2004: Pop went the culture

From Janet's flash to Mel's "Passion," Table Talkers on the moments that defined the year.

Published December 27, 2004 6:34PM (EST)

Blue Bunny - 08:43 am Pacific Time - Dec 13, 2004

There are many potential nominees, including, but not limited to, Howard Stern becoming a Bush-basher, "Fahrenheit 9/11," the shocking popularity of "Desperate Housewives," and even the murder of Dime Bag in Columbus just this week. But the ultimate pop-culture moment of 2004 is obvious --

Janet Jackson's tit.

Yes, that tacky breast-baring moment occurred during the pinnacle sporting event of the year, and was perpetrated by a member of America's first family of questionable sexual proclivities and child abuse.

That was highly unfortunate for the NFL, since the game itself was the most exciting Super Bowl ever.

To Michael Powell, the religious right, parents of many school-aged children, and the NFL, this was the most shattering event in years. It rated more hours of talking head time on television and radio than Iraq, the election, and the condition of the economy during the first quarter of 2004. It was the #1 clicked Internet film clip of the year.

To hear the heads rant on, showing a bare breast to children on television was morally more repugnant than unsubstantiated invasion of a sovereign nation, more careless than our skyrocketing national debt, more newsworthy than the Democratic primaries, and more symbolic of our national moral decline than Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan demanding that his wife accompany him to sex clubs and engage in group sex.

The media-drunk American public licked it up. Why?

They could feel about the event, they didn't need to think. Parents said, "I feel embarrassed my child saw that. I want the government to protect me from uncomfortable things. It's easier for me that way if I don't have to take time to explain to little Jill that showing a breast on national TV is wrong, and that men should never forcibly disrobe women."

No sticky sex talks if we can get the government to de-sex the airwaves!

The situation had a clear goat to scape, the scandal involved nudity and sex, always a big seller. Americans screamed to the powers that be that they wanted morality, dammit, and told the government they wanted it NOW!

The GOP, Karl Rove, and the SCLM took a look at the uproar, noticed that moral outrage could be milked into a campaign victory and, lo and behold, won the 2004 presidential campaign.

Keith Chaffee - 06:35 pm Pacific Time - Dec 16, 2004

The mirror-image movies of the year: "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Mel Gibson and Michael Moore marketed their films brilliantly, targeting audiences of true believers and making unjustified claims of censorship to energize their base. These weren't just movies, they became cultural phenomena; you had to see them, or you'd be left out of the conversation.

In both cases, it was a conversation without much middle ground. Gibson's "Passion" either was so powerful a depiction of Christ's last hours as to be, well, a religious experience, or was a pretentious and brutal ordeal that bordered on being a snuff film. Moore's "Fahrenheit" was either a searing indictment of Bush's follies and incompetence, or a deliberate distortion of the truth by a partisan hack. Both directors wanted to shape the debate in this election year, but neither really did. All they could do was illustrate how sharply divided we've become, with Gibson's movie speaking to (and for) the red states, Moore's to (and for) the blue. Sadly, neither man nor movie seemed to have much interest in how that divide might be bridged; each was content to stand in his own pulpit and preach to his own choir.

Ken Erfourth - 08:46 pm Pacific Time - Jul 27, 2004


I watched Obama tonight do the keynote.


Forget that he's an African-American.


Forget that he's young and ready for the long haul.


Forget that he has locked up the seat as junior senator from Illinois 100 days before the election. That he scared off Ditka and beat a guy in the primary who spent $30 million to try and get the nomination.


Forget that I've often held black politicians, like Jesse and Sharpton, in respect, but with reservations. I've felt like they were spokesmen for a segment of the population, or that they added perspective to the gestalt of America.


I want Barack Obama to speak for me. After John Kerry finishes his second term as president of the United States, I want to vote for Barack Obama.


By Salon Staff

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