On Monday, November 19, NBC’s “Access Hollywood” asked if the sex that suffuses our TV, our movies, our music, and our social media is “too much, too soon” for children. Could it be more blatantly obvious?
The irony was thick. On that same Monday, on that same NBC network, the “Today” show brought on the rapper Flo Rida to perform live on national television. NBC’s Natalie Morales touted how he would “warm up the chilly plaza.” The rapper uncorked his song “Whistle” as young girls mouthed the words on camera.
The song is about oral sex.
Flo Rida – in a very thinly disguised way – is asking for fellatio. “Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, let me know / Girl I'm gonna show you how to do it, and we start real slow / You just put your lips together, And you come real close.” This “musician” holding up a whistle on TV doesn’t mean he’s playing Gym Teacher for a Day.
There were no bleeps as he continued with these lyrics: “I'm a damn shame, order more champagne, pull a damn hamstring / Tryin-a put it on ya, bet your lips spin back around corner / Slow it down baby, take a little longer.”
The song doesn’t sound menacing, like a shoot-first gangsta-rap song. It’s bouncy with whistling, so perhaps an NBC viewer who’s half-watching or half-witted wouldn’t get the gist at all. But this song was a double-platinum number-one single, coursing through the i-Pods of young children across America and the world. They get it.
NBC promoted this “artist” like he was the essence of the “mainstream.” On the “Today” website, they displayed pictures of him arm in arm with the “Fierce Five” teenaged girl gymnasts who won gold medals for the United States at the Olympics. Excited, smiling “Today” host Hoda Kotbe was pictured holding a whistle Flo Rida gave her. “I am framing it,” she tweeted. She then showed she got it by quoting his oral-sex lyrics in a hash tag: “shorty got low low low.”
This lyrical twist is a habit with this man. In the summer of 2009, he had a hit song titled “Right Round” with the same dirty thought: “You spin me right round, baby, right round / When you go down, when you go down, down, down.” When the grade-school kids sing this on the playground, do they have any idea what it means?
NBC’s “Today in Concert” series routinely promotes garbage like this. Back in the summer, the soul singer Usher brought his song “Scream” to Rockefeller Plaza, in which he also commands a woman to get on her back and “If you wanna scream, yeah, Let me know and I'll take you there.” You might wonder where the feminists are when he sings “Girl tonight you're the prey, I'm the hunter / Take you here, take you there, take you under / Imagine me whispering in your ear / Then I wanna take off your clothes, and put something on ya.”
So let’s turn back to what NBC reported on “Access Hollywood.” The author Jess Weiner complained, “Boys, girls, men, women, everyone who consumes media is being told a story. And the story right now about girls and sexuality in the media is horrific.” They showed images (often pixilated) from videos made by the top female stars: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Lady Gaga. Weiner said children are using these videos as cues about how the world works.
Two young teenage girls were then shown happily repeating lyrics from a rap song by Young Money titled “Bedrock.” The lyrics that they could put on television included “My room is the G-spot, call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock.”
“Access Hollywood” should be commended. But also advised to go down the NBC hall to the “Today” show, which is guilty of this behavior, and demand it shape up.
NBC also put on feminist actress and activist Geena Davis, whose advocacy usually centers on banning princesses from animated movies. She argued “Studies have shown that the more hours of TV a boy watches, the more sexist his views become. So we’re again training kids to expect that girls have to be sex objects, even from the age of six.” To illustrate, NBC showed some of the shameful video of a tiny girl walking around in a prostitute costume on TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
True again and good for Ms. Davis.
If the movers and shakers at NBC were truly concerned about relentlessly selling a pornified culture to children (and profiting from it), they might not dismiss it all with four minutes of “Access Hollywood” chin-pulling. NBC Universal could always straighten out the “Today” show, their prime-time lineup, and their Def Jam rap stars.