Earlier this month, the FCC fined ABC $1.43 million for a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue in which an adult woman's buttocks were exposed to the camera. It's yet another example of our country's inane sense of values and a sobering reminder of just how imbalanced our precedent is when it comes to sex versus violence in television and movies.
While television shows like CSI and WWE Raw thrive off violence on a regular basis, nudity is rarely seen on television. Why is this? The word "sex" has such deeply ingrained, negative connotations when this very broad term has nothing to do with the obscenities associated with it. Rape, incest, molestation and spousal abuse have absolutely no relationship to sexuality apart from being grotesque, inhumane mutations of it. These things should be concealed from young children.
But the context of the particular NYPD Blue scene contained none of this malice. It involved a young boy walking in on a woman about to take a shower, and nothing more. Gratuitous? Sure, but hardly damaging, especially when considering that the same episode deals with matters of suicide and gun violence. It's ironic, in general, that the show that happens to be tagged with this fine is NYPD Blue, which wouldn't have much to ignite its 12 seasons' worth of plotlines without the fuel of death. But I guess indecent exposure is a greater epidemic than homicide in America these days.
Sometimes you have to laugh at the rigid abolishment of the human body from the public arena, like when a plastic-surgery show censors a man's nipples because his weight problem causes his breasts to resemble a woman's (I wish I were making this stuff up). Are we just that desensitized to violence that the government has decided to ignore depicted drug dealers popping bullets into each others' brains in turn for masking certain, meaty parts of human anatomy?
Here's a better question: why are these children watching NYPD Blue in the first place? According to the American Psychiatric Association, a U.S. youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence in television and movies by the age of 18. I don't know how many exposed behinds they will see by the same age, but I can tell you with a weighty degree of certainty which one is more destructive, and my psychology background spans all of one introductory class.
We need to wake up and smell the gun smoke, because in all the banter over buttocks, we are incidentally teaching children that violence is as commonly accepted as a trip to the grocery store. But hey, at least they'll think twice about opening that bathroom door while you're showering.
Andy Pareti is a senior communication major and Lamron A&E editor who wishes to make it clear he only watches NYPD Blue for the partial nudity.