Watched by nearly 90 million people, the Super Bowl is the highest-rated television event. Viewers of all ages enjoy the game, commercials and the half-time show; however, this year’s half-time show sparked widespread viewer complaints, angered FCC, CBS and MTV executives, and embarrassed the NFL, all because of Janet Jackson’s “pop out” moment at the end of her performance with Justin Timberlake. Jackson took the blame for the stunt and said it went further than she had intended. When a performer of her stature decides to expose her breast on a nationally-televised event, what exactly were her “intentions?” “The decision to have a costume reveal her breast at the end of my half-time 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,” said Jackson.
Timberlake said in an interview following the performance that the incident was due to a wardrobe malfunction. However, there just so happened to be a silver star barely covering Jackson’s nipple which suggested exactly what she was “intending” to do: show her breast to millions of people with complete disregard and disrespect of whoever might be her audience, for example, young children.
Disturbed television viewers have filed more then 200,000 complaints after Timberlake removed half of Jackson’s bustier exposing her right breast, a record number for the Federal Communication Commission, officials said. The MTV-produced half-time show also caught the eye of non-profit organizations, which also reported record-setting complaints. The American Family Association set up a website BoycottMTV.net; nearly 50,000 people supported the boycott.
A woman from Knoxville, Tenn. filed a lawsuit and sought damages for millions of viewers who might have been exposed to what she thought was lewd and inappropriate conduct by Jackson and others at the half-time events.
The case asked the court to order a halt to offensive programming during hours when children are watching and to award damages for as many as 80 million U.S. viewers, based on revenues from the show and how much the entertainers were paid. The case was later withdrawn from the court and no legal action has been reported.
Jackson and Timberlake were both scheduled to perform at the 46th annual Grammy awards. CBS and the Recording Academy seriously considered banning both of them from performing. They had decided to allow them to participate in the Grammy’s as long as both apologized on-air for their actions during the Super Bowl half-time show. Timberlake agreed and apologized on-air. Jackson declined that offer and did not attend the awards.
The Jackson and Timberlake performance was not the only act that received complaints for being thought to be done in bad taste. These other artists included Kid Rock, Nelly, and Puff Daddy. Complaints ranged from lyrical content to wardrobe.
There is a time and a place for such performances; some are offended and some are not. Critics argue that viewers have the opportunity to change the channel if they do not like what is presented. The issue of “pushing the envelope” has also come under constant debate. Where should the line be drawn for what is appropriate and what is not appropri-ate? Who decides? From Britney Spears, Madonna, and Christina Aguilera kissing on national television to the pop out moment of Jackson’s performance, the line seems to be non-existent.