Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson Sunday night gave America the latest answer to the question: Just how low will pop icons stoop to get some extra publicity?
The halftime show at the Super Bowl was borderline enough. Kid Rock showed up in the American flag. P. Diddy and Nelly did a rap duet in which Nelly kept grabbing himself below the belt.
Finally, Timberlake and Jackson did a duet in which they more than suggestively rubbed against each other, and finally, as Timberlake was singing the lyric, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," he rips off the panel of Jackson's gladiator outfit covering her right breast.
Timberlake and Jackson (or their publicists) apparently miscalculated. Some people still have a capacity for outrage, chiefly Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell.
"I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl," he said. "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."
He said he was directing FCC staff to open a "thorough and swift" investigation in the wake of his outrage and a number of complaints received.
As the backlash gathered momentum, everyone backpedaled. Music Television (MTV) which produced the show apologized for the "unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional" incident.
CBS, MTV's corporate cousin, also apologized. They may not have known in advance what was going to happen, but they also probably chortled with glee at the ensuing publicity.
Timberlake tried to ascribe the situation to a "wardrobe malfunction." Yeah. Right. His action looked deliberate enough on the air. Why did only the portion over Jackson's breast malfunction and do so with such ease? And if Ms. Jackson wasn't expecting the incident, why wear an elaborate nipple decoration under her costume?
It's just a slightly more crass version of Madonna's deep kiss with Britney Spears at the MTV Awards. How better to get three or four days worth of headlines?
Who says we don't have culture rot?