going to reminisce about the first half." This guy worries about plot less than "Bad Boys" director Michael Bay does.
Francis' main focus is to make sure the show will feature a lot of nudity, which is something Francis' competition, the "Lingerie Bowl," chose not to do last year. "Lingerie Bowl II," which will be available in only half the U.S. markets thanks to Francis' deal with pay-per-view company In Demand, promises to up the skank from last year, but not by much.
"We are not 'Girls Gone Wild,' " said Chris Martin, the media consultant for the "Lingerie Bowl," which will feature a performance by rapper Chingy. "We don't want to be the broadcast your crazy uncle is watching in a closet upstairs. We want to be in the main living room downstairs."
Martin, who honestly believes that the NFL planned Janet Jackson's exposure to compete with his show, thinks the purification of the Super Bowl will send money his way this year. "Folks on the borderline are going to order the 'Lingerie Bowl,' " he said.
So, in our effort to clean up our biggest secular holiday, we've accidentally created a bunch of parties where people watch topless women engage in activities usually reserved for female sergeants interrogating at Gitmo. But I think that's a good thing.
Like Ed Sullivan in the pre-cable universe, where the whole family had to watch, the Super Bowl was trying to be too much. It tried to be a family sports event while slipping in small doses of sexual objectification. Small, totally unsatisfying doses.
That's why I'm more embarrassed by cheerleaders than the "Girls Gone Wild" show. At least by paying $15 to a pay-per-view company, you're clearly doing something illicit. Anytime you do something in a living room at home that usually takes place in a hotel room -- pay-per-view, tiny bottles of vodka, a mess so bad a maid has to come in twice a day -- you have to take a good look at yourself.