Ms. Jackson, If You're Nasty...

In which Radar Station ponders the issue of the day

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There's a time and a place for everything. Going to McDonald's for a salad is like going to a whorehouse for a hug. You don't read Molly Ivins for jokes about Limp Bizkit, and you don't read Radar Station to hear about what an asshole John Ashcroft is. But every once in a while, I've got to use my bully pulpit, and today is that day: I must defend the nipple.

Settle down, everyone. I think we've learned our lesson about nipples. Nipples are no-nos. I understand. Janet Jackson understands. When Justin Timberlake ripped off that bra-like thing to reveal, for a mere second, Jackson's nipple at the Super Bowl, America reacted like she'd spread her legs and given birth to a child for her brother Michael to molest onstage.

Let's be fair: It was a nice nipple, all dressed up and fancy. I'm not sure if that sunburst covering the areola was a piercing, a sunhat or a crown, but that nipple was more tastefully dressed than Jessica Simpson.

A little tut-tutting would have been appropriate; that nipple was out of place at the Super Bowl (see first paragraph). But an FCC investigation might be overdoing it. FCC chairman Michael Powell released a statement saying, "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt." You know, that Bud Light commercial where the horse farts in the woman's face was tainted for me by Jackson's nipple. I mean, there I was, trying to enjoy the fart jokes, but that damn nipple ruined it all.

Terri Carlin of Knoxville is certainly getting a little extreme with her class-action lawsuit against Viacom, in which she (well, her lawyers) describes the momentary nipple flash as "atrocious and intolerable." You'll be in on a cut of the settlement, as Carlin filed the suit in the name of all Americans in one of the most inventive pieces of lawsuit logic you'll ever hear: Lots of people around the world watch the Super Bowl, they now have the impression that we're a bunch of nipple-exposing sex maniacs, and your standing, worldwide, just went down. Next time you go to Paris, some guy hears your bad French and treats you snooty. You realize: Janet Jackson's nipple did this. So Viacom owes you some cash.

This is a great idea.

But maybe, just maybe, there are some other parties who might be responsible for your international bad rep. And we can leave George Bush out of this; let's talk about Clay Aiken. You're in a nightclub in Berlin hitting on a Fräulein. "Invisible" comes on the sound system and the lady moves away, saying, "Americans are creepy and slightly asexual." Sue RCA! Or maybe you're in Tokyo getting groped by a sarariman while someone karaokes "I Feel Love." Sue Polygram! (If he tries to expose your nipple, sue Viacom too.)

Another victim of this nipple hunt is poor, poor JC Chasez, Timberlake's bandmate in *NSYNC, who was supposed to perform at the halftime show of the Pro Bowl before he got booted, apparently for knowing Timberlake. That's understandable. You know how easy it is to expose the nipple of a hula dancer? I'm talking about one flick of Chasez's wrist, and boom: more nipples to degrade America. And you know how those *NSYNC boys get at football games: all Roman hands and Russian fingers.

Kicking Jackson off the Grammys is an empty gesture. She's already gotten tons of free publicity for Damita Jo, her new album. Its release date is March 30, and in case you were wondering what this is all about: As the ratings for Paris Hilton's Simple Life proved, no matter how much it might damage your rep with the British, exposing yourself gets America's attention just fine.

Finally, is someone spiking the punch over at Grammy HQ, or are they just finally catching up with the rest of us? After years of handing out awards to such has-beens as Jethro Tull and Steely Dan instead of to Metallica and Eminem, the voters finally got one right. It's pretty appropriate that OutKast won its Best Album Grammy the same week as the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan: There haven't been many bands since the Fab Four to capture the hearts of critics and the wallets of fans at the same time. But Speakerboxx/The Love Below is the real deal -- a wonderful, inventive (if waaay overlong) masterpiece, and it's nice that we Americans can finally agree on something. Something tells me that'll be the last time that happens this election year.

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