Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’ Remains A Poorly-Executed Publicity Stunt Despite Over-The-Top Backlash

With the Panthers playing in the Super Bowl on February 7, we are reminded by Billboard and other sources that the last time the Panthers played in the Super Bowl, Janet Jackson’s breast changed the course of American history as well as Ms. Jackson’s career.

Janet Jackson’s performance started off innocent enough with the superstar doing the usual lipsynching while executing jhigh school cheerleader style dancing. She started with “All for You,” her last (and likely final) No. 1 hit. Then, she did an exciting version of “Rhythm Nation.” Soon, in a move that Jackson surely now regrets, she invited Justin Timberlake on stage to lip-sync “Rock Your Body” with her.

What happened next was, perhaps, the most notable publicity stunt in the history of national television. As Justin Timberlake lip-synced “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” he stood behind Jackson and forcefully removed a piece of clothing, which forced her breast to flop out in front of millions all over the world.

February 1, 2004, is a day that Janet Jackson likely wishes never existed. [Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]

Till this day, Janet Jackson denies that it was a publicity stunt and referred to the event as a “wardrobe malfunction,” a praise that would soon become a part of history. At the time, many people thought it was just a publicity stunt due to Janet’s fading popularity. MTV and CBS denied seeing Jackson’s breast forcefully exposed during the rehearsals. In any case, the damage was swiftly done.

During an election year, politicians and many others jumped on what they called proof of our morally corrupt nation. While Janet and her supporters kept saying, “It’s only a breast!” others accused Jackson of promoting rape. Many opinion pieces, in particular, called out Janet Jackson for helping to re-elect Bush. Jackson herself turned instantly from a worldwide pop icon into an object of international scorn.

Janet Jackson Unbreakable
Janet Jackson's recently poor record and ticket sales certainly haven't helped make her a billionaire. [Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images]

Janet Jackson’s album sales suffered, her tour sales suffered, and despite all the hype to bring her back in 2015, Janet has never recovered. And that in itself is unfair, especially since Ms. Jackson released her best album in 20 years with Unbreakable in October of 2015.

While Jackson poorly tried to execute a publicity stunt (if it actually was one), she didn’t kill anybody. From all the backlash, you would have thought Ms. Jackson had burned puppies alive or something similar. But the biggest takeout from the whole event is how Janet Jackson was villified, even though Justin Timberlake barely took any of the blame. One shouldn’t dislike Timberlake because of this. However, they should blame the incredible misogyny and double standards of our society — something that exists just as much in 2016 as it did in 2004.

If we take that the “rape” claim about the Super Bowl performance as valid, why is it that the man who initiated the move was immediately forgiven while the woman who received the actions of the move was figuratively burned alive? Why was Janet Jackson constantly referred to as a ‘slut” and “whore” after the event, while nobody would dear say anything so harsh about Timberlake? Why was Janet required to “put it away” after the performance, while Timberlake was able to sing such songs as SexyBack? It’s quite possible Janet Jackson has repeatedly asked herself these questions many times over the past twelve years.

[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]