Boob Tube

In case you're overly medicated, sleepwalking, or Bill O'Reilly, you should be aware that we no longer live in a democracy but, rather, are now being ruled by two boobs: the artificially inflated one that popped out for a peek of those halftime football festivities back in January 2004, and the artificially inflated one that got re-elected president of the United States in November. I didn't particularly care to see Janet Jackson's pneumatic ta-ta during last year's Super Bowl—though, sure, I'll admit I could've taken a little glimpse of whatever Justin Timberlake, Jackson's duet partner, might've wanted to air out—but I never dreamed that its split-second helium hello would allow George W. Bush and his minions to begin the celebration of censorship that is, I can promise you, only just beginning.

I recently reported here that Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings went after PBS for trying to broadcast a couple of cartoon lesbians via the culturally inquisitive bunny of the network's Postcards From Buster, and things have only gotten worse since. Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a measure that could allow the Federal Communications Commission to increase fines by as much as $500,000 on any station daring to violate the FCC's arcane indecency rules. Viacom, parent company of CBS, has already been slapped with a half-million for the appearance of Jackson's hooter, and this latest ruling ensures that local stations—and even individuals, who will also be liable, according to the measure—will be quivering in fear of potentially crippling financial penalties should they offend the sensibilities of the nutcases currently in power. The White House's statement? Great relief that the vote would "make broadcast television and radio more suitable for family viewing."

The rank air of conservative remonstration was affecting television programming long before the bill passed in the House. Usually feisty Fox decided to fuzz out a bare butt on its animated The Family Guy—it's a tough time to be a cartoon character, evidently—and poor, petrified PBS had already determined it would have to cut around shots of a nude woman being decontaminated in a shower after the terrorist attack depicted in the BBC movie Dirty War (yeah—we all know what a dangerous turn-on it is watching a naked woman scrub for her life). Even Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg's sentimental World War II film, was denied broadcast last year by 66 ABC affiliate stations put off by its adult language; while I'm relieved that millions of Americans were spared having to hear Matt Damon's god-awful my-brother-had-sex-with-an-ugly-girl monologue late in the film, I hardly see it as matter of grave national concern.

Where do we go from here? Why do I think we're heading toward a new Hays Office, the notorious '30s censors given full rein to tell the entertainment industry how its fictional characters could think, talk, and act? We can only imagine what this new bill will find billable. Hey—how about The Wizard of Oz, long a favorite of those of us not suitable for family viewing? That little girl kills an old woman simply because she demands the return of some very expensive footwear that was her rightful family inheritance. That'll be $500K, Dorothy, and your little dog, too.

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