Perhaps it was business as usual at the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa. A cut-and-dried matter, if you will, except that a slight case of penis envy was detectable from the panel of adjudicators.
During a screening of the comedy betting programme Banzai, a British spoof of a Japanese game show, a close-up shot of a young man’s penis caused an irate viewer to lodge a complaint with the BCCSA. The show went out on the Sony Max channel on DSTV on January 27 this year, during the 9.30pm to 10pm slot.
The raison d’être of this episode was to bet on which of the five participants had the largest male organ. The winning member was on full display for a whopping five seconds, calling into question the appropriateness of the PG13 rating on the top right-hand side of the screen.
In the scene, as described in the BCCSA judgment, five young men stand in a row facing the camera, dressed only in small, tight-fitting Speedos. “From the bulges that are visible, it is not possible to decide whose penis is the longest,” the BCCSA finding recounts, rather graphically.
“After the betting has closed, the first man steps forward, puts his hand inside his Speedo and pulls out an object. The purpose of the object was obviously to make his genitals seem larger. He then steps back and the second man comes forward. He, too, puts his hand inside his Speedo and also pulls out an object —
“When the third man steps forward, he does not put his hand in his Speedo, but he pulls it down and exposes his (very long) penis in a close shot full in the face of the viewers.”
“The scene lasts only a few seconds,” writes the BCCSA’s Henning Viljoen, “but the shot is close enough to make a lasting impression on the viewer.”
The wording of the judgment, as opposed to the actual content of the clip, is probably the most interesting aspect of this storm in a Speedo. With the BCCSA feeling compelled to mention the length of the young man’s penis and its assertion that the five-second shot will make a “lasting impression on the viewer”, one is similarly compelled to suspect a case of penis envy on the part of the authors.
How much of an impact, one wonders, would have been ascribed to a “very short” penis? We have come a long way since the days of the star- covered nipples in Scope magazine, but exactly how long is “long”? At what length does a penis move from being deemed acceptable to parentally supervised 13-year-olds to “extremely inappropriate”, as the complainant, one B van Stander, suggested.
The BCCSA imposed a R10 000 fine on DSTV. As it does not discuss its judgments, we will probably never know what is going in the heads of the tribunal members. In an addendum to the judgment, the commission did state, though, that had the show been “concerned with sexual conduct and had artistic or dramatic merit, it would have been exempted in terms of clause 11 of the code”. Clause 11 exempts contextual broadcasts of bona fide scientific, documentary, artistic, dramatic, literary or religious programming material.
The BCCSA, it seems, is in agreement with rappers Outkast: “Don’t pull out your thang unless you aim to bang.”