NEW YORK (AP) — Janet Jackson exposed a breast on national television a decade ago and it sparked national outrage. Miley Cyrus’ flash barely caused a shrug.
Cyrus’ exposure — you can’t call it a wardrobe malfunction because no wardrobe was involved — came near the end of Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards. She peeked her head out from behind a black curtain that covered up all but her head, then it slipped to briefly reveal a bare breast.
“What’s happening?” the singer and Sunday’s show host said. “Oh, sorry. My tit’s out.”
MTV said it subsequently cut the unexpected glimpse of flesh for further reruns of its annual televised party.
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By the next morning, it wasn’t even watercooler fodder. Kanye West’s rambling acceptance of a career achievement award, and declaration of his 2020 presidential candidacy, was the hot topic on a program known more for outlandish pop culture moments than awards.
It was a far different venue and era when Jackson’s exposure during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, aided by Justin Timberlake, provoked 1.4 million complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC fined CBS $550,000 for the incident, and it dragged through the courts until 2012, when that verdict was overturned.
The FCC had no immediate count on any Miley Cyrus complaints on Monday, and it wouldn’t matter much anyway, since the federal commission has no jurisdiction over cable or satellite networks.
Sheer numbers limited Cyrus’ exposure, even if the curtain didn’t. The 2004 Super Bowl was seen by an estimated 86 million viewers. The Nielsen company didn’t immediately have a viewership count for the Video Music Awards; last year’s show had a live audience of 8.3 million people.
“The shock factor has worn off,” said entertainment journalist Alicia Quarles. “You can go online and see Rihanna’s nipples on her Instagram account. There’s nothing exciting about it anymore.”
Similarly, not much work is required for a glimpse of Cyrus’ bare breasts. The 22-year-old former child star has posed for a handful of nude or topless magazine portraits in the past few years.
Since finding one of those risque moments, like when Cyrus twerked with Robin Thicke during the 2013 program, is the whole point of the VMAs, a flash couldn’t have been considered much of a surprise.
“She was practically naked for half of the show anyway,” said Quarles, the former global entertainment editor for The Associated Press.
Condemnation of the incident from the Parents Television Council immediately afterward took on a weary, almost defeatist tone.
“Are we surprised that Miley Cyrus exposed herself to millions of viewers, and to more people who will inevitably see the news in the mainstream media? About as surprised as we’ll be if the sun rises in the east tomorrow morning,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “We had hoped she would have proven us wrong and demonstrate her considerable talent as a performer, rather than rely on her own sexuality to entertain the audience.”
The incidents may seem old hat, but each year a new generation of viewers arrives and Winter said it’s important to point things out. He said that he was also concerned about the glorification of drug use at different points during the show.