On Oct. 22, the NFL announced that Justin Timberlake will perform at the 2018 Super Bowl LII’s halftime show. We believe that the NFL was not wrong for inviting Justin Timberlake to perform at the 2018 Super Bowl LII’s halftime show. We urge the NFL to publicly invite Janet Jackson to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show at a future date because of the discrimination and unequal backlash that she received after the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show.
Janet Jackson headlined the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show where Justin Timberlake was a special guest. While performing a duet of his hit song, “Rock Your Body,” Timberlake tore off a piece of Jackson’s clothing, revealing her nipple to 143 million viewers. Following the performance, Jackson was banned from attending and presenting at the Grammy’s. That same year, a Mickey Mouse statue costumed as Janet Jackson was discontinued from Disney’s commemorative collection. Janet Jackson was also blacklisted from Viacom in 2004, which stopped many major networks from airing her music videos. MTV, who produced the halftime show, made a statement after the incident saying, “…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.” However, MTV’s chief executive, Tom Freston later claimed that Jackson “engineered” the stunt.
It is time for Justin Timberlake to make a clearer statement about how the situation occurred and publicly apologize to Janet Jackson. In 2004, Timberlake publicly apologized to his fans saying, “I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl,” Timberlake said, “It was not intentional and is regrettable.” In 2006, during an interview with MTV’s John Norris, he later stated that, “If you consider it 50-50, then I probably got 10 percent of the blame,” Timberlake further stated that, “I think America is harsher on women. I think America is unfairly harsh on ethnic people.” However, simply stating that there is racism and sexism in America isn’t helping the situation. Justin Timberlake should’ve specifically called out Viacom, the NFL and other media platforms that tried to make this situation overshadow all of Janet Jackson’s great accomplishments. That same year during an interview with Oprah Winfrey on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” Jackson mentioned how absurd the media coverage was considering the serious events taking place in the world. The media coverage and backlash from this situation didn’t affect Justin Timberlake’s career from progressing. Justin Timberlake’s 2006 album, FutureSex/LoveSounds was very successful and won two Grammy’s. Meanwhile, Janet Jackson continues to struggle with gaining some of the momentum back that she lost in 2004.
Recently, the NFL argued that Janet Jackson is not banned from performing at the Super Bowl. However, we believe that people need to examine why a woman’s career suffered more than a man’s. Sadly, we get the impression that Justin Timberlake, despite his statements about the backlash from the incident, still hasn’t grasped the underlying issue. Gender inequality is a serious problem within the entertainment industry. Even though the situation occurred in 2004, this sort of victim blaming happens to women in similar situations today. More celebrity influencers need to bring awareness to the double standards that many women face for showing their skin intentionally or by accident in uncontrolled situations. The entertainment industry needs to change how it glorifies the male body. If the roles were reversed in the same situation, the media wouldn’t be as interested in covering the story. The entertainment industry should redefine its guidelines on what constitutes inappriate and offensive behavior.