You kids remember 2004? You were young, innocent, and obsessed with Brittney Spears and velour tracksuits, and you hadn’t even heard of The Facebook yet. But what you can never forget were the 9/16ths of a second you saw Janet Jackson’s bedazzled nipple – oh, the humanity!
In case you’re too young to remember or blocked out the obscenity from your brain, the whole story is pretty straightforward. Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, Diddy and Nelly all performed during the XXXVIII Super Bowl Halftime. Literally, no one cares about anyone else but Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, more specifically Jackson’s right nipple. As Rolling Stone reports, Jackson performed her hits “Rhythm Nation” and “All For You” and then Timberlake took the stage for “Rock Your Body,” which producers asked Jackson to stay on stage for. During rehearsal, apparently, these two decided to be a little risqué and secretly practiced a final trick: Timberlake would rip off part of Jackson’s bustier, exposing her red lace bra underneath. Then, during the live performance, when Timberlake pulled at Jackson’s costume, something shocking happened: exactly on beat to “…by the end of this song,” Timberlake pulled at Jackson’s costume and exposed not the red lace bra, which he tore right off, but her bare breast underneath.
For 9/16th of a second, “millions of viewers [saw] Janet’s bare breast and its strange star-shaped nipple shield before Jackson realize[d] what [had] happened and covere[d] herself up. Timberlake, red lace in his left hand, look[ed] appalled as producers cut away to a distant long shot and firework display,” according to Rolling Stone. Jackson’s spokesperson was quick to release a statement explaining the “malfunction of the wardrobe” was not intentional. But that didn’t stop Viacom, the parent company of CBS/MTV who was in charge of the show, from punishing Jackson for the obscenity and for ruining MTV's chances of running another Super Bowl halftime show. According to Rolling Stone, Viacom blacklisted Jackson, “keeping her music videos off their properties MTV, VH1, and radio stations under their umbrella. The blacklist spread to include non-Viacom media entities as well.” During the Grammys that year, Timberlake won multiple awards and, in his acceptance speech, apologized for the “unintentional” incident. Meanwhile, Jackson was banned from attending.
Despite being blacklisted, Jackson’s album Damoito Jo sold enough first week copies to debut at number two on the Billboard 200 list, and went platinum several times over. But Jackson is still closely associated with this performance from 2004 …and yet Timberlake isn’t.
In case you haven’t heard the latest buzz, Justin Timberlake is performing the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl. The NFL (National Football League) announced this by releasing a statement highlighting his previous awards and Super Bowl performances, including the “Nipplegate” performance. So, how come they will reference the “Nipplegate” Super Bowl performance, but not lift Jackson’s ban and, ya know, let her perform again?
Twitter has been answering that question the only way it knows how: with a hashtag, #justiceforjanet. Twitter has been blowing up with sympathy for Jackson and disdain for Timberlake, and the gif game has been on point. But the Twitter-verse has been raising some good points, citing this as a prime example of white male privilege and its long-reaching arm. “Nipplegate” immediately caused an uproar of complaints to the FCC, judgements against Janet Jackson, and little to no commentary or consequences for Timberlake. Thankfully, Twitter always saves the day, and in this case it prompted the NFL to tell EW, “there’s no ban” regarding Janet Jackson.
Janet Jackson doesn’t deserve to be the scapegoat in the drama of the “Nipplegate” Super Bowl – Justin Timberlake was absolutely also “guilty” in the “wardrobe malfunction,” as well as MTV and the NFL, and those producers who helped them practice!
Time will tell how this Super Bowl Halftime will go. But the only way the NFL can make up for this is, as @RafiDAngelo put it:
Top photo via Wikimedia Commons
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big haired nerd who likes to talk about books, politics, coffee and anything else you can think of. Be warned of shennanigans: follow me on twitter @BRIawesome