In 2004, during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, Justin Timberlake infamously ripped Janet Jackson’s top partially off, revealing most of her breast to the 143 million strong audience, and changing the world of broadcasting forever – rumor has it the red bra underneath was supposed to remain. It didn’t.
In the wake of the infamous moment, the FCC instituted a delay on live television, the Super Bowl was deliberately ‘cleaned up’, and Janet Jackson’s career wouldn’t be the same for a long, long time.
Jackson was blacklisted like you wouldn’t believe:
Viacom, CBS, MTV, and other media outlets wouldn’t play Janet Jackson’s singles and music videos. She was kicked from her role playing Lena Horne in a biographical film produced by ABC television. Disney took down her Rhythm Nation inspired statue. She was banned from that year’s Grammy Awards after being told she could appear only if she apologized. Again.
Timberlake’s punishment was…Nearly unparalleled, multi-platinum, worldwide success. He was even allowed to perform at the Grammy Awards that very year.
Through the lens of 2018 this is particularly infuriating. Janet – Mz. Jackson if you’re nasty – wasn’t any more guilty than Timberlake was. She was exposed, yes, but Timberlake did the exposing, causing the wardrobe malfunction seen ’round the world. Yet Jackson was blamed wholesale for the incident and it spoke volumes to society’s…muddled and perhaps unintentionally hypocritical nature of how we treat men and women when it comes to their bodies and sexuality. A topless Timberlake would have been cheered by female fans. A not-even-technically-topless Jackson was demonized by just about everyone with power in media.
If anything, Timberlake and Jackson should have been punished equally – but they weren’t, Jackson taking the brunt of the blame, while Timberlake remained largely unscathed. The FCC chair at the time, Michael Powell, commented that the treatment toward Jackson, who was basically a by-stander to the incident was unfair, considering it was Timberlake who did the proverbial ripping.
Now, 14 years later, Timberlake is being welcomed back to the Super Bowl halftime show, and in an era of #MeToo and hyper-awareness regarding the kind of icky BS women deal with in a man’s world daily, it’s time for the NFL, America, and the national media to make amends; and let Janet Jackson perform at the Super Bowl.
In fact, fans should (and need) to demand it, loudly, because despite rumors and hopes from Jackson’s fanbase, it appears the NFL *still* has Janet Jackson banned as of 2014.
I would have hope we would have moved on and become a bit more..inclusive as a society. In the years since the 2004 Super Bowl, the halftime performers have included Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Black Eyed Peas, and Madonna before another woman of color (Beyonce) was allowed on that stage again.
Having Janet Jackson on stage, 14 years later, performing with or without Timberlake, would send a strong message of apology, progress, and perhaps even unity. It would be a powerful statement of apology with a world-wide platform serving as proof of sincerty; a mea culpla broadcast live to the to the expected hundred million plus audience for Super Bowl LII.
Timberlake, for his part, recently stated he and Jackson ‘made peace’ regarding the whole incident – and they’ve both apologized for ‘Nipple Gate’ multiple times by now. So while there’s no official word as to whether or not such an appearance is being considered, the Super Bowl is known for surprises, some good, some bad, some controversial. Plus, you have to imagine the Twittersphere will what they do best – rage in the name of justice…and hopefully get their way and get Jackson up on that stage.
Ultimately it’s on the NFL, NBC, and Justin Timberlake to demonstrate how far we’ve come. Or else they’ll demonstrate, sadly, just how far we need to go.