Max GorbachevAll materialsWrite to the authorIt seems like nowadays days, when pop stars and rappers compete in who has the most revealing outfit and whose videos are the most provocative, the 2004 incident wouldn’t have been noticed, but back then it prompted heated debate about indecency in broadcasting and harsh criticism of Janet Jackson.A new documentary made by The New York Times has shed light on Janet Jackson’s infamous “nipplegate”. The film, titled “Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson”, follows the incident when singer Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s top, exposing her breast adorned with a nipple shield and the drama that followed. The documentary also delves into the impact the scandal had on Janet Jackson’s career.
Jim Steeg, the former director of NFL Special Events, revealed that the organisers didn’t have any concerns about the performance of Janet and were more worried about more rebellious musicians like Kid Rock, Nelly, and P Diddy. He revealed that Justin Timberlake was added to the roster to “temper the tone” of the half time show and make it more “family friendly”. Ironically, it was Timberlake who seemingly ended up causing the scandal.
Former Senior VP of MTV Salli Frattini said that initially Jackson was supposed to wear a tear-away skirt that Timberlake would pull off when he sang the line “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of the song”. Under the tear-away skirt, Jackson would have had a full jumpsuit. However, CBS and the NFL discarded the idea.
Jackson’s stylist then allegedly went on to buy new fabric for her outfit and a starburst nipple shield. The documentary reveals that Justin Timberlake arrived at the stadium quite late. Salli Frattini said he was requested to speak with Janet Jackson and her stylist in the dressing room before going on stage.
"And then of course, we come to the close and it's the final few seconds of the song and that's just when everything went wrong. The song ended, we went wide, the pyro hit and we start applauding, 'Oh my gosh, we did it!' And then the phone rings. And I'm thinking I'm answering that phone because I'm gonna get, 'That was amazing and congratulations'", Ms Frattini said.
However, the MTV official was scolded by the then director of the NFL, who told her that almost 100 million viewers saw Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s breast.
Director of the show Beth McCarthy-Miller said Janet Jackson was crying when her stage manager talked to her in the aftermath of the show.
Apologies and Impact on Career
The incident sparked a wave of public indignation and was discussed in the media for a long time, where it was mentioned as “nipplegate”, “Janetgate”, or “wardrobe malfunction”, a term, which was later added to Webster’s English Dictionary.
Both singers have issued an apology. Timberlake claimed that he thought Jackson would be wearing a red bra underneath the top he ripped off. “I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable”, Timberlake said.
In her apology, Janet Jackson steered the blame away from MTV, the NFL, and all other organisations that were involved in the preparation for the halftime show.
"The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. MTV, CBS, [and] the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I apologize to anyone offended, including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL", the singer said.
The film states that following the incident, the careers of both artists went in two different directions – while Timberlake’s popularity increased, Janet Jackson became somewhat of a pariah in the music industry. Her brother Tito Jackson, a member of The Jackson 5, alleged that it felt like someone had “cancelled” Janet.
"I don't know if 'blacklist' is the word that they tried to do to my sister, but it sure seemed liked they were trying to diminish her career and her ability", he said.
Earlier this year, Justin Timberlake issued a public apology to Janet Jackson following the backlash he received after the release of a documentary “Framing Britney Spears”, which among other things discussed Britney’s relationship with her then boyfriend.
"I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism. I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed", Timberlake wrote in February.