A recent episode of Saturday Night Live proved three things about the United States right now: Some Americans still fear curse words, nipples and Kanye West. More than a dozen concerned viewers contacted the FCC after the rapper performed on the show to complain that he dropped the “F-bomb on live network TV” and that Teyana Taylor, who performed her “We Got Love” with West on the show, wore a sheer outfit that showed her nipples.
Although the show, which aired September 29th, garnered more attention online for what happened after the credits rolled – when West held the cast “hostage” as he delivered a monologue about Donald Trump – there was still enough in the musical performances to raise people’s ire. For his first performance – his beverage-themed duet with Lil Pump, “I Love It” – they changed a few of the lyrics (instead of “You’re such a fuckin’ ho,” they sang “You’re such a freaky girl”). But West also rapped, “I’m a sick fuck, I like a quick fuck,” and the words came out so fast the show’s censors missed them.
Then when he came out for “We Got Love,” it was obvious from the beginning that Taylor was wearing a sheer top, with no bra, as she jumped around and rapped about breaking up the stigmas from “Huxtables to the Obamas.” When SNL posted the performances to YouTube, the show censored the curse words in the former but not the semi-nudity in the latter.
The complaints, which Rolling Stone obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, came from the middle of the country and the South and as far away as Hawaii, and the outrage in the missives is palpable. One viewer in Winter Park, Florida questioned how NBC “allowed something so degrading and offensive to air” and included a link to the “I Love It” lyrics. Another, from Belmont, Michigan, wrote, “Why did I hear Kanye West and his male rapper accomplice shout out the F-word a half dozen times? … Were the NBC censors asleep? … PLEASE INVESTIGATE AND FINE!!!”
A couple of viewers, while incensed by the language, had no problem writing the word “fuck” to the FCC to complain about the word “fuck.” The viewer in Honolulu perhaps unwittingly wrote, “One of the rappers said the ‘fuck’ word multiple times.” Another viewer wrote, “Kanye West used the term BULLSHIT.” (That viewer, from Dallas, also curiously wrote, “Children are watching the news every day and this should not be tolerated.”)
But cursing wasn’t the major issue. By and large, more people complained about seeing something that maybe even once nourished them when they were babies. “The female performer was basically topless onstage dancing,” a viewer from Davie, Florida wrote. “There was nothing left to the imagination. You can see her nipples and full breasts.” Another viewer from Layton, Utah submitted a sentence fragment to underscore his or her displeasure: “Nipples were quite visible.”
And one viewer from North Royalton, Ohio, wanted retribution. While many of the complainants requested that the commission fine NBC, one saw this as an affront tantamount to the most-watched broadcast of every year. “I was waiting to hear the next day that they had been fined by the FCC, but I have heard no such news,” the North Royalton, Ohio resident wrote. “Is this sort of thing acceptable now? I remember Janet Jackson being heavily fined for baring her breast on national TV. Have the rules changed? I hope this is still considered indecent and you are fining SNL and the performers?”
Rolling Stone’s FOIA request also turned up a complaint from a Downey, California resident who was upset that Sprint wouldn’t let him watch Kanye West’s White House monologue. “I’m not able to view on you tube [sic] Kanye west [sic] at the White House with his rant speech to Trump,” the person wrote. “NBC news [sic] will not show the article.”