The Blob That Ate TV

By | February 16, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Two weeks after the Super Bowl, it’s already hard to remember the final score and who played. But Janet Jackson’s breast has taken on a life of its own.

As shocking – shocking! – as the nation’s collective horror was over the episode, the script for this stunt was written long ago.

You may recall: The year was 1958; it was Steve McQueen’s memorable movie debut. Still need another hint? It almost ate an entire town. That’s right, “The Blob.”

A gigantic, gooey mass roars to earth from outer space and proceeds to terrorize Smalltown, USA, a hamlet filled with narrow-minded adults and an unruly bunch of kids that is basically rebelling without a cause.

Local teenagers witness the Blob’s voracious appetite, but their pleas are ignored by the respectable townfolk until it’s almost too late. Just as the Blob is about to consume everything in sight, the local bad boy (that would be Steve) discovers that extreme cold can kill the monster. He saves the hypocritical townsfolk and redeems himself.

In the updated Super Bowl version, “The Blob” may not be from outer space, but plenty of people think Janet Jackson is, so the parallels here are pretty obvious.

In the middle of TV’s family viewing period, the Blob unceremoniously appears and overpowers a spectacle of violence and excess that passes as wholesome viewing on TV these days.

Although few people actually see it, all 89 million or so people watching the Super Bowl profess to have been terrorized, even though only about 200,000 complained.

From there, the Blob keeps growing, bigger and bigger, until it consumes Jackson, Justin Timberlake, the NFL, CBS-TV and MTV, which staged the halftime show. From there, it moves to Washington, D.C., where it proceeds to gorge itself on Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Powell and a slew of angry lawmakers. Congress holds hearings; does nothing.

Like the movie, few saw it coming, but now it’s finally too big to ignore. The public, of course, has a right to expect that programming is fit to be seen by kids during family viewing hours. But, frankly, the “unveiling,” as it were, is nothing compared to what’s available on cable TV, in videogames or on the Internet through peer-to-peer services.

The average illegal downloader ranges in age from 12 to 24, yet the government has done virtually nothing to curb the availability of hardcore pornography on file-swapping services.

As former President Richard Nixon once said, however, “Solutions are not the answer.”

Jackson and Timberlake were right to apologize, of course, but Congress should also be ashamed of itself for cynically exploiting this issue in an election year. Like the movie, the townsfolk have allowed this Blob to grow way out of proportion because of their hypocrisy and cynicism. Now, it’s time to put the big freeze on this issue.

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