We Shaked Our Heads Countless Times While Watching Janet Jackson Get Dressed Down
The New York Times Presents examines the pearl-clutching aftermath of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2004.
It was February.
It was a beautiful day for a Super Bowl on January 1, 2004.
The Carolina Panthers, led by a long-retired quarterback, were playing the New England Patriots in Houston, and the MTV-produced halftime show featured a slew of very current musical acts, including Jessica Simpson, Kid Rock, P Diddy, and Nelly.
But you don’t recall seeing anyone other than Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake on that stage, do you?
Because after Jackson’s classic “Rhythm Nation,” Timberlake joined her onstage for a performance of his “Rock Your Body,” which ended with him grabbing her bustier and ripping the fabric over one cup, exposing her right nipple—barely, because it was hidden by a sunburst nipple shield, and most living rooms weren’t yet anchored by an HD flat screen.
But, as it turned out, barely wasn’t enough for some, and neither was the concept of brief—nine-sixteenths of a second, to be precise, as the world’s top pop culture combustion scientists would soon calculate.
The New York Times Presents’ latest episode, Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, focuses on that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pre-Twitter moment, the cultural climate in which it occurred, and its endlessly unfortunate aftermath.
The Times’ FXHulu documentary series, which most recently focused on the plight of Britney Spears (and, coincidentally, featured Timberlake in a less-than-flattering light), is back to jog our jaded memories about an incident that so many people got wrong in the moment, including fellow celebrities, the first lady of the United States, and countless members of the media who clucked over Jackson’s “R-rated Super Bowl stunt” and came up with headline
“Many are asking, what happened to the line that should not be crossed?” Katie Couric asked on Today at the time, reporting on the “many’s” concerns.
And in the ensuing heated, puritanical aftermath of (still shaking our heads) “Nipplegate,” there was no doubt who would bear the brunt of the punishment: the Black female pop superstar who had dared to unapologetically embrace her sexuality, show off her body, and declare that this…
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The Many Times We Shaked Our Heads While Watching Janet Jackson Get Dressed Down
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The Many Times We Shook Our Heads Watching Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson