Days after the release of Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, viewers still can’t stop talking about the latest New York Times Presents documentary. The special, a collaboration between FX, Hulu, and the newspaper released on Nov. 19, explores Jackson’s career and the infamous 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction that altered it forever. Of special focus in the documentary is the double standard between the media’s treatment of Jackson and her fellow halftime show performer Justin Timberlake, the person who actually revealed her breast on air. (Earlier this year, Timberlake acknowledged that he “failed” Jackson and “benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”)
In addition to media experts, the documentary features Jackson’s brother Tito Jackson and her nephews TJ and Taj. “I don’t know if blacklist is the word they tried to do to my sister,” Tito says in Malfunction, “but it sure seemed like they were trying to diminish her career, and her ability.”
“We all knew as a family, we knew that they were, in some way, sabotaging Auntie Janet. ... Her career suffered because of someone whose ego was hurt,” Taj says.
On Nov. 21, Taj continued the conversation on Twitter, responding to a resurfaced 2007 interview clip in which his aunt faced repeated and clearly unwelcome questions about the notorious halftime issue on live TV. “I want everyone to watch this,” he wrote. “If you don’t think this is bullying and privilege at work, then you are part of the problem. The crap my family has had to endure makes my blood boil. I couldn’t even watch the whole thing.”
The video shows Jackson and Tyler Perry promoting the film Why Did I Get Married? in 2007. Instead of asking questions about the movie, though, CW31 host Mark S. Allen asks several questions regarding the Super Bowl scandal from three years before. “Janet, how often do you consider that you singlehandedly rocked the broadcast world? ... Millions of dollars have changed hands as a result of that single incident at the Super Bowl,” he says. Though Jackson doesn’t engage and Perry tries to pivot the conversation back to Why Did I Get Married? multiple times, Allen persists. “Is it just me, or is Janet wearing iron suspenders right now?”
The video had been shared on Nov. 20 by user TruLogic94, who called out Allen and his fellow anchors for putting Jackson “through HELL at that time! This was ignorant and disgusting, and all three of you knew it.” TruLogic94 also shared footage of Allen apologizing a week later, but described the remarks as “damage control.”
“I’m sorry for the relentless pursuit of the topic,” Allen says in the follow-up 2007 clip. “It was rude, and in fact, I was a jerk. ... Thanks for letting me know when I’m out of line.”
Jackson herself does not appear in Malfunction, but she does have her own documentary, simply titled Janet, that’s coming out in 2022.