How The Media Made I Dream of Jeannie's Belly Button A Fake Controversy

No one at the network cared, till a reporter did.
How The Media Made I Dream of Jeannie's Belly Button A Fake Controversy

In honor of Dune, we asked readers to name some titles that could actually benefit from a reboot or remake. No points to everyone who responded "just make something original"—we know most of these rehashes suck, so that's why it's a challenge to name one that wouldn't. 

The boldest idea came from Richard K., who suggested a "dark and serious" reboot of I Dream of Jeannie directed by David Fincher. Exactly what happens in that reboot, he left that to our imaginations, but we all know that the original 1960s show was pretty light and bubbly. You might have even heard one famous piece of trivia about the show: To keep the whole thing G-rated, NBC censors strictly forbade Jeannie from ever showing her belly button.

Sounds weird, right? They'd obviously given her a sexy costume, and the belly button wouldn't change that much either way. If they were claiming nothing was going on between Jeannie and Major Nelson, they weren't doing a great job, particularly after the two got married. Plus, this was the '60s, which all those beach documentaries assure us was the golden age of belly buttons. 

The truth wasn't exactly what the legend says. Yes, as Jeannie, Barbara Eden wore a costume with high-waist pants that went above the navel. But in early episodes, noted Eden years later, the pants would ride down from time to time and reveal her belly button for the camera. No one at the network cared. 

But then some writer (from the Hollywood Reporter, Eden would recall) came to the set, asking her to show him her belly button. She jokingly said she'd have to charge him for a peek—and kept raising the price as he kept asking. He published a piece about her unseen navel, other outlets picked up on the story, and it became a whole thing. NBC's own comedy show Laugh-In planned to do a sketch where they'd dramatically unveil her belly button to the world. So the network finally decided to make a formal rule about it.

From that point on, yes, the belly button stayed covered. Even when the show went to Hawaii for an episode (a full third of which, incidentally, was taken up by a long musical performance by Don Ho). Plenty of other characters walked around in bikinis, or even jeans and a knotted shirt that showed off the belly button, but Jeannie wore a one-piece. 

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