Janet Jackson & The NFL Prove Victim-Blaming Is Relentless
Big congratulations are in order for Justin Timberlake, as we've finally overcome inequality in the world, so he's allowed to perform again at the Superbowl Halftime Show! Yay!
As you may recall from 2004's infamous show, featuring Timberlake and Janet Jackson, the end of their duet of the song "Rock Your Body" featured Timberlake saying the line "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song!" At that point he grabbed Jackson's breast and yanked a whole bra cup clean off. Here's where the wicket got sticky.
According to Jackson's people in the aftermath, the black outer cup of her costume was supposed to come off, revealing the red lace bra underneath. You could see the red lace that was part of the outfit the whole time. But instead the whole thing yanked free, exposing her breast, giving rise to the term "wardrobe malfunction," causing the network to institute a five-second delay on live performances, and earning a $500,000 fine from the FCC for indecency. Shit.
Jackson, who had a new album out at the time, was shit on wholeheartedly by everyone. MTV stopped playing her videos (they used to play videos, Google it), and so did most Viacom properties, Clear Channel, and all sorts of places which any musician is going to rely on. Her album sales were in the toilet. Meanwhile, Timberlake sneaked by like a hand snatching at a boob.
Now Timberlake is being invited back to the Superbowl, and in 13 years, almost no one has thought to wonder how it was that the offensive part of the 2004 Halftime Show was a woman's breast being exposed, as opposed to a man ripping a woman's clothing off. Isn't it kind of bizarre that nudity is the offensive thing, and not a playacted assault?
Now, obviously Timberlake didn't legit assault Jackson; this was planned. But it was to be a mock sexual assault, right? He tells her in the song that he's going to get her naked. He reaches across her and grabs her clothing and tears it off. That's rapey as shit. And if it had gone off as planned and the red bra had stayed on, we probably wouldn't remember it at all in 2017, but for sure someone back then would have thought, "Huh, that was aggressive." If you do that to a woman you're dancing with at a club, you're going to get your fingers broke.
The FCC fined the network for allowing a breast to be shown -- not for allowing a man to rip a woman's clothes off, which apparently isn't indecent, but for what happens when he successfully does so. In every accounting of the aftermath, Jackson was the one held responsible. Not Timberlake, who's right back on stage again, but Jackson. What if she had pulled some tearaways off of him and his N'Schlong had popped out? Would his career have been shit on like hers was? Would he be the monster who forced children around the world to see ... human anatomy? Or would people have thought "Shit, that was a dumb thing to do" and moved on?
Everyone became so focused on what happened that no one even asked why it happened in the first place. MTV officials, who produced the show, said they were surprised at the unscripted action, but also said they toyed with the idea earlier as well, and different variations included one in which Timberlake would have ripped her skirt off instead. They wanted to play with the line Timberlake sang, because they thought it would be fun. And when it actually worked, when the result was what would actually happen if someone did that, everyone shit a kitten. And not on the person who did it, but on the person it happened to. But according to everyone, she "put herself" in that situation. Played along up to that point until things went too far. Guess she should have "known better."
Man, why does that sound so familiar? Oh, right! That's how we blame victims of sexual assault! What a funny coincidence.
For more, check out This Week In Pop Culture (10/20/17) and What Stupid Thing Is Trending Now? (10/22/2017).
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