After weeks of speculation, Justin Timberlake announced through an Instagram video with BFF Jimmy Fallon this week that he would be performing at the Super Bowl half-time show. While the comments on the video were generally fans freaking out at the announcement, the wider internet had more of a problem with the choice. You see, this year would mark JT’s first return to the Super Bowl since the 2004 incident where he kinda sorta ripped Janet Jackson’s shirt and exposed her nipple to the entire world.
Since it’s been 13 years, we’ll give you a little refresher on what happened. The two performed the half-time show together and at the end of Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body,” he sings, “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song” and he sure did. At that moment, he reached over and ripped the cup off Jackson’s right breast. Criticism for the incident was immediate, loud and directed almost entirely at Jackson. In all the fallout from Nipplegate, Jackson’s career took loss after loss and Timberlake walked away virtually unscathed (and possibly better off).
Jackson was effectively uninvited to the Grammys the next week while Timberlake won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album at the awards. In the coming years, JT would go on to see miraculous and ongoing success while Jackson was punished in the press.
The official story is that the incident was a wardrobe malfunction. Timberlake was supposed to rip off part of Jackson’s shirt, revealing a red lace bra underneath but something went wrong. Many have theorized that what happened was the plan all along though, and the ‘malfunction’ story is a cover-up amid the backlash. Right after the show, Jackson issued an apology, taking blame for the accident and apologizing for the indecency. Justin apologized too, but at the Grammys. Where he was permitted to be. Also, his apology was for causing offence to the audience and he never publicly apologized to Jackson for exposing her.
Fans of Jackson are rightfully upset that Timberlake (a white man) gets off scot-free while Jackson (a black woman) is to this day remembered for the stunt. There’s a whole social justice essay (book?) to be written here and if you want a more detailed breakdown, read this. The NFL has since said that Janet is not actually banned from the half-time show, but we don’t see them hiring her to perform either and her fans are all over it.
Justin Timberlake being welcomed back to the Super Bowl with open arms is the definition of white privilege. #JusticeforJanet
— Katy Clark (@AllEyesOnKaty) October 23, 2017
Janet Jackson: banned. Justin Timberlake: welcome back. Look, guys, a guy getting to do what a woman can’t is just on brand for 2017, okay?
— Leanna Renee (@leannuh_renay) October 23, 2017
— JDegarson (@johndegarson) October 23, 2017
— Andre 🐝 (@hivelite) October 23, 2017
Justin Timberlake officially doing Super Bowl halftime. Dream setlist:
– 9-minute Janet Jackson apology
– “Gone” (w/ *NSYNC)
— Jason Lipshutz (@jasonlipshutz) October 23, 2017
Looks like there’s going to be something for non-football fans to watch this year: their Twitter feeds as more Janet/Justin drama goes down.