The infamous Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake Superbowl scandal resurfaces
by Jaskiran Kaur | Thu, 18 Nov 2021 14:10:11 GMT
Image Source: Showbiz Cheat Sheet, The Independent, Us Weekly

Super Bowl halftime shows are known for their epic performances and some over-the-top moments. But the one performance that will stay fresh in the heads of countless attendees is the unforgettable Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's performance during February 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII. 

The show opened just like any other performance and debuted a killer presentation by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. Only, it was at the end of the show that an ill-thought wardrobe reveals plan backfired, leading to a very public exposing of Janet Jackson's one breast. At the time, 150 million viewers were actively watching the show, along with many underage attendees. 

That one performance led to the creation of most of the censorship guidelines we see on all media today and still continues to be one of the most controversial performances having received the kind of backlash it did. It was also evident that both the singers, Jackson and Timberlake, had not meant the situation to get so out of hand. While the performance ended abruptly, cutting to a commercial, the camera did manage to record the surprised expressions of both the stars. 

Following the days of the halftime show, many reports were made public trying to justify what had happened. While all the parties responsible for the malfunction, especially Jackson's partner on stage, Timberlake, had consented to the costume reveal, it was the Poetic Justice singer who had to face the butt of the backlash. While the producers have tried to put off the burden for a long time, there still is not enough to suggest where things went wrong. 

Nevertheless, the widely famous moment gave birth to the term "wardrobe malfunction' which was then followed by a hefty lawsuit by The Federal Communications Commission that demanded that CBS pay a fine of $550,000. This was also succeeded by a ban on Jackson's music by various network channels and radio stations. However, the fine was later voided as per the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Now, the case is once again becoming a mainstream issue as a producer of the Super Bowl halftime show from 2004 has started pointing fingers at both Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. The documentary debuting the controversial wardrobe malfunction moment features dialogue by the Former MTV senior vice president Salli Frattini in "Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson," and said that the producers were kept in dark about the costume reveal and hence she "felt betrayed."

The producer shared, “I was a wreck, personally, and I pretty much just lost it. I was in tears. People were crying. It was really upsetting. It’s very emotional. I felt betrayed,” said Frattini in the “The New York Times Presents,” that will be airing on Friday. 

Revealing how the moment came to be played on the stage, the producer said, “My instincts told me that there was a private conversation between wardrobe, stylist and artist where someone thought this would be a good idea, and it backfired.” The documentary will now once again unveil various aspects of the damage resulting due to the malfunction. It will necessarily reconstruct those moments again for a renewed perception of where things went wrong. 

Most famously, the moment was actually a play on the words of the lyrics that went "Gotta have you naked by the end of this song," where Timberlake had gone on to pull down Jackson's top. While Timberlake was as much involved in the ill-conceived costume reveal as Jackson, the famous fallout was completely blamed on the female singer and led radio stations to pull out her songs and blacklist her. 

On the other hand, Timberlake rose to new heights in his career following the disastrous performance and won his very first Grammy Award on CBS, two to be precise, just a week after his performance for the same channel. Additionally, Justin Timberlake was also invited to perform on the Halftime show again in 2018. 

Frattini also said that the wardrobe pulling part was not practiced during the show's rehearsals. Additionally, the changes made to Jackson's costume, which would later facilitate tearing of the top, were not approved by the producers, and they were not essentially informed of the plan. Frattini revealed that Wayne Scot, Jackson's stylist for the show, would have made the changes to the wardrobe and also made her wear the sun-shaped nipple pasties, which were later revealed after the disaster had struck. The producer said, "We had no knowledge at all of what might have been happening between Janet and her team."

Sharing the deets into the background details of what happened right after the show, “She never said anything to us. Here we are trying to ask the person that this has happened to … and she was gone,” Frattini said about the tearful exit of Jackson from the stadium. However, Timberlake stayed behind, as Frattini revealed, “Then we sought out Justin. We pulled him aside one-to-one. ‘Justin, what just happened?’ He’s like, ‘That was never meant to happen. I was told you guys knew.’ We didn’t. He was very apologetic. He manned up.”

Jackson later issued her own apology for the scandal as she said, “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. I apologize to anyone offended — including the audience, MTV, CBS, and the NFL.” Still, Jackson suffered extensive public outcasting. Her album "Damita Jo" that she released two months after the scandal became the first of her works to not reach the No.1 spot on the Billboard 200 charts. She was also discharged from her role of Lena Horne, the singer, and civil rights activist. Furthermore, Disneyland went and took off the Mickey Mouse figurine dresses in Jackson's legendary "Rhythm Nation" outfit. 

MTV and Justin Timberlake's first official apology was issued the same night the scandal had unfolded, which went, "The tearing of Janet Jackson's costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional, and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance." The network's February 1 statement also included an apology appeal to all the audience members, as the network said, "MTV regrets this incident occurred, and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it."

Collectively, about 500,000 complaints were registered after the show had aired, and an official FCC investigation was launched to further extend the case study. A statement released the following day by the MTV executive relayed that it was Jackson's idea to go with the costume reveal, and she alone was to be held responsible. 

On the other hand, Janet Jackson's team shared that the costume reveal was not supposed to end that way and that Justin Timberlake only had to pull the top layer of the costume and not tear it. Hence, the goal was only to show the bustier worn by the singer and not go all the way.  

Still, Justin was later seen on CBS accepting his two Grammy awards at the 46th annual event, and while Jackson was supposed to appear at the Luther Vandross tribute, the singer was pulled back from the honor after the Halftime show. Nevertheless, Justin accepted his rewards with a speech saying, "I know it's been a rough week on everybody. What occurred was unintentional, completely regrettable, and I apologize if you guys are offended." 

Hulu to produce Malfunction: dressing Don of Janet Jackson; Credits: Hulu

For their part and the decision to let Timberlake come back on air and not Jackson, CBS shared that his apology during the awards show was a part of the agreement so that he could get to be on the show. However, Jackson, who was also offered the same agreement, had refused to do so.