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The Idiocy Goes On

November 19th, 2004

OK, so USA Today columnist Jon Saraceno isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of an intellectual heavyweight, but this piece on the Monday Night Football sexy intro dustup has to be one of the three of four stupidest things I’ve read this year. I mean, come on, Jon. You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Let’s start with the racism bit. Saraceno agrees with Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s assessment that the intro — in which Desperate Housewives cast member, and former hot babe, Nicolette Sheridan leaps naked into the arms of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens — preys on racial stereotypes. Saraceno writes:

“Black man + white (blond) woman =

“Sexual conquest? Ultimate revenge? Rape?”

What? Now maybe I live in a different reality than Jon and Tony, but in the piece I saw, Sheridan seduces Owens. She gets him to ditch his team on the night of a big game to have a go with her. So if there’s an element of conquest, who’s the conqueror and who’s the conquered? “Ultimate revenge?” For what? Is Nicolette a Giants fan or something, ’cause, again, she’s the one who did the seducing. “Rape?” Rape? Rape? Where was the rape fantasy there, other than in Jon and Tony’s minds (and maybe the minds of a few thousand redneck morons)?

Fellas, I’m sorry, but you’re dead wrong. I mean, there is certainly some racism at work here, but it doesn’t come by way of an implication that a black man is taking advantage of a white woman, because that wasn’t there. Most of the racism is in the outrage this scene provoked, an outrage based on the very assumptions Saraceno and Dungy are peddling: that a black man and a white woman must always equal something unseemly; that such a combination can never amount to anything as simple as two people hooking up.

In the red states, that plays out as abject terror and hatred, in a belief — even if it’s usually an unstated belief these days — that indeed, the mere presence of a black man in a white woman’s sex life amounts to an intolerable defiling of the “purer” race. (Remember, it has always been permissible for a white man to use a black woman for sex — going right back to slavery — as long as it’s only for sex, but the very idea that a black man might consider having sex with a white woman has been considered abominable and has not infrequently led to the murder of the black man in question.) In Tony Dungy’s mind, it appears — and this is, perhaps, forgivable given the circumstances — the assumption is that if a white-controlled network creates a promo featuring a black man and a white woman, it must necessarily be playing on those very racist fears. That’s a bit of a racist attitude in itself, though, that notion that white people always have the worst in mind when it comes to dealing with black people.

The fact of the matter is that all ABC was attempting to do was to create a titillating promo for one of its shows featuring the single biggest star in that night’s game. If Vinny Testaverde had been the headline-grabber of the moment in the NFL, it would have been into his (uncertain) arms that Nicolette would have jumped, and at least half the national outrage over that moment would never have come to pass.

Now, for Saraceno’s predictable call of “What about the children.”

You can’t really be trying this one here, can you Jon? Didn’t we all go over this after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl thing? In case you missed it, this has been revealed (as if it ever needed revealing — how obvious can something be?) as the biggest bullshit argument in the history of bullshit arguments.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m all for protecting kids from our often sexualized popular culture. I don’t think kids need to be exposed to half of what they’re exposed to on TV (the answer to which, it seems to me, is not to let your kids watch TV, which is bad for them anyhow, not to try to desexualize TV, which isn’t gonna happen — ever). But when it comes to professional football, and MNF, baby, that horse left the barn so long ago it doesn’t even remember where the fucking barn is anymore.

Have you watched much pro football on TV lately, Jon? And if so, have you noticed the ads? The one with the “… and the tweee-innns” song, maybe? Or the one where the guy takes one for the team by hanging out with the boring professional woman so his buddy can dance provocatively with her bimbo pal? Or any of the dozens (scores? hundreds?) of other highly sexual ads that objectify women and portray men, black and white, as drooling, sex-crazed beasts? Have you noticed any of those? If you have, where are your columns decrying their effects on the poor helpless children? Or what about your column on the shots of cheerleaders shaking their asses and tits at the camera that frame every fucking commercial break on MNF? Point me to where you sounded off against those lovely moments out of your great concern for the children.

Of course, those columns don’t exist. Why? Because Jon Saraceno doesn’t give half a shit about what kids are exposed to except when he needs an excuse to jump on the bandwagon of criticism being leveled at a particular easy target.

You’re an intellectual fraud, Jon. Just like 90 percent of the other media types who have taken aim at ABC for that stupid, meaningless little promo this week. It’s just that simple.

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