Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Stunt:

Do We Still Need To “Lighten Up”?

Michael J. Matt
EDITOR, The Remnant

No, I didn’t see it. But by now even TV-free traditionalists have gotten wind of the little stunt pulled by pop music stars Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl (American football’s championship game). The sheer tawdriness of the incident prompted us initially to question whether it should be mentioned at all here in The Remnant. But, even as Lot and his family must have been painfully aware of similar goings on in Sodom, we’re more or less obliged, as was Lot, no doubt, to comment on things unmentionable in civilized society.

The fact that this year’s halftime extravaganza included a man and woman cavorting about on stage is nothing new. It’s unlikely that it would have elicited much of a reaction at all had the show not culminated with a brief display of partial nudity that was “accidentally” broadcast around the world. (Funny, but when a crazed fan runs out on the playing field during a football game, the NFL cameras are instantly switched so that images of the fan are never broadcast. This is done to discourage copycats. Why the technology failed during the halftime show is puzzling. Hmmm…)

At any rate, while the major media have been having a field day with Janet Jackson’s overexposure, our reaction to it can be summed up with one, short question: What’s the big deal? Was that fleeting flash of flesh the thing that caused the vile performance to dip below CBS’s moral waterline? What kind of reverse Jansenism is that? The halftime song and dance routine (produced by the notorious MTV included the lyric “I’m going to get you naked before the end of this song”) had by all reports plunged into the moral toilette long before any skin had been exposed. The little stunt, in fact, seemed little more than Michael Jackson’s aging sister’s pathetic effort to imitate her lunatic brother and shock the world into reviving her sagging career. We agree with Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal suggestion that “the entire Jackson family should be launched into outer space.” (Feb 6, 2004, WSJ)

But, tempting as it may be to simply dismiss MTV’s gutter peepshows, the fact remains that things lying in gutters tend to be toxic, and so-called Hip-Hop entertainment is no exception. Hip-Hop is more than just “music”. It’s a street culture that emerged from the Bronx and Harlem in the late 1970s. Aside from transforming graffiti (“graf”) into an American art form, it also launched several different strains of pop musical expression, including rap, R&B and breakdancing.

Today’s Hip-Hop “artists”, perhaps more than all the liturgists in the modern Church, represent a serious threat to traditional Catholic families. Our Lady of Fatima told little Jacinta that “more souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” If this was true in 1920 one can only imagine how it applies today. One wonders when Catholics will begin to take the pop culture threat seriously. The Super Bowl halftime show wasn’t performed by Ozzy or KISS or Marilyn Manson or some satanic freak trying to bite heads off bats. No, this was so Top 40— N’Sync’s “innocent” little Justin and charming Penny from TV’s Good Times.

If there’s a positive thing that can be taken away from the stunt, perhaps it’s this: Catholic parents might finally begin to get an inkling of just how deep mainstream pop music has sunk into the cesspool.

The Mass vs. the Masses

For many traditional Catholic teenagers Super Bowl Sunday included two events: the Tridentine Mass and the Game. They went to Mass in the morning and watched the Game in the afternoon. During halftime they saw a fornicator and a harlot cavorting on a stage, while the roaring masses screamed their approval. Moments later and in front of millions around the world, the fornicator ripped the harlot’s shirt open.

Now, which of the two Super Bowl Sunday highlights do you suppose Johnny Traditionalist will remember five years from now? Oh, yes, I know, “it’s the Mass that matters,” and Johnny went to Mass that day. But we mustn’t treat the Mass like some magical shield that will automatically preserve innocence even after days and years of self-inflicted exposure to these dog and pony shows from hell that are regularly broadcast over our airwaves. If the Mass failed to stall the advance of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, what prompts us to imagine that it will save Hip-Hoppin’ Johnny Traditionalist today?

Only a fool would ignore that Trojan horse which rolled into a nominally Christian society fifty years ago and proceeded to blow decency to kingdom come. The new music was from its inception in 1954 saturated with sex and rebellion. And who knows what part it played as diplomatic liaison between the liturgical revolutionaries and Catholics in the pews.

The grand revolution of the 1960s involved two fronts: one cultural and one liturgical/ecclesiastical. It is no coincidence that they took place almost simultaneously, for the liturgical offensive would not have advanced so easily, in my opinion, were it not for the pulsating beat of the new music which signaled that the cultural “reservists” were deployed and ready for action. The New Mass was, let’s face it, a concoction of the ecclesiastical counterparts to the Hippies. By the late 1960s the old Mass seemed passé to everyone, even popes. It had to go. Bye-bye Miss American Pie. On the cultural front, the powerful new music was steadily propelling a youth uprising against purity, innocence and family life.

Marketers have long admitted that sex sells, but even they couldn’t have predicted just how true that slogan would become in the music industry. For pop music moguls today it doesn’t matter if “artists” can sing or play an instrument at all; sex appeal is the name of their game. Thanks to them, several sex-hooked generations have drunk deeply from the wells of hedonism; they’ve developed a taste for it and, like vampires in perpetual search of blood, can never be satisfied. Ergo, “sex sells” now more than ever, as it must feed a global addiction. The industry sells sex and the kids are addicted to sex. It’s a marketer’s dream. Millions of dollars are found while millions of souls are lost. Oh well, it’s just the kids’ music!

Hip-Hop especially is marked by moral and spiritual suicidal tendencies; it’s preoccupied with promiscuity (the death of the soul) and violence (the death of the body), even having its own martyrs such as Tupac Shakur and Big E who were gunned down in the street by rival “gangstas” and who are now part of the sacred lore of the Hip-Hop religion.

Gods of Wasteland

For almost four decades traditional Catholic writers in The Remnant have been banging the drum against the rock subculture, and for much of that time we’ve been told that we need to “lighten up.” Especially after the publication of our book “Gods of Wasteland: Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” we were called “reactionary” and even “Jansenist” by one or two of our intellectual friends who, by the way, are probably still walking around with their heads in the clouds, waxing rhapsodic about liturgical “preferences” and putting everyone to sleep. I very much respect and appreciate true intellectuals, but I must say that, when it comes to the cultural question, some of these good fellows have been snoozing at the wheel.

Traditionalist teens today are up against incredible odds and, as they come of age, many are opting out of active service in this Catholic counterrevolution altogether, even after years of homeschooling and weekly Tridentine Mass attendance. This year’s Super Bowl shed some light on why: traditionalist teens, like all teens, are literally being overpowered by the pop culture. Punks and rock ‘n’ rollers have stormed the gates and seized the seats of power and influence once reserved for saints and churchmen. And the Church of Vatican II? Ha! It no longer possesses a moral voice at all, let alone adequate moral fiber and authority to rout the modern-day Vandals of the pop culture. I mean, c’mon, would you be inspired by Father Barry Manilow? The emasculated priests and the PC Church have delivered a frightening decree of surrender to the pop culture: “If you can’t lick ’em, you gotta join ’em.” And, so, while R&B singers (Lauren Hill), rock stars (Bob Dylan) and breakdancers entertain the pope and the curial cardinals inside the Vatican, the vast majority of Catholic teens grow increasingly nonplused. One by one they follow that Pied Piper out of the Church and into the darkest deserts of nowhere land. No “World Youth Day” they’ve ever seen can compare to Britney Spears!

It seems that after all these years John Lennon was right—pop music’s gods are more popular than Jesus and Christianity is going. But when John Lennon took his famous shot at Christianity years ago, the Vatican demanded and received an apology from the front man of the “world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.” My, how times have changed… exactly, come to think of it, as Bob Dylan predicted they would. Today, when Janet Jackson spoils whatever remains of the innocence of millions of ten-year-olds watching a football game with Dad in the living room, nary a whimper of protest is heard from the pathetic Vatican, the neutered chancery offices, or those puerile pulpit puppets. After all, they’ve got their own little sex scandals to worry about. Even if they did care enough to speak out against Hip-Hop depravity, they’d hardly be operating from positions of strength. The likes of Janet and Justin have little to fear from the Catholic Church these days.

Still, faithful Catholics must do something. When considering all those children on Super Bowl Sunday—when contemplating the innocence lost, the little souls rocked, the little minds blown—perhaps we can agree that enough’s enough. The NFL must pay some price (no matter how small) for their globally televised child abuse. Perhaps traditional Catholics might consider celebrating next year’s Super Bowl by watching Heidi. (The reference here is to the famous “Heidi Game” which took place in 1968 between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. NBC cut away from the game, the outcome of which they assumed had been determined, when it threatened to preempt their scheduled movie, Heidi. The Raiders came back and beat the Jets in dramatic fashion in the last few seconds of the game, causing fans such consternation that the tilt came to be known as the “Heidi Game”.)

An Experiment

Traditionalist parents whose children have access to pop music may wish to conduct an experiment. Ask your teenager for his impression of the Janet Jackson stunt. Watch his reaction closely. He’ll probably look at the floor and then tell Mom what she wants to hear: “It was off the charts. She’s such an idiot!” He may even volunteer a comment on “Janet the has-been”… but he won’t say much about the indecency itself. Why? Because he’s probably not a hypocrite. When compared to what he’s seen on MTV, VH1, BET and even dance floors on prom night, Janet’s cry for attention at the Super Bowl was par for the course! What’s taking place right now—especially in the Hip-Hop world where Tupac is god, and Snoop Dog, Nelly, Lil’ Kim, Jackie O, Sisqo and P. Diddy rule—makes it regrettable that over the years we’ve all used hyperbolic words like “pornographic” to describe pop music and its videos. Now it really is pornography! In recent months the industry has crossed lines which make past manifestations of rock/pop depravity appear mild. It’s enough to make David Bowie blush!

Parents who are not paying attention to Hip-Hop, for example, have no idea how wicked things have become. When I deliver lectures about the pop culture, many assume that we’re still carping about Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison. But nothing in the 60s, 70s or 80s (except, perhaps, the pornography industry itself) can compare to what’s going on now. The notorious Van Halen, for example, was only mildly salacious compared to Hip-Hop’s newest superstar, Nelly, whose latest video (for a “song” called “Tip Drill”) features blatant and prolonged scenes of lesbian sex, barely blurred nudity, depravity that I can not and will not describe, and a barrage of images showing the “hottest” new dance craze which is apparently called “booty poppin’.” (The Hip-Hop lexicon is here incomplete, since evidently there’s some discrepancy among Hip-Hop wordsmiths over the precise term). One thing’s for sure, though— it’s not the mashed potato. It’s so raunchy and so destructive of innocence that it frightened me when I saw it and brought tears to my eyes. It’s performed by women wearing thongs and is pornographic in the literal sense of that word. A few seconds viewing of a Hip-Hop video, in other words, will destroy a child’s innocence forever.

Make no mistake— I’m not talking about some underground phenomenon. This is Top 40! Walk into Target or Wal-Mart and take a look at the fashions for teens—they’re dominated by Hip-Hop “shtreeet vibes”. The days of the hair bands, heavy metal, grunge and even Madonna are gone and passé. But Hip-Hop with its penchant for raw sexual abuse, real gangland violence (between east and west coast rappers) and grotesque self indulgence is mainstream and here to stay.

We’ve all seen the backwards baseball caps, the gaudy jewelry (a.k.a. “ice”) for men, the huge oversized pants, the teenage fascination with cell phones, the low-cut pants for girls, the blacktop court shoes, the “shtreet jam” hand gestures and lingo—this is all part of the Hip-Hop “thang” and, though it was born on the streets of the ghettos and promotes blatant reverse racism, it’s managed to take black and white middle class young people by storm, annihilating both their self-respect and their moral compass.

After praying a few Hail Marys for fortitude take a look at BET (Black Entertainment Television) or MTV and see for yourself— this ain’t yo momma’s rock ‘n’ roll, believe me! But it’s so popular that unless other musical acts can find some way to make a liaison with Hip-Hop, they’ll have limited success. And so there are bevies of white, black and Hispanic singers such as Christina Aguilera, Pink, Eminem, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce Knowles, Shakira and Britney Spears “thugging” and “tarting” it up with the best of them just to keep pace with the big gig in town—Hip-Hop. Dumbed-down, over sexed, violent thuggery is “in”. “Whores,” “heifers” and “bitches” are how the males refer to their girlfriends; young ladies refer to their boyfriends as “players” and “pimps.” (No, I kid you not!) Sex is their sport.

If traditional Catholic teenagers are listening to pop music, then the chances are good that they know exactly what “bootylicious’” is, who Snoop Dog is, precisely how Nelly degrades women in his X-rated videos, what Sisqo is singing about in the “Thong Song”, what a “lap dance” is, which “artists” used to be porn stars, etc. Oh, yes, he knows all this and much more. It’s “his music,” after all, and this is the stuff with which “his music” is preoccupied.

By the way, traditional Catholic parents should be patient with their teenagers if, in fact, they’ve gotten mixed up in this. They’ve been hit in the face with a barrage of gratuitous sex and decadence that men living fifty years ago could have found only by prowling seedy red-light districts in the dead of night. Now it’s right there in the song lyrics, in the videos, on the internet, in the schools, in your living room, and at your Super Bowl party.

And we wonder why our teens are beginning to lose a little of that enthusiasm for the movement to restore the old Catholic Mass…

One might say that the only thing missing from Hip-Hop’s round-the-clock orgy is Caligula himself, but this might not be fair to Caligula. I’d say Pagan Romans had nothing on us when it comes to junior high proms that feature manage-a-trois behavior on the dance floor, when eleven-year-olds turn up pregnant, when condom use is regarded as the virtue of responsible teens who are committed to “safe sex”, and when children are encouraged by pop icons to masturbate while leering at their friends’ mothers, as is the case in Fountains of Wayne’s video “Stacy’s Mom,” the lyrics of which include the following:

Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on
She’s all I want and I’ve waited for so long
Stacy, can’t you see you’re just not the girl for me
I know it might be wrong but I’m in love with Stacy’s mom
Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on
Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on

Fountains of Wayne (FOW), by the way, has been nominated for several Grammy awards and the band appears regularly on mainstream variety shows such as David Letterman and the Late Show with Craig Kilborn (as was the case on February 5, 2004).

Why are we losing our kids today? Gee, I just can’t imagine….It must have something to do with cigarettes. Call your congressman and demand more spending on those smoking cessation programs in our schools! Yep, that’s the ticket.


Certainly, CBS, the NFL, Viacom and MTV need to hear our complaints about Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (the “innocent” N’Sync’s lead singer whose Super Bowl antics demonstrate once again that Catholic teens are much more likely to be led astray by the “good, clean” pop stars then by shock-hounds like Marilyn Manson and Trent Reznor). But, don’t fool yourself: If your teens are watching MTV or blasting “their music” on their head sets or car radios, they really weren’t as scandalized by the Super Bowl halftime show as they pretended to be.

They’ve seen much worse, and, if they haven’t yet then they’ll see it tonight or tomorrow night or the next time they flip on the television. The Super Bowl stunt proved that no TV program is safe. Satan’s the producer/director of the pop culture now, and the solution for us does not lie in “finding the good stuff” in pop music (Jason and Janet were the “good stuff” for the first half of their careers!); the solution lies in following the dictum of St. Paul: “Come out from among them and be ye separate.

Oh, yes, I know, it’s just the “kids’ music,” and we parents can hardly be expected to say “no” to everything. Man, how many times I’ve heard that rot! How many times mothers have sobbed: “We did everything right: we homeschooled, we drove two hours every Sunday to the Tridentine Mass where our little Johnny and Billy used to be altar boys. Where’d we go wrong? It couldn’t have been their music. That was just never a big deal.”

Never a big deal? Allowing pornographers, strip teasers, foulmouthed harlots, pimps and abusive thugs to entertain the kiddies ‘round the clock— not a big deal? For homeschool children, especially, the main conduit to this nonstop cultural orgy has not been the television (which is usually and rightly restricted or banned by good parents), nor has it been public schools or even the Internet— it’s been the pop music. And these days all the catechism classes and Latin Masses in the world can’t compete with this powerful lyrical pornography specifically marketed to impressionable and isolated teens during their rebellious years. As long as we fail to recognize the real enemy of our teenagers, we’ll go on losing this war for the soul of our children while the future of the Catholic counterrevolution will grow tenuous, to say the least.

Let me conclude on a personal note. I was raised in a traditional Catholic family of nine children, each of whom is still practicing the traditional Faith to this day and raising large families of their own. My father and mother said “no” to a lot of things—to most things, in fact (thank God!)— starting with rock/pop music, which was summarily banned with no exceptions in my childhood home (and this included Country and Christian rock!).

What whacky extremists those reactionary parents of mine were! I wonder why they didn’t just lighten up. After all, it’s just music…