Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Media Malfunction?

The big news of the week is the now infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the halftime show of the Superbowl. Given the mass media's skewed perception of importance, even President Bush's reaction to the event was somehow deemed an essential characteristic of the story. The fact that President Bush claimed to have slept through the halftime show is apparently seen as some kind of bizarre reaction when compared to the media's standard obsessive-compulsive fixation on a subject. The notion that some heterosexual males are not going to flip out into an immediate sexual frenzy over the tiniest glimpse of female nudity is, for some godforsaken reason, a completely alien idea in the mass media culture. It's reminiscent of the "what happens here, stays here" ethic that shows up in advertising that compactly reduces all male travel motivations down to the mentality of a frat-house road trip.

Of course, if we tacitly assume that President Bush's reaction to a brief nipple-exposure is at all relevent, it's probably the case that he would have claimed to have slept through the halftime show whether he had watched it or not. No president wants to give the media the slightest tempation of doing what they did to President Clinton all over again. And every Republican politician knows that the tiniest deviation from a perfectly respectible sexual ethic gives rise to Democratic rumors about closet sexual psychopathy (ask Ken Starr about it). If this story is newsworthy at all, it's in the negative sense that the media tried to smear someone with it and failed.

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