Justin Timberlake called out for ‘s****y behaviour’ after release of new Janet Jackson documentary

Singer has come under fresh criticism in recent years for his behaviour towards Jackson and Britney Spears

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 20 November 2021 12:45
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Justin Timberlake is coming under renewed scrutiny following the release of a new documentary about his Super Bowl performance with Janet Jackson.

Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson focuses on the notorious incident in 2004, where Timberlake ripped away part of Jackson’s costume and temporarily exposed her breast. It premiered last night (19 November) on US channel FX, and was produced by the New York Times.

While both musicians apologised at the time, the fallout from the Super Bowl led to the stalling of Jackson’s career – from which she never fully recovered – while Timberlake was able to continue unscathed. He was allowed to perform at the Grammys, where he won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, while Jackson was barred.

Justin Timberlake – the man who pulled open Jackson’s costume and feigned ignorance in the aftermath – fled the scene, career intact,” Adam White observed in The Independent, in an article about the documentary. “Jackson, her breast identified as a valuable distraction from the fledgling Iraq war, was ruined.”

“Between Britney and Janet, Justin once skated through controversies that had grievous PR effects on the women around him,” an article in Slate said. “Fortified by his undeniable musical talent – and make no mistake, he is one of the greatest performers of recent history – Timberlake’s boy-next-door identity endured for decades, even in the face of evidence that contradicted it.

“The new reckoning around him feels like a cultural exorcism, a chance to use the boy band vessel to purge ourselves of the evils he now represents to many.... Timberlake has become the perfect emblem of a bygone era that rewarded guys exactly like him—until it didn’t.”

A review in The Daily Beast said the documentary “torches” Timberlake’s “s****y behaviour” and compared it to Framing Britney Spears, which explored the way the pop star’s conservatorship battle and the way she was treated by the media during the height of her fame.

“Framing Britney Spears... portrayed how the Nsync breakout star used the media apparatus and our society’s default to misogyny to ruin Spears’ reputation and, in turn, elevate his career,” it said.

“He slut-shamed a person with whom he had sexual history and parlayed the points “scored” from being with her, a hot and famous woman who was rumoured to be a virgin, into both sympathy points after a breakup and cool-dude fistbumps for his conquest, all to help his rise in the industry. Meanwhile, we were beatboxing along to his idiot song like giddy accomplices.”

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The Independent has contacted Timberlake’s representative for comment.

Timberlake previously responded to the “reckoning” surrounding his behaviour following the release of Framing Britney Spears.

“I’ve seen the messages, tags, comments, and concerns and I want to respond. 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,” he said in an Instagram post earlier this year.

“I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others and benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism.”

“I also feel compelled to respond, in part, because everyone involved deserves better and most importantly because this is a larger conversation that I wholeheartedly want to be part of and grow from,” he continued.

“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 recognise 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.”

In the post he wrote, “I specifically want to apologise to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect those women and I know I failed.”

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