Amid the grisly stories of murdered children and girls, the Jennifer Lopez furore made news as an opportunity to show the star’s body in an ostensibly provocative costume that she wore for ‘family programme’ Britain’s Got Talent. Over 100 complaints were received about what the BBC website showed (but stopped short of fully revealing) to be a high-cut, groin hugging and glittery item of sartorial body armour.
Depending on your point of view – and this may or may not include the group now referred to as the J-Lo 100 – a great advantage of the internet must be to access jolly stories which feature semi-naked women filtered through the irreproachable websites of responsible media such as the BBC and the Daily Mail, and their entertainment portals.
Clearly J-Lo’s sin was to appear on the show as a guest on terrestrial TV without any preliminary warning about the erotic aspects of her apparel (but actually well after the 9 pm watershed). Fans, including some of tender age, must have been thrilled. Presumably the girls immediately pestered their parents for a costume just like hers, while the boys rushed off to tune in for an action replay in the privacy of their bedrooms.
It is hard not to feel sorry for society’s moralists and campaigners when at every turn the media persist in reporting and deploring human weakness and vice on the front page whilst exploiting and celebrating it elsewhere. The latter, especially that featuring female show biz celebrities, is a combination of an editorial understanding of its readers’ or viewers’ interests and that particular celeb’s PR machine.
There is no established, or intellectually respectable, hypothesis about a link between erotically clad chanteuses and sexual crime or moral depravity. In spite of the efforts of assorted campaigners and cultural groups, we remain a society in which most people like to see a good-looking person of either gender with some of their assets on display.
Such small pleasures have always been part of the human condition. When young our hormones dictate our interests. But few of us allow this rush of desire to lead us into truly appalling behaviour, even though we can all make idiots of ourselves in pursuit of our fantasies. As we grow older and cope with real life we still value pulchritude, both male and female, albeit at second hand. Our mild prurience and dreams will be served day to day by paparazzi shots of stars in their knickers, along with our scrutiny of exotic travel brochures and lottery results.
Much later in life we may experience the wistfulness that Betjeman evokes in his poem Senex:
Oh would I could subdue the flesh
Which sadly troubles me
and mourn the continuing urge
To see the golden hiking girl
With wind about her hair.
Better this than to join in his poetic (and insincere) prayer to
Teach sulky lips to say, my Lord
That flaxen hair is dust.
Betjeman would have appreciated Jennifer and her fellow performers for their looks if not their music. Only the censors of our society and those tortured by their psyches would wish their hair to be dust. The J-Lo 100 might like to consider whether their priggish attitudes encourage such morbid enthusiasm for the grisly tales which so darken the front pages of our press and other media.