The latest episode of the New York Times Presents documentary series will zoom in on Janet Jackson’s legendary “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. The cloth rip heard ’round the world has been the subject of rampant speculation for more than 15 years and “Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson” — which is slated to premiere on Nov. 19 at 10 p.m. ET on Hulu and FX — will get the deep-dive treatment during the one-hour special.
The series that helped super-charge the #FreeBritney movement with February’s “Framing Britney Spears” bombshell doc, promised in a release announcing the Jackson special that it will contain rare footage and interviews with music industry bigwigs and members of the Jackson family, as well as several people who were in the booth that night in Houston.
The execs from the NFL and MTV — which produced that year’s halftime show — will walk through the events of the night, during which Justin Timberlake ripped a piece of cloth off of Jackson’s costume, exposing her nipple for 9/16th of a second. Though fleeting, the incident set off a cultural tsunami that reverberates until today.
After the Spears doc debuted in February, Timberlake issued a public apology to both his ex Spears and Jackson for the way he treated them. After Timberlake came off as callous and calculating in the years after his 2002 split from Britney in Framing, a number of outlets called for Justin to be called to task for the apparent pass he got from the music industry and pundits in the wake of what became known as “Nipple-gate.”
Following the incident, Jackson was uninvited from the following week’s Grammy Awards and her videos were yanked from Viacom properties including MTV, CBS and Infinity Broadcasting. Timberlake, though, not only appeared at the Grammys, but was allowed to issue an apology at the event, and then went on to headline the SB halftime show in 2018, while Jackson has never been invited back.
“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond,” Timberlake said at the time. “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right. I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism. I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed.”
The Jackson doc promises to look into the racial and cultural currents that were stirred up by the halftime incident and the extreme fallout that landed on Janet, which impacted her career for years to come. “Malfunction” was directed and produced by Jodi Gomes (The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty).
At press time it did not appear that Timberlake or Jackson had reacted to the announcement. Jackson recently previewed the trailer for JANET, an upcoming two-night, four-hour doc slated to air on A&E and Lifetime in January. “This is my story, told by me, not through someone else’s eyes,” she says in the preview.