..or, if you prefer, “The FCC Finds Your Posterior To Be Morally Inferior.” Neither of which are particularly witty statements, mind you, but that shouldn’t stop you from clicking this link, reading the article, and throwing a massive first-amendment hissy fit.
Basically, the FCC decided today to whack ABC with a proposed fine of over $1 million because one time they showed Charlotte Ross’s bum on NYPD Blue. As you can see below, it’s not even a particularly gratuitous bum-showing; the woman was taking a shower, so it would have been silly for her to be wearing, say, a track suit. The scene was brief, it was not meant to be pornographic, it passed ABC’s censors, and was shown late enough at night that it’s doubtful any children were watching. It’s doubtful, in fact, that anyone could have been really corrupted, offended, or shocked by it.
(more, and the clip in question, below the cut.)
I mean, watch this, and tell me what you think. (Warning: not work safe, involves nudity, there’s no sound for some reason, and if you report me for posting this you’re part of the problem and I want nothing to do with you.)
I mean, this is NYPD Blue, a show which showed Dennis Franz’s backside in the first season. It got people talking, sure, and some cried out about the decline of decency in America and all that, but no one really cared, and after a while, “adult content” on “the Blue” became standard. If you sat down to watch the show, you knew what you were getting into.
The FCC apparently didn’t care. Technically, if you swear or do something naughty on the public airwaves, the FCC has up to 10 years to fine you before the statute of limitations kicks in. This is why they’re going after an episode that was first broadcast in 2003: because they can. The FCC is attacking ABC for one simple reason: it wants to throw its weight around. NYPD Blue was a popular show. The supposedly offensive incident in question happened five years ago. It seems that the commission simply wanted to show that it can come and get you when you least expect it, no matter who you are or when you sinned, so you had better watch out.
Luckily, we’ve been treated to some comic relief from FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate herself, who says:
“We find that the programming at issue is within the scope of our indecency definition because it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs — specifically an adult woman’s buttocks,” the FCC wrote. “Although ABC argues, without citing any authority, that the buttocks are not a sexual organ, we reject this argument, which runs counter to both case law and common sense.”
I find this puzzling, yet hilarious. Were I not a liberated man of good taste and feminist ideals, and were I instead a Howard Stern-esque ne’er-do-well, I would no doubt speculate upon Commissioner Tate’s preferred sexual positions. But as I am a man who respects all women, even puritanical Bush-appointed harpies who want to tell me what to think, I shall refrain. I’m certain that scholars wiser than you or I will be debating the question of whether or not buttock(s) is(are) necessarily (a) sexual organ(s) for years to come. There are many nuances to this argument, of course. For example: isn’t a male posterior more likely to be a sexual organ than a female posterior, or is that only true when the male in question is gay? Is that why they didn’t fine ABC back in 1995 when the very straight Detective Sipowicz “turned the other cheek”?
More to the point, who died and made the FCC the pope? Nobody – nobody – who was watching minded that Charlotte Ross was nude on TV. If they did, they had every right to write into ABC and complain. They could even join up with a pressure group and start a mass mailing campaign against the show. That’s how freedom of speech works – ABC can show what they want, within reason, and you can tell them loudly that you do or don’t like it, and if they’re smart, they’ll go with what the market says.
But no, says the FCC, that’s not how it’s going to work anymore. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed an enormous fine against a major network on the off chance that there were any children corrupted five years ago by the sight of a woman’s bare bottom broadcast after their bedtime; children that, since that time, have probably seen much worse things in movies and on the web. Some may ask the question, “where should the line be drawn? What’s too obscene for TV and what isn’t?” And, really, I have no idea, but how’s this for a start:
If they can hang it in the Louvre, they can show it on my television.