Grammy Dress Code

02.10.13

CBS Is Right to Ban the Boobs With Grammy Awards ‘Wardrobe Advisory’

Network suits don’t want stars showing too much skin at Sunday night’s Grammys. Lauren Ashburn on why she’s had it with wardrobe malfunctions.

Negatory on the nip slips. Sayonara on “puffy bare skin exposure.” Throw away the thongs, they’re “problematic.”

The Grammy fashion police—in this case, CBS—has issued its edict: skimpy, revealing “costumes” are off limits during Sunday’s telecast. And if the talent was too dense to get it, this oughta do it: “Please avoid exposing bare flesh under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack.”

In other words: mind the gap.

While the language is laughable, it raises serious issues about how low we’ve sunk as a society to tolerate tits and ass in prime time. Go ahead, call me a prude, but I’m sick of seeing boobs and butts during family programming—especially when my little girls are watching. Kids are bombarded with sexual images all day. Enough. Good for CBS for addressing it, albeit in an old-fogey way.

Beyoncé gave a phenomenal Super Bowl halftime performance. So why did she have to wear a bootylicious leather, ostrich, and snake getup revealing what we already know is a smokin’ hot bod? In that spectacle—and in all the cases where more skin is exposed than hidden on national television—we are condoning what media, Seventh Avenue, and advertisers are telling us sells.

We are being hoodwinked by the corporate desire to make money. Tawdry is the new normal. It used to be that it was enough to have a good voice, thoughtful lyrics, or a great rack. (OK, scratch that last one.) Now stars are complicit in sexing it up.

The women who wear dresses they fall out of, or who forget to wear underwear, know exactly what they’re doing. Going commando and getting out of a limo in front of a phalanx of paparazzi is a trend dating to fallen star Lindsay Lohan and has spread through the ranks even to straight-arrow actress Anne Hathaway.

For many years now, television has been a willing partner in parading women in sexy outfits, and winking at each wardrobe malfunction.

Yet CBS does not get to wear the white hat in all this. We know that Les Moonves, like any good chief executive, cares about the bottom line and making a bundle for shareholders. The Tiffany network is mainly concerned with one thing: avoiding FCC fines.

When Janet Jackson’s nipple popped out of her “costume” during the 2004 Super Bowl, the commission fined 20 CBS owned-and-operated stations $550,000—or $27,500 per station.

That’s a lotta coin for a single nipple. What would the fine have been if it were two?

While the fine was ultimately overturned, the network wound up paying $3.5 million to settle dozens of federal investigations involving previous incidents of indecency.

The women who wear dresses they fall out of, or who forget to wear underwear, know exactly what they’re doing.

When Justin Timberlake ripped off Jackson’s top, it was the most rewatched moment in TiVo history. But message boards and blogs exploded with tales from outraged Americans who wished it had never happened. And they weren’t just the hard-core right-wingers; they were average moms and dads wanting higher standards.

Women who keep shedding layers of clothing have a target audience in mind, and it ain’t other women. Plenty of men, who keep the porn industry thriving, want to see female flesh. And the men who run most of our large entertainment companies are happy to accommodate them. But why do they have to tart up what used to be classy red carpet events or football extravaganzas?

One CBS memo wagging a corporate finger at Grammy Awards performers does not a trend make. But if viewers can enjoy the music and fashion without the extra titillation, it would be a start.