After the release of Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, a new documentary about the aftermath of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake‘s infamous 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, the “Rhythm Nation” singer herself has seemingly weighed in on the controversy herself.
The 55-year-old singer took to social media on November 21, 2021, to share a cryptic quote just days after the new documentary about her career premiered on Hulu. “Not sure if you got the memo,” the quote began. “But we’re not competing anymore, we’re appreciating and uplifting each other instead.” While Janet didn’t mention the documentary outright, fans quickly noticed that one of its subjects—Justin himself—responded to the post with a like.
The former NSYNC member has been at the center of renewed controversy following the documentary’s release for the way he reacted to his infamous Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show performance with Janet. As one viewer wrote, “[Justin Timberlake’s] behavior is disgusting. The lack of empathy, disrespectful behavior and #misogyny is appalling.”
For those who don’t know, in 2004, Janet and Justin were chosen by the NFL and MTV to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show together. Justin was the surprise guest after Janet performed a medley of her hit songs. Everything was going well until Justin’s performance of “Rock Your Body,” when the singer attempted a last-minute costume trick and accidentally exposed Janet’s right breast to over 140 million viewers. The moment sent ripples through the media, with many blaming the accident on Janet.
At the time, CBS forced the Jackson sister to publicly apologize for the incident. Janet released a video statement as a result, telling audiences, “The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. MTV, CBS, [and] the NFL had no knowledge of this whatsoever and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I apologize to anyone offended, including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.” Years later, Janet told Oprah Winfrey that she regretted her apology. “It was an accident. The management I had at the time, they thought it was important that I did,” she said in 2018.
Meanwhile, Justin joked about the incident at first, telling reporters immediately following the show, “I love giving y’all something to talk about” before suggesting that Janet’s wardrobe malfunction was “every man’s dream.” He later offered a brief apology in a statement to MTV News: “I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl. It was not intentional and is regrettable.”
Years later, Justin finally issued a public apology to Janet while briefly mentioning her in a statement about fellow pop star Britney Spears. “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,” Justin shared on Instagram in response to the many “messages, tags, comments, and concerns,” he received following the release of another Hulu documentary, Framing Britney Spears. “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 “Cry Me a River” singer went on to note how his privilege as a white man impacted Janet and Britney’s careers. “The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way,” he wrote. “As a man in a privileged position I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”