It’s time for the music industry to apologize to Janet Jackson about her treatment following Super Bowl XXXVIII. It was recently announced that Justin Timberlake will return to the stage and perform at the Super Bowl halftime show this year. While Timberlake is an international popstar with an impressive resume, his credentials aren’t what’s causing a stir. Over 10 years ago, Timberlake was a surprise guest with Janet Jackson. When the two strayed from the rehearsed choreography, there was an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. During their performance, Timberlake reached over and pulled Jackson’s costume off revealing Jackson’s bare breast exposed on live, primetime national TV. Following the incident, Jackson suffered severe career consequences while Timberlake’s career took off. While we don’t believe it was wrong of the NFL to invite Timberlake back, we do feel that the music industry owes Janet Jackson an apology and that the NFL should invite her to perform at a future Super Bowl.
Following the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII, Janet Jackson was unfairly persecuted for what happened onstage. Not only was Jackson blamed for the incident, but she was blacklisted from Viacom which included both VH1 and MTV. At the time, the media giant refused to play any of her music or videos, and she was required to publically apologize for what had happened. The following week was also the Grammy’s, in which her performance was rescinded, and she was uninvited. Timberlake, however, was still able to not only attend but also perform. Years later, even the FCC Chairman at the time has acknowledged that Jackson was unfairly treated.
To be sure, Jackson was a veteran performer at the time and her legacy was already established, but there is no doubt that the incident did damage to her career. Aside from being uninvited to the Grammy’s, Jackson was also forced to resign from a movie role that she was casted for after the incident. Her next album, Damita Jo, was released a month later and underperformed compared to her previous releases. Contrary to Jackson’s career, Timberlake’s has since taken off. Many believe this is a result of subconscious racism and sexism. Was Jackson demonized by the media solely for being a black woman? It may just be a coincidence, but one can argue that that’s the reason she faced all the consequences.
All of this is grounds for the industry to apologize to Jackson. Timberlake himself has even acknowledged his role and wishes that he would have reacted differently. After the performance, Timberlake left Jackson out to dry, and she suffered greatly. Jackson had to release a written apology claiming all responsibility, while Timberlake made a passing comment to Access Hollywood. The public shaming of Jackson ended up being a modern-day witch hunt that she inevitably lost. We believe the music industry owes Jackson an apology for making an example out of an honest mistake. Had the industry reacted differently, Jackson’s career could have continued to flourish instead of taking a hiatus before reemerging after the release of 2015’s Unbreakable. We’re sure that Timberlake will impress and perhaps Jackson will be his surprise guest this year. If not, the NFL should deeply consider inviting her to a future Super Bowl to clear her name.
This editorial was written by Rachael Harris based on the opinions of a JAMS 504 Media Milwaukee Editorial Board.