Monday, February 24, 2003

The Swirl

We watch "Millionaire" as a family. We Tivo the shows off of the local CBS affiliate and watch them on weekends, playing the game along with the contestants. Sometimes we zap the ads and sometimes we don't.

So imagine our surprise when an ad for 1-800-XXX-GIRLS came up not once, not twice, but three times in between Meredith Viera sets. In its heyday, CBS was known as the Tiffany Network. Now it peddles phone sex on a family show. Not to worry, though. In its most recent survey of America's "most admired companies," Fortune magazine found Viacom "best in its category." It's in the new issue. You can look it up.

And weren't the Grammys, another Tiffany Network production, special? I found Eminem's acceptance speech a bit jarring, given that many of the people he thanked had been gunned down, gangland style, victims (if you can call them that) of Rap Gang Wars. Eminem's security detail at Madison Square Garden made President Bush's Secret Service detail seem small by comparison, both in physical size and in number. Eminem travels in a bullet-proof car. He wears a hood over his head when he goes from Point A to Point B. He does not do this because he is paranoid. He does this because when he is out in public he stands a fair chance of being assassinated. People like Sir Howard Stringer of Sony depend on people like Eminem to deliver unto Wall Street what Wall Street demands.

Who cares if the Rap World glorifies rape and mayhem and murder? And that it can lead to all those things, as surely as tobacco can lead to cancer. Former AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin suffered pangs of conscience when his son, a schoolteacher, was killed by some loser whose pathetic existence was in no small measure guided by Rap. But no one else ever seemed to mind. The Levin murder got a lot of coverage. Some of the big-name Rapper killings have garnered press. But ordinary black-on-black violence is the news media's idea of not news. You can't sell that in suburbia.

What you can sell in suburbia is porno girls, as reported today in The New York Times. Pony, an "edgy" brand (is there any other kind?), has taken to marketing its products to teenagers and young men with pictures of Vivid Girls; whose best work can be purchased behind the curtain at a video rental store. There are magazines out there that would never run these ads. But there are as many that will run them without a second thought.

Don't you wonder where all this is going? Is there a place where it stops?