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January 19, 2005 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Athens chief fumes at US lewdness claims because, out of 3.9 billion people (and about 56 million of them in the United States alone), 9 people in the United States complained of nudity in the opening ceremonies. It's one thing to have our very moral, rather infintesimal minority running what we all see, but what happens when that morality clashes cross-country? (The complaints are old news; the Grecian response is not.)
posted by FormlessOne (61 comments total)

 
How do they figure 3.9 billion people watched the opening ceremony? There are about 6.5 billion on the planet, of which about 2 billion have no access to electricity, many of those who do won't have access to a telly. I guess this would require pretty much everyone who can get to a telly to have watched. I know I didn't bother, I can't recall any fuss about the UK viewing figures record being broken and the stats for the US viewing figures suggest a lot of people there didn't watch either. The 'Athens chief' should turn down his bullshit output before he starts his whining.
posted by biffa at 6:11 AM on January 19, 2005


Isn't it meaningless, Olympicswise, anyway, since it's only the US Network that showed it that can be fined by our FCC, and not them? NBC can afford it, and this is the system we have here--other countries have different systems for complaints etc.
posted by amberglow at 6:18 AM on January 19, 2005


Grecian response may not be old news litteraly it's angle off aproach however, is..
such a waste of FCC manhour
posted by borq at 6:20 AM on January 19, 2005


Perhaps you should do a bit of Googling before your disbelief sets in. Athens did indeed have 3.9bn individuals watching at least some of the games, Sydney had 3.6bn Article here
posted by zeoslap at 6:20 AM on January 19, 2005


I don't think Gianna Angelopoulos is whining. She has a point, about a minority of people who feel they are morally superior to the rest of the world trying to control what others see. Is 3.9 billion an accurate number? I can't say, however the 9 official complaints is. Let's say that only the 56 million in the US was correct, then it's still 9 out of 56 million. It also pales compared to the half million that freaked out over seeing Janet Jackson's breast.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:24 AM on January 19, 2005


I personally watched the opening ceremonies on 1.3 million televisions simultaneously, so it's possible that that's throwing off their counting method. I apologize for the inconvenience.
posted by Plutor at 6:26 AM on January 19, 2005


Look, tell those Greeks what everybody knows-- that if G*d had intended for people to go running around naked, they would have been born that way.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:35 AM on January 19, 2005


It's big figures biffa , it doesn't matter if they're accurate all that is needed is the sensation that it's big and huge. Some try to use statistic to extimate the number of viewers..but these are only extimates who are never subject to rigorous verification anyway.

As for the FCC indecendy claim, I find it indecent that FCC (or any other similar organization) is using extremely vague and arbitrary standards to qualify what can be said or shown on air / what not.

It's a dangerous behavior that may spread to internet, cable and sat if left unchecked : the reasoning that the latter are immune media because they are not part of the "public spectrum" under FCC control is baloney ...as sat broadcasts on frequencies that could be considered public by simple extensions (the transmitter just happens to be in space) and cable can be always be accused of harboring all the "nasty" stuff and be, therefore, the source of all evil.

I guess there's some industry move ongoing...one could exploit FCC to scare radio licence owners into selling they licenses to some big giant corporate monster (Clear Channel runs to mind). With a standard so vauge as indecency I wonder who in his sane mind would value a broadcasting licence scrap.

That would just be another dirty move by those who have access to Ways and Means Commission..and that would be standard "business" ..but who knows, maybe tomorrow every publisher on the internet will be required to be identified and registered and answer for user errors..or to adhere to some "journalistic standard" ...I think the net is better unregulated as it is, with everybody able to publish whatever they want to without asking bigcompany for political and financial support.
posted by elpapacito at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2005


She has a point, about a minority of people who feel they are morally superior to the rest of the world trying to control what others see.

Minority? More like an infinitesimal, microfraction!
posted by jperkins at 6:37 AM on January 19, 2005


Athens did indeed have 3.9bn individuals watching at least some of the games,

Angelopoulos, who said the handful of U.S. complaints were dwarfed by the 3.9 billion people who watched the ceremony

ie, Angelopoulos specifically refers to the ceremony (or that's how its reported anyway). I'm fed up of these increasingly inflated numbers, even if you take it over the whole games then is it 3.9 billion individuals?
As for the issue of 9 people trying to control what others see I specifically didn't address it as clearly that kind of control would be ludicrous and the subject has been flogged to death on MeFi in the last month or so and this story doesn't really add anything new.
posted by biffa at 6:39 AM on January 19, 2005


The sad thing is that the minority (those 9 offended squeaky-wheel Americans, for example) will serve as our image to the world. When we travel abroad, foreigners will see those 9 guys when they look at us. ... "Oh, zose Americans! Zey are such prudes! Did you hear zat zey were offended by zee Olympic ceremony?" ...

And that is my real beef with some citizens in some other nations. It's not that they are lusty or cowardly or socialist or humorless or smelly or generally rude. It's that a good many of them see you as an American and see only George W. Bush or those 9 squeaky wheels. They've made a generalization about us the same way SOME people here make generalizations about Muslims. We see a Muslim and we see bin Laden -- when in fact he is in the minority, although the mess in Iraq is doing a good job of swinging people to his side these days.
posted by Possum at 6:48 AM on January 19, 2005


The nine complaints are a non-issue as far as volume goes-- the local news probably gets that many complaints every time it uses the word "rape."

The real issue is that concerned american christians are nearly infinitely more offended by the implication that black men like Terrell Owens see white women naked. It some parts of the country, it's still 1954.

My point is that simple exposure isn't the real issue-- sexual situations featuring actual nudity get nine complaints. Sexual situations between a black man and a white woman get 50,000 without a nipple to be seen.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:50 AM on January 19, 2005


Oh great. Now I want to watch the opening ceremony just to see what the fuss was about. You know, for the dancin' and stuff. Not the...um...you know...nekkid people.
posted by malaprohibita at 6:51 AM on January 19, 2005


Possum: Do you think that the problem is perhaps that the US has managed to get into a situation where 9 squeaky wheels can set the broadcast agenda for a country of 300 million people? Can we generalise about that?
posted by biffa at 7:09 AM on January 19, 2005


Biffa, please say what you mean. Otherwise, my answers are "could be" and "sure, we can generalize about anything."
posted by Possum at 7:13 AM on January 19, 2005


Nudity gets strange reactions out of people.

The Super Bowl incident provokes howls of shock from the Guardians of Decency, this incident provokes a meek yelp. Then there was the famous Berkeley Naked Guy (possible NSFW) who ran into trouble when some women on campus claimed they felt "sexually harrassed" by the sight of his weenie.

Then there are those who claim that if we all just became nudists, we could all get used to the idea of the unclothed body and it would become old hat. But I don't know that the whole world wants to be subjected to my or anyone elses bare ass. And this begs the question: do we want that? Do I want to live in a world where I no longer find the sight of a naked woman (any naked woman) an exciting and arousing treat?

I think not. But then again the fact that it's 19 degrees out today may be turning me off from the idea of nudity.
posted by jonmc at 7:13 AM on January 19, 2005


What we need is an anti-complaint system. What we Americans do, we write in to the FCC to say "hey, the nudity was tasteful, and a fact of life, and a fact of what you were trying to portray. The Greeks did a great job!" If 9 people filed an anti-complaint, the FCC could treat it like one of those call-in shows where voters determine who moves on to the next level. It'd be fun, truly participatory TV. And then, if the voting turned out prudish, at least the overseas generalizing would be based on more than the opinions of 9 people.
posted by arabelladragon at 7:23 AM on January 19, 2005


The problem is that not enough people are writing in demanding to see sex on the air, and even in the air, this being the Olympics. If the FCC listens to 9 people whining about there being too many breasts on view, maybe it will listen to 90000 whining about there not being enough. If you want more lovely naked or semi-naked humans on television, even if it means there won't be enough air time left to show the week's usual murder quota, speak up. Let them know that the public includes you.

If you're going to write to the FCC, remember:
But, as the agency likes to point out, it's not the quantity of complaints it receives -- though Chairman Michael Powell is fond of tossing the numbers around -- it's the quality of each complaint that is considered.
So write to the FCC, but write on your own, in your own words, with your real name and address included, and be sure to sound as serious and smart and determined as you are.
posted by pracowity at 7:24 AM on January 19, 2005


Oh. Hi, arabelladragon.
posted by pracowity at 7:25 AM on January 19, 2005


Do I want to live in a world where I no longer find the sight of a naked woman (any naked woman) an exciting and arousing treat?

I'd kinda like to give it a shot for a couple of days. See if the hypothesis is true. For science and stuff.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 7:26 AM on January 19, 2005


I may be wrong here, but weren't these nine complaints part of a left-wing attempt to point out how silly the FCC is? I thought this was linked to the (?Smoking Gun) revelation that the "Married by America" fiasco* was sparked by a mere four complaints, and somebody facetiously suggested the Olympic opening ceremonies should have elicited far more complaints.

* the FCC reprimand, that is, and not the show itself, which was likely a whole other fiasco.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:27 AM on January 19, 2005


Possum, OK, If people laugh at you (you in the general sense of all Americans) over this issue they will be laughing because you've got to the stage where a brief flash of breast or a stylised presentation of original olympic statues can dominate your media for weeks and lead to censorship affecting the entirety of your television broadcasts. The fact that this has occurred perhaps also suggests that there are many who are happily puritanical beyond the squeaky 9.
posted by biffa at 7:33 AM on January 19, 2005


Not only did the opening ceremony have sex, it had drugs too. Check out this photo of the lighting of the Olympic Spliff.
posted by Nelson at 7:34 AM on January 19, 2005


Possum, dude, those 9 complaints aren't going to cause the rest of the world to thing you're prudes.

The half-million complaints form the wardrobe malfunction sure did, though.

As for generalizing about those citizens generalizing about the US, I think you're generalizing.
posted by RockCorpse at 7:52 AM on January 19, 2005


From the Reuter's article in the second link:

Some of the complaints focused on alleged nudity in the Opening Ceremonies, which featured actors in bodysuits depicting ancient Greek statues and a woman with an enlarged, glowing belly depicting a woman with an enlarged, glowing belly.

It's a good thing she was available, because there is no better way to portray a woman with an enlarged, glowing belly than with a woman with, um, an enlarged, glowing . . . oh forget it.

MetaFilter: Enlarged, Glowing Belly.
posted by The Bellman at 8:01 AM on January 19, 2005


Now, RockCorpse, I didn't generalize. I said "some" and "a good many," not "all" or "everyone." (Sheesh, you can't even boil down a collection of personal anecdotal experiences into a possible-future-scenario comment without people telling you you're generalizing. Anyway ...) I seem to recall reading that those half-million complaints all came from, like, one tiny corps of habitual complainers who flooded the "system" with multiple, redundant complaints. (Anyone back me up on that?) If that is the case, it's still a case of a minority making us all look like prudes -- as Biffa has pointed out. The question now is: Are we all secretly prudes because we appear to roll over and let those minorities squeak away, or are we simply practicing an "ignore them and they''ll go away" mentality or perhaps an "oh puh-lease, you've gotta be F'ing kidding me ... next!" mentality"?
posted by Possum at 8:14 AM on January 19, 2005


Nudity was portrayed repeatedly in ancient greek art (statues, amphoras, frescos). How can someone today refer to that art without including nudity, could someone please tell me? FCC someone?
And please -oh please thee, do not equate that art with Janet Jackson's exposure.

The problem is not that some people complained nor that FCC might consider the issue. The problem will be if FCC fines NBC and then 90 million people don't complain about it.
posted by carmina at 8:17 AM on January 19, 2005


in bodysuits? So where's the nudity then?
posted by Eekacat at 8:24 AM on January 19, 2005


The thing is, the prudes are having effects on broadcast television. Just last week I tuned in to watch a Rick Steves travel show on a local PBS station. Steves is a bit of a dweeb, but charming and has good tips on European travel. But for some reason the station felt compelled to precede the show with a warning that it contained scenes that could offend "sensitive viewers." Huh? What's offensive about a program of travel tips? Well, I guess it was that the show was about Paris, and included pictures of sculptures in the Louvre such as the Venus de Milo and the Nike of Samothrace.

Yeah. Um, if you're "sensitive" enough to be offended at the sight of classic art, then you just shouldn't own a TV at all, because it's all downhill from there.
posted by dnash at 8:27 AM on January 19, 2005


Carmina, I think part of the reason we might not complain in that situation is that we have been conditioned to think that NBC is a big boy who can take care of himself. We know that the lawyers and the lobbyists will get involved and straighten everything out -- that NBC, that practitioner of freedom of the press, will step up and defend itself and its rights well. I mean, that's the way it works, right? Corporations and lobbyists are the ones who have the money and the access to fight for rights -- so we don't need to do anything, right?
posted by Possum at 8:35 AM on January 19, 2005


BURKA ! I found it ! I'm so much offended my some people face nudity that I want them to wear burka, so that they don't offend anybody else !

Wait, wait !!! I'm so offended by the mere smell of yours that from now on you'll have to bathe twice or more depending if it's summer, the sun is high and the pressure is high too.

Wait ! I can't stand the sight of you why don't you fuck off and die before I turn into a sociopath ?!
posted by elpapacito at 8:40 AM on January 19, 2005


What will it be insult Greece or let NBC take a pass on showing nudity in prime time? This may finally open Michael Powell's eyes to the absurdity of his recent stances.
posted by caddis at 8:44 AM on January 19, 2005


dnash--you mean people like John Ashcroft?
posted by adamrice at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2005


Possum,

I think part of the reason we might not complain in that situation is that we have been conditioned to think that NBC is a big boy who can take care of himself

I am not so much concerned about NBC. As others said earlier, it is NBC now but what is next?
posted by carmina at 8:49 AM on January 19, 2005


So, America (and some people right here) is making an ass of itself yet again. Any real news?
posted by acrobat at 8:51 AM on January 19, 2005


caddis: he knows he knows ...if you, by chance had the chance to listen to Michael when he received a phone call by Howard Stern while on-the-air , you surely understood that Powell isn't a fool falling into evident absurdity...he also knows exactly that the work of his commission is very questionable both in theory and in practice ...point is, who's going to stop him ?

So Stern is going to satellite ..yesterday a caller argued that FCC won against him ..he argued that this is a reasonable conclusion, but he rather (not surprisingly) see it as a victory because (he thinks) FCC can't reach him on satellite AND the lack of a potty mouth on air will decrease FCC "power".

Guess he's buying into a delusion as all FCC needs to do is alter the standard of decency because 2 americans out of 300 million think something is oh so bad and they happen to agree.
posted by elpapacito at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2005


An important angle, possibly, in this discussion is that Gianna is widely rumoured to be ready to launch her political career here in Greece - and reacting (belatedly) to a piece of news which was greeted with unanimus ridicule when it appeared in the news a while ago, in a forceful manner, might be part of these personal plans of hers.

Remarks such as, "As Americans surely are aware, there is great hostility in the world today to cultural domination in which a single value system created elsewhere diminishes and degrades local cultures," are tailor made to appeal to as wide an audience as possible over here.
posted by talos at 9:01 AM on January 19, 2005


True story. I was at the Acropolis this past October and the wind kicked up and blew the skirt of a lovely young woman up around her waist, revealing a completely bare bottom. Where can I file a complaint about this?
posted by a_day_late at 9:03 AM on January 19, 2005


Minority? More like an infinitesimal, microfraction!

How about "not statistically significant"?

Live and let live: to do anything else is simply immoral.
posted by rushmc at 9:06 AM on January 19, 2005


Ahhh, there it is. BuzzMachine talked about this back in December, suggesting "that many if not most of them [the Olympics complaints] are the fine work of fans of Howard Stern and the First Amendment who have a well-developed sense of comic absurdity and enjoy painting the FCC into a corner...".
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:15 AM on January 19, 2005


a_day_late, that would be Penthouse forums.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:35 AM on January 19, 2005


America just wait till the old world strikes back with NUDE olympics ...
posted by homodigitalis at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2005


What we need is an anti-complaint system.

I just started one.

Nudity gets strange reactions out of people.

True enough, but in this case, the complaints are about fake nudity (i.e., statues). They weren't even real naked people. And Fox, according to its president, has taken the step of "pixellating animated butt" on the family guy. The complaints aren't about nudity anymore, but the implication of it. The Terrell Owens/Nicolette Sheridan thing wasn't about sex, it was about the implication of the possibility that a sexual act might occur.

I may be wrong here, but weren't these nine complaints part of a left-wing attempt to point out how silly the FCC is?

It's a good theory, but the Parents Television Council was involved in this one. They had an action alert and an email form on their website.

NBC can afford [possible fines]

As a corporation, any fine would be a relative drop in the bucket. However, the FCC has started fining not the network, but the affiliates. Multiply the maximum fine (which is expected to increase this year, thanks to the Senate) by the number of NBC affiliates who showed the naked statues and, well, I can't count that high.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2005


Nude Olympics: We've already got them.
posted by caddis at 9:52 AM on January 19, 2005


why do I feel like saying: 'pe-nis, pen-is, pe-n-is, penis' ?
(ps Possum: I won't hold it against you, the prudity that is)
posted by borq at 9:53 AM on January 19, 2005


BORQ: Whew! When you said "it," I thought you were referring to your penis.
posted by Possum at 10:26 AM on January 19, 2005


Oh this is complete bunk. The FCC probably wouldn't punish NBC anyway, and it's unclear what say this Gianna Angelopoulos person (as self-appointed guardian of Greek culture in the US) should have in the matter. Or is this one Greek person trying to dictate moral value to all of America?

Isn't this just a little bit ridiculous and over the top: "In this context, it is astonishingly unwise for an agency of the U.S. government to engage in an investigation that could label a presentation of the Greek origins of civilisation as unfit for television viewing."

Apparently NBC is to show exactly as much nudity as Greek culture demands, and Americans will shut up and like it.

This is the sort of meaningless anti-US grandstanding trash that gives Greece and other European nations a bad name, and leads one to believe in kneejerk idiotic anti-Americanism. The sword cuts both ways.
posted by fleacircus at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2005


The FCC probably wouldn't punish NBC anyway

You say this based on....?
posted by mudpuppie at 11:05 AM on January 19, 2005


Multiply the maximum fine (which is expected to increase this year, thanks to the Senate) by the number of NBC affiliates who showed the naked statues

Woot! Revenue!!!
posted by rushmc at 11:40 AM on January 19, 2005


"As Americans surely are aware, there is great hostility in the world today to cultural domination in which a single value system created elsewhere diminishes and degrades local cultures," she said in her commentary.

"In this context, it is astonishingly unwise for an agency of the U.S. government to engage in an investigation that could label a presentation of the Greek origins of civilization as unfit for television viewing.


Talk about hitting the nail on the head. I mean I though it was the right-wingers who always complained that the P.C. minority was ruling the majority. I say the 56 million Americans who do not think ancient Greek civilization is obscene, John Aschroft not included for other reasons, go to these 9 people homes and read them the Riot Act. If those people find out there are other cultures in the world they might just find out that other ideas exist too. We can't have that happen!

In other news, snuff films about near naked man being beat to death on a cross is ok for kids as young as 6 or 7. Remember kids, it's not about doing want's right for kids or anyone else, it's making sure the world is Christianized.
posted by Bag Man at 11:43 AM on January 19, 2005


You say this based on....?

My interpretation of the article, same as you, unless you have inside information about this. NBC's defense sounds pretty good. If "look into whether" is the big news here, I don't think there'll be a fine. Even if they do I don't see how it's any of Gianna Angelopoulos's business.

The FCC has a pretty aggravating site, but I can't find the complains there or anything else.
posted by fleacircus at 11:55 AM on January 19, 2005


I was just wondering if there were any organizations out there that were lobbying for more nudity on TV. I'd sign that petition. After all, the pen is mightier then the sword.
posted by jefeweiss at 11:58 AM on January 19, 2005


An FCC spokesman was not immediately available for comment on Monday, which is a public holiday in America.

...well I wish someone had told me Monday was a holiday...
posted by odinsdream at 12:08 PM on January 19, 2005


the Grecian response

Is a Grecian the Bush equivalent of a Greek? :-)
posted by nofundy at 12:19 PM on January 19, 2005


And another data point, PBS edits out brief nudity from a scene depicting decontamination procedures in a movie about a dirty bomb.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:49 PM on January 19, 2005


My interpretation of the article, same as you, unless you have inside information about this. NBC's defense sounds pretty good. If "look into whether" is the big news here, I don't think there'll be a fine.

Fair enough.

I think it's hasty to assume that no fine will be levied. The FCC is required to investigate because they got complaints. The problem comes when they start to interpret their own obscenity test:

** An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
** The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
** The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

The FCC has become so political, and its lobbiers (?) so numerous, that there is a decent chance that they'll spin naked statues into an obscenity.

The legitimate concern of the Greek woman (whose name I'm not going to try to spell) is that the US government could rule that the greek statues have no artistic value. I mean, hey, the US government does stuff like that all the time, subtly and not-so.

On preview: Kirk, when this story first came out, not only were they canning the shower scene, they were editing the Cheney/Leahy F-word exchange out of a second movie. Also, PBS is currently the target of a campaign to get them to reconsider....
posted by mudpuppie at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2005


Has anyone ever tried to get complaints made against Christian shows on TV? I know that it needs to be broadcast, but there has to be a religious show or two on the air that we can flood the FCC with complaints about. Of course, we'd have to wait for them to do something offensive, like talk about how everyone who isn't christian is going to hell or somesuch, but it might cause whichever prudes that are hounding the FCC to try to get a change in rules so that wouldn't happen.
posted by Hactar at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2005


Has anyone ever tried to get complaints made against Christian shows on TV?

Nice idea, but it doesn't fail their obscenity test.

The "Philadelphia Four" trial could possibly have an impact on this nebulous issue, though.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:53 PM on January 19, 2005


Now, RockCorpse, I didn't generalize. I said "some" and "a good many," not "all" or "everyone." (Sheesh, you can't even boil down a collection of personal anecdotal experiences into a possible-future-scenario comment without people telling you you're generalizing. Anyway ...) I seem to recall reading that those half-million complaints all came from, like, one tiny corps of habitual complainers who flooded the "system" with multiple, redundant complaints. (Anyone back me up on that?)

It's true, it was reported widely on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and in Time Magazine. The Parents Television Council accounted for 99.9% of the complaints. Also, goggled here and here.

Express your phoney outrage by filing your politically driven FCC complains here.
posted by Bag Man at 9:17 PM on January 19, 2005


To be honest, these groups sometimes make good points. However, some recent complaints, such as the T.O./MNF thing is just a bit ridiculous. These complains about the Games are even more nonsensical. If there was ever a time to show nudity appropriate (limited as it was) it would be to celebrate the human body and at the same time celebrate an important ancient culture. A culture, I might add, which was celebrated, embraced and emulated by the Catholic Church. Of course of these groups are not driven by Catholics or The Church, but at least in the past the religious authorities have not had a problem with similar or more gratuitous displays. This just leads me to believe that complaints like these are taking things way too far and done, not to protect kids, but to push a narrow political against all reason and to bend all of us (who want to celebrate culture that might include the human body) to their narrow will (the Parents Television Council and their phony outrage is a perfect example of this).
posted by Bag Man at 9:57 PM on January 19, 2005


Damn! I gotta watch me some more tee-vee!
posted by breath at 9:28 AM on January 20, 2005


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