Janet Jackson will not forget February 1, 2004, when she was in Houston, Texas, along with pop star Justin Timberlake. It was the halftime show at the Super Bowl XXXVIII, being broadcast on the CBS television network and Jackson and Timberlake were performing together making the live audience and the millions of TV viewers groove. The two were dancing and swaying to the beat and then Timberlake ran his left hand against Jackson’s chest and ripped off her chest shield towards the end of the performance. The ripping off was pre-planned but not what happened later.
The Unthinkable Happened
Timberlake was supposed to rip off the chest shield and the red colored nipple shield was to stay on so that Jackson’s breasts would not be exposed. The duo had practiced this move several times in the rehearsals and had gotten it right. Unfortunately on the show in front of millions of viewers the unthinkable happened. When Timberlake pulled off the chest shield the entire material covering that area came off in his hand. The nipple shield which was supposed to stay on also came off and Janet Jackson’s entire right breast was visible to the live audience and the millions of TV viewers for half a second.
America was Outraged
Later people paused that moment and enlarged the picture and the whole world got to see in full detail on the Internet. It became a raging controversy and came to be called several things like “Nipplegate,” “oops moment” and “nip slip.” The official name given to this very embarrassing gaffe was Janet Jackson’s Wardrobe Malfunction and so it has been called that since then and has entered the annals of history. People all across America and elsewhere as well were outraged at what they called indecency in public. The Super Bowl is a family viewing program and many parents got angry that their children were exposed to such indecent visuals without warning.
It was a Mistake!
More than 500,000 complaints were made to the network and there were financial repercussions too for all parties involved. However, no one suffered more than Janet Jackson herself. Unfortunately, people blamed her for the whole thing even though she said that it was a mistake and the breast exposure was not planned. Sadly few people believed her and she went hoarse defending herself against public accusations that she was deliberately creating such controversies. Timberlake too came on the media and confirmed that it was a mere accident and it was not done deliberately.
The Most Watched Video in History!
The controversy raged on for years and opened up a lot of debate about what could and what could not be shown on public television. It was only when some two years later in 2006 when Jackson went on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show and gave a detailed account of what happened that people kind of moved back. It had become claustrophobic for Jackson because anywhere she went she was confronted with this incident. Jackson became the most searched name on the Internet for 2004 and 2005. The Nipplegate incident became one of the most-watched videos in history and people made a million jokes about it which were very insensitive to her.
It Became a Cultural Cornerstone
Janet Jackson suffered due to this incident in several ways. MTV stopped playing her music videos while she was asked not to come for that year’s Grammy ceremony. CBS officials said the incident was not preplanned but gave the impression to the media that Jackson & Timberlake had planned it independently. Jackson maintains to this day in 2020 that the whole breast exposure was a wardrobe malfunction and not a deliberate attempt to shock the viewers. It became a turning point in American media regarding what could and what could not be shown on public television. Nobody even Janet Jackson has been able to forget that infamous day when Jackson was hung out there to dry all by herself!