Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy

From Academic Kids

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Janet Jackson performs at the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show.

Super Bowl XXXVIII was noted for a controversial halftime show produced by MTV and which aired live on the CBS television network. Both MTV and CBS are owned by the media group Viacom. Singers Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing a duet of Timberlake's song "Rock Your Body", which featured many suggestive dance moves by both Timberlake and Jackson. As the song reached the final line, "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song," Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson's costume, revealing her right breast (adorned with a large, sun-shaped nipple ring). CBS immediately cut to an aerial view of the stadium, but the damage had been done. Many people considered this indecent exposure, numerous viewers contacted the network to complain, saying it was inappropriate in the context of a football game, and also became a flashpoint in the 2004 Presidential Election in the United States.

Jackson and Timberlake stated that the exposure was an accident. CBS, MTV, the National Football League, Jackson, Timberlake and halftime show sponsor America Online had since all apologized for the incident, dubbed "Nipplegate" by some observers. (AOL would later be refunded $10 million (US) by the NFL.) Jackson later admitted the stunt was devised beforehand, but "went further than she planned". According to her spokeswoman, a red lace bra was supposed to remain when Timberlake tore off the outer covering. Timberlake blamed the incident on a "wardrobe malfunction". Because of this incident "Janet Jackson" became the most looked-for term in 2004 for many search engines. [1] (

Subsequently, the NFL announced that MTV, who also produced the halftime show for Super Bowl XXXV, would never be involved in another halftime show. Besides Jackson's accidental exposure, the show featured numerous dancers (alongside rappers Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Nelly) along with other participants in costumes which many viewers felt were inappropriate for a sporting event. Going mostly unnoticed by the media was Kid Rock's wearing of an American flag as a poncho, with a hole cut in it for his head; in his performance, he unceremoniously dumped the flag onto the stage. Many people considered this an act of flag desecration.

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Janet Jackson sings "Rhythm Nation" at the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show.
On February 4, Terri Carlin launched a class action lawsuit against Jackson and Timberlake on behalf of "all American citizens who watched the outrageous conduct." The lawsuit alleged that the halftime show contained "sexually explicit acts solely designed to garner publicity and, ultimately, to increase profits for themselves". The lawsuit sought "maximum" punitive and compensatory damages from the performers. Ms. Carlin would later drop the lawsuit.

The incident triggered a rash of fines that the Federal Communications Commission levied soon after the Super Bowl. Clear Channel Communications removed shock jock Howard Stern from several of its large-market radio stations within a month of the incident, citing the raunchy content of Stern's show. The FCC fined Clear Channel after a Florida-based radio show featuring Bubba the Love Sponge was charged with indecency. In September 2004, the FCC fined Viacom the maximum $27,500 penalty for each of the twenty CBS-owned television stations for a total $550,000 fine, the largest ever against a television broadcaster at that time.

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Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake sing Timberlake's Top 10 hit "Rock Your Body" moments before the "wardrobe malfunction".
The United States House of Representatives passed a bill, soon after the Super Bowl, to raise the maximum FCC fine penalty from USD $27,500 to $500,000 per violation. The United States Senate voted to increase it to $275,000 per incident, with a cap of $3 million per day. The two houses reconciled the differences in fine levels, settling for a fine of $375,000 per violation in 2005.

Some critics say that Jackson's few seconds of accidental nudity may undo the radio and television standards developed over the previous 40 years. As of September 2004, though, the chilling effect of the "wardrobe malfunction" seems to have been restricted only to U.S. commercial and non-cable television and radio, while other critics say that the reaction to that incident was extremely exaggerated and that it has been used as an excuse to impose harsh censorship.

In November 2004, Viacom paid out $3.5 million to settle outstanding indecency complaints, but still refused that it was challenging the $550,000 penalty related to the incident. As a result of the incident, some networks established regulations requiring time delays of as much as five minutes for live broadcasts such as awards shows and sporting events.

Moments after the Jackson-Timberlake tangle, famous streaker Mark Roberts added to the controversial halftime by running around the field nearly-naked except for some writing on his body which read "SUPER BOWEL" on the front, an advertisement for online betting website and a well-placed G-string just before the start of the game's second half. Roberts' stunt was not seen on-air in the USA however, as CBS chose to keep its cameras in a wide-shot view of the stadium as Roberts ran around the field until players from both the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers tackled him, and cameras showed him being forcibly escorted from the field at Reliant Stadium. In a joking reference to that incident, game announcers Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms would say that the rest of the game would feature "raw, naked football".

Interestingly, the Super Bowl broadcast featured numerous commercials for erectile dysfunction medicines and beer advertisements with flatulating horses and dogs attacking male genitalia. In a league mandated policy meant to clear the airwaves of such tasteless advertisements, with the exception of the erection pills, the NFL announced that those types of commercials would not air again during Super Bowl broadcasts. In January of 2005, Fox, the network that carried Super Bowl XXXIX, rejected an advertisement for a cold remedy called Airborne that briefly featured the naked backside of veteran actor Mickey Rooney.

Some have speculated that the fallout from this incident may have had a ripple effect on daytime television. While these television shows are known for "love in the afternoon" and regularly feature romantic couplings, shortly before the Super Bowl the Procter & Gamble soap operas As the World Turns and Guiding Light had gone as far as featuring rear male nudity during lovemaking scenes. After the Super Bowl controversy, FCC commisioner Michael J. Copps stated that it was time for a crackdown on daytime television and indicated that he was reviewing whether soap operas were violating the agency's indecency prohibitions.

Following this news, Guiding Light edited out nudity from an episode that had already been taped. A week later, the show's executive producer John Conboy was fired and replaced by Ellen Wheeler. All nine American network soaps began to impose an unwritten rule of avoiding any sort of risque adult scenes, and in the months following, soap opera periodical Soap Opera Digest editors wrote about how daytime television was losing its steam. [2] (

Nighttime television was not spared the fallout from the Jackson incident, either. For example, an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise entitled "Harbinger", originally included a brief shot of a character's buttocks, but this scene was censored when UPN aired the episode a few weeks after the Super Bowl event (Canadian broadcasts of the episode were uncensored).


  • The incident was parodied by singer Alanis Morissette at the Juno Awards of 2004.
  • The Bob Rivers Show parodied the event in the song "Janet's Coconut" (
  • In D12's music video "My Band," the event is re-enacted as a parody, with Bizarre as Jackson, and Eminem as Timberlake, and also in the form of puppets in Eminem's music video of "Ass Like That".
  • Singer Eric West made media headlines when he wore a I Support Janet Jackson T-shirt to the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards. West told "Teen People" magazine, "It was my way of showing Janet support after being blacklisted by so many media outlets".
  • Jackson also made fun of herself in a 2004 Saturday Night Live appearance, first while playing Condoleezza Rice, nervously answering a question by exposing her right breast, then by viewing a mock "home video" from her childhood when her bathing suit top came off in a wading pool.
  • Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser light beer brand (called "Bud Light") poked fun at the incident in a commercial that was not chosen to air during Super Bowl XXXIX, but rather made available for viewing from their website (, in which a stagehand supposedly used Ms. Jackson's bustier to open a bottle of beer, and then uses a piece of tape to repair the damage.
  • South Park took aim at the hysteria in its 8th season premier, "Good Times With Weapons," on March 17 2004, when Eric Cartman snuck across a stage in the nude and later blamed the incident on a "wardrobe malfunction."
  • A commercial for Burger King [3] ( included two male office workers fighting over a Burger King sandwich, with one worker's shirt being ripped open to reveal a nipple shield similar to Jackson's.
  • Richard Thompson wrote and performed a song, "Dear Janet Jackson," mocking the use of her breasts at the Super Bowl.
  • The Onion, a parody newspaper, ran as its headline article for 26 January, 2005, U.S. Children Still Traumatized One Year After Seeing Partially Exposed Breast On TV. The article's satirical target was the nation's over-reaction to the incident, rather than the incident itself.
  • In a Super Bowl XXXIX commercial for Go Daddy a girl making a statement before an advertising committee continues to have the right strap of her tank top fall while she is speaking; the original commercial included the phrase "wardrobe malfunction," but the words were cut after FCC

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