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‘Malfunction’ Takes on Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl and Blacklist Controversy – The Hollywood Reporter

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“I am truly grateful that we have come to this moment of cultural stocktaking and reassessment of what has happened,” says Jenna Wortham, cultural writer for The New York Times, at some point during Malfunction: Dressing Janet Jackson. “But we should never forget what they did to Janet. We should never forget this outrage. What was the cost to this woman? Is it worth it? “

The last chapter of The New York Times presents … The FX series on Hulu tries to answer that, against the backdrop of the racism, sexism, and eventual ageism the singer endured not only in the wake of the controversial 2004 Super Bowl halftime moment, but everything else. throughout Jackson’s professional career.

“The pressure on her had to be significant,” notes Cathy Hughes, founder and president of Urban One Inc., of Jackson’s career. “White executives always assume what is acceptable to their white audience. “

The hour-long document discusses various issues surrounding the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime ‘wardrobe malfunction’, including the Tory cultural and political backlash, investigation and FCC fines and the widespread media reaction. Nearly two decades after the event, each new “act” erases another layer of the punitive response to the power of music and the black trailblazer for what happened on the stage at the NRG Stadium.

It contains claims that former CBS CEO Les Moonves wanted a formal apology in person from Jackson and Justin Timberlake after promising NFL officials the halftime show would be adapted. to families. According to the doc, this was to happen during their separate Grammys appearances that year, scheduled just a week after the Super Bowl event.

While media have suggested Jackson was not invited to perform at the show, former Recording Academy vice president of communications Ron Roecker says the Grammys never did such a thing and that Jackson withdrew.

“It was just like another request for something that was an accident, something that just didn’t need to be completely put on her,” said Matt Serlic, former CEO of Virgin Records. “So she didn’t, and good for her.”

Due to his absence from the ceremony, Moonves – who was fired in 2018 following allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault made against him – deemed Jackson’s response “insufficient,” according to New York Times reporter Rachel Abrams. He also reportedly asked his fellow executives if he could charge Jackson for the FCC fines that followed the Congressional investigation into the televised event.

“More than anything else, Moonves felt he had been publicly embarrassed,” she said

The hour-long documentary also reveals, in particular, details of the preparation and immediate consequences of the event of February 1, 2004 on the part of those who were there. This includes comments from former MTV Vice President Salli Frattini, NFL Special Events Director Jim Steeg and Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner from 1989 to 2006, who share their account of the controversy.

The doc focuses on what was known and decided on the performance before the Super Bowl live show through rehearsals and communications between executives, show producers and musicians P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Nelly, Jackson and Timberlake. This includes a kicked-off show element – a streak involving Jackson, a detachable skirt, and a full jumpsuit underneath – which was rejected because it “just didn’t work” at the staging level.

“The NFL gave me ratings, CBS gave me ratings. And we all finally agreed that we wouldn’t do that. [Jackson] was okay with that, ”says Frattini.

But the former MTV executive and several of the NFL executives featured in the documentary also said there were many concerns ahead of the performance after the dress rehearsals. Steeg specifically quotes a two-page memo regarding “the things that needed to be changed,” including the words of P. Diddy and Nelly, as well as Kid Rock’s desire to carry an American flag.

Continuing with a focus on what was known before the event, Malfunction addresses reported wardrobe adjustments after the show’s dress rehearsal. Thanks to this, he ultimately narrows down on the role of Timberlake in the halftime event. The hour-long look explicitly focuses on a “little conversation that lasted a few minutes,” according to Frattini, between Timberlake and Jackson’s stylist in his dressing room just before the show.

But it also examines Timberlake’s behavior before, during, and after the controversy, with several clips of the former N’SYNC member making objectifying comments about Jackson before and after the Super Bowl event and illustrating how his career took off as Jackson came to a screeching halt. According to the doc, Timberlake’s responses after the show coincided with information from a Super Bowl stage manager that Jackson – who Frattini said was on a plane to Los Angeles before the producers could even speak to him – was crying in leaving the stage.

“Here we are trying to ask the person to whom it happened – because it happened to her – and she was gone, ”said Frattini.

The doc offers no clear conclusion on how Jackson was feeling at the time or if this was an expected performance element – the singer declined to comment, as did Timberlake and Moonves. But it again raises questions about whether she knew what was going to happen and why she wasn’t available to answer.

The doc is also not sure if Jackson was knowingly and actively blacklisted after the performance. It does, however, document how various businesses and industries, including Disney, Virgin and the team behind a Lena Horne documentary, withdrew their support and public association with the singer after the event. Clear Channel chief legal officer Andy Levin denied a possible coordinated effort by the nation’s then 1,200-strong local station network to contain Jackson’s new album. Damita jo following the controversy.

“All the programming decisions were made locally, so there couldn’t be a system-wide blacklist,” he says. “Now if there was a blacklist locally, in Salt Lake City for example, because the program manager knew her audience was offended by what Janet did on Super Bowl Sunday, that’s absolutely right. conceivable.”

While there are no appearances or comments from Jackson herself, several members of her family – including her brother Tito Jackson – have spoken out about the backlash that has significantly affected the successful singer’s career.

“I don’t know if blacklist is the word they tried to do to my sister, but it looked like they were trying to downgrade her career,” he says.

Taj Jackson, Janet’s nephew and member of T3 agrees, calling it “sabotage”. “For me, when you’re behind the scenes influencing another artist’s career, you can call him whatever you want, but his career has suffered because someone whose ego has been hurt.”

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