02/06/04 Beatles To Jackson TV Culture Shifts

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Forty years before Janet Jackson made TV history, the Beatle’sfirst “Ed Sullivan Show” performance proved to be what NYT writer Alan Kozinn describes as “a cultural turning point, one of those moments when everything changed, or at least, a point to which one can trace changes in everything from style in its broadest sense (in music, art and fashion, for example) to the way rock ‘n’ roll was marketed and perceived.” The contrast with Jackson could not be starker. The Beatles were actually talented according to classical musicians Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Aaron Copland and Ned Rorem. It is important to note that the 60’s cultural revolution was headlined in the case of the Beatles by artistry and not just attention-getting. Pop culture successors like Jackson and Timberlake, lacking artistic talent, must constantly find new ways to grab headlines, supported in their efforts by a conscienceless industry clueless enough to nominate accused rapist R. Kelly for an image award!

The fallout from Jackson’s act continues and now includes a class action lawsuit against Jackson, Timberlake, broadcasters MTV and CBS and their parent company, Viacom, by an attorney who says, “All of the defendants knew that the Super Bowl, the preeminent sports event in the United States, would be watched by millions of families and children.”

This will likely take the issue into free speech territory, which is getting murky these days. Students are defending their rights to use the “F” word in cheers at athletic events, while Kurt Warner claims his religious free speech rights are hurting his career. A Philosophy Professor, and devout Catholic, has found his religious views unwanted on a university campus. Some might argue that if religious folks want their say, they better allow public displays of boobs. Last I checked the Bill of Rights mentions free expression of religion but not free expression of mammaries.

Martha Stewart likely wishes her speech had not been quite so free as it is being used against her in a court of law.

Remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.”

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