TV & Movies

Hulu’s New Doc Looks At The Aftermath Of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl Incident

FX, Hulu, and The New York Times’ next exposé is all about the wardrobe malfunction set off by Justin Timberlake.

A new FX/Hulu documentary, 'Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson' will look at the afterm...
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FX and Hulu, together with The New York Times Presents, are examining how female pop stars are victimized by systemic misogyny. After the explosive Emmy-nominated documentary Framing Britney Spears and the follow-up Controlling Britney Spears, the trio is turning to another woman maligned by society: Janet Jackson following her 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe debacle.

In February 2004, Jackson was at the height of her career. The “All For You” singer was a month away from releasing her highly-anticipated eighth album, Damita Jo, and ready to headline the Super Bowl alongside Justin Timberlake. Of course, that performance is forever etched in pop culture history — one moment Jackson was wowing the audience with a stellar performance, and the next, Timberlake set off a wardrobe malfunction that her career never recovered from.

Directed by Jodi Gomes, who previously worked on a reality show following the Jacksons, Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson will investigate the incident living in Super Bowl infamy. For those who have been waiting for this 2004 Super Bowl reckoning, here’s everything to know about Hulu’s Janet Jackson documentary, including its release date.

The Malfunction Plot & Cast

According to the press release, “In 2004, a culture war was brewing when the Super Bowl halftime show audience saw a white man expose a Black woman's breast for 9/16ths of a second.” Set to examine the “racial and cultural currents” that played into its aftermath, the documentary will contrast how Jackson’s career “was never the same,” while Timberlake’s “stardom only grew.” It will also feature rare footage and interviews with cultural critics, MTV and NFL executives, and those working the stage that night.

"All the emphasis was put on me. Not on Justin,” Jackson told Oprah Winfrey in 2006 about receiving the brunt of the backlash. Timberlake, meanwhile, told MTV that he got “10% of the blame.” He also said, “I think America is harsher on women,” calling America “unfairly harsh” on “ethnic people.” Timberlake headlined the sports event again in 2018. Jackson never returned.

Timberlake finally publicly apologized to Jackson after 17 years, and only after the documentary on Spears’ prompted fans of both women to demand a statement from the “Cry Me A River” singer. Responding to the “messages, tags, comments, and concerns,” Timberlake wrote, “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.” He then mentioned both women in one sentence, writing, “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.”

Timberlake also acknowledged how his white male privilege factored into the events in both women’s lives. He wrote, “The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. 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.”

The Malfunction Release Date & Trailer

FX and Hulu typically announce their documentaries mere days before the official release, and Malfunction is no different. While there’s no trailer yet, the documentary is slated for a Nov. 19, 10 p.m. ET premiere simultaneously on FX and Hulu.

Malfunction isn’t the only upcoming documentary on Jackson. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of her debut album, Lifetime and A&E announced a two-night, four-hour release on the singer’s life last March. Five years in the making, Janet will tackle Michael Jackson’s death, motherhood, and, yes, the Super Bowl incident. It’s scheduled for a January 2022 release.