Few scourges during the past two decades have pushed American morality spiraling toward the drain more than so-called reality TV.
Those and other boob-tube (pun intended) realities made hot-tub-lovin' an Olympic sport, profanity the national tongue, screechy meltdowns chic and narcissism the nation's fastest-growing religion.
Today, the puzzlingly popular "Jersey Shore" wears the heavyweight belt as the grossest offender. The MTV bacchanal, which first soiled airwaves in 2009, tracks a gaggle of housemates whose drunken sexcapades while summering at the Jersey shore make Charlie Sheen seem Puritan.
This week, however, the impossible happened. Someone dared draw a line in the sullied sand.
Pushback has spun out of a recent "Jersey Shore" episode. Michael Sorrentino — one of the show's breakout stars nicknamed "The Situation" — sported a pair of name-brand neon-green sweat pants.
It was a situation the company concluded was bad for business.
Fearing his unsolicited endorsement could "cause significant damage" to its image, company officials decided to make "The Situation" go away. They offered Sorrentino a "substantial payment" to abstain from wearing the brand. Checks also awaited his fellow cast members.
Sure, the move is probably a publicity stunt.
Had it not been for my balky knees, I might have danced the kazatsky.
At last somebody so intolerant against turpitude rose up.
Not that the notion ever would spread. Given the bumper crop of scoundrels polluting the entertainment biz, companies would go belly up.
Still, what a statement.
One unfortunately undercut by hip-hugging hypocrisy. Because behind the mask of the great moral crusader stands Abercrombie & Fitch — the teen outfitter almost as well known for its soft-core ads of nubile models as its overpriced clothing.
"We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes," an A&F news release explained, "but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand."
This from a brand that through the years has aspired to showcase as many hard bodies cavorting au naturel as possible in its campaigns?
A company whose A&F Quarterly magalog, in its 2003 Christmas Field Guide — Christmas! — promised "280 Pages of Moose, Ice Hockey, Chivalry, Group Sex & More," and delivered with pages of photos of fresh-faced models in various states of undress, sardined in suggestive poses.
It was an edition that was summed up nicely with this thoughtful question: "Sex as we know, can involve one or two, but what about even more?"
And A&F is worried about "The Situation" tainting its product? Right.
Perhaps this all is Abercrombie's latest mirage — that it's cleaning up its act.
In any case, taking a hard line against the continuing coarsening of society is an idea worth backing. On that, it would be worthwhile to borrow a page from Abercrombie & Fitch.
Just be careful there isn't a ménage of bare-breasted babes on the flip side.
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