Janet Jackson dressed to look a lot like her androgynous brother. Her lordosis and Justin Timberlake’s mounting and thrusting dance moves. Scantily clothes backup dancers. I won’t even mention the words to the song. Whatever they were. Oh, and before and after the half time, men dressed in tightly fitting clothes grabbing each other’s assess and spitting everywhere.

Then suddenly a human female breast is exposed. The world pretty much came to an end at that moment. More than One half of a Million people bothered to complain to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) … their live were negatively affected by seeing the breast. OMG. And, as if charging one dollar per complaint, the FCC slaps the network with a 5.5 million dollar fine.

I remember the day quite well, My daughter, then 9 years old or something, and I were watching the game. During a commercial, I got an email (from, if you must know, famous commenter Ana) that was a bit long and required a longish reply. So I missed a big chunk of the halftime show.

Later that evening, Ana replied to my email and thew in a mention of the Half Time Show wardrobe malfunction. I had missed it and not heard about it. The next morning, I asked Julia … “So, did anything interesting, unusual, or unexpected occur during the half time show yesterday?”

“An, no, I don’t think so.”

“Nothing about a malfunction ofJanet Jackson’s wardrobe.”

“Oh, right, yea, breast got exposed but it was totally obvious that the whole thing was planned. Kinda stupid.”

“Oh, OK. Cool.”


(In case you missed it, the event is reproduced below in a YouTube video)

The point of all this is that a US Appeals court has thrown out the fine as Arbitrary and Capricious.

The network, producers MTV and Timberlake all apologised, insisting the move had not been intentional.

But the fine was imposed in September 2004 and was the largest ever handed to a US television broadcaster.

The FCC fined 20 CBS-owned TV stations the maximum penalty for indecency – $27,500 (£13,780) – each.

CBS appealed against the decision, however.

The court said the FCC had traditionally fined broadcasters for indecent material only when it amounted to “shock treatment” for viewers.

In this case, the footage – lasting “nine-sixteenths of a second” – was too brief to merit such a penalty, it added.

“The FCC cannot impose liability on CBS for the acts of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, independent contractors hired for the limited purposes of the half-time show,” wrote the chief judge on the panel, Anthony Scirica.

details here


  1. #1 JanieBelle
    July 21, 2008

    See, let’s even just flat out say that the whole thing was planned and went down exactly as planned.

    I’m still a little unclear on what was “indecent” about a bare human female breast.

    Could someone, anyone, explain that part to me in real small words?

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    July 21, 2008

    Well, Janie, you asked, so I’ll break it down:

    No thing.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 22, 2008

    Even though I have lusted after Janet in my heart, the amount of time that she was exposed was hardly enough to whet my appetite for a velvet rope. What a bunch of hoo-ha over nothing! I’m glad they threw it out, although I am sure that there will be hue and cry over liberal activist courts.

  4. #4 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 22, 2008

    Oh, and why was all the scorn heaped on Janet and nothing on Justin Timberlake?

  5. #5 JanieBelle
    July 22, 2008

    Thank you Steph. You’re always so helpful. 🙂

    That’s pretty much what I thought. And Mike raises an interesting point. Why is all the scorn on Janet? I wonder how that relates to attitudes about other things, like prostitution.

    Two (or more) consenting adults privately exchanging money for a service, wherein no one is hurt (except upon request of one or more of the aforementioned consenting adults), regarded by society at large as offensive, and one side of the equation scorned disproportionately, even in our language.

    Witness your own reaction to the following terms:


    I chose whore to describe the prostitute, but I could have chosen any one of a half-dozen or more terms, pretty much all of which are explicitly derisive.

    There don’t seem to be equivalently derogatory terms for the customer or the manager on the service provider end. Why is that? I suspect the reasons go back a ways and have the same roots in our culture as the reason for the lion’s share of the crap being heaped on Ms. Jackson (‘cuz I’m Nasty*).

    *joking reference to lyrics in one of her songs from a while back

  6. #6 yttrai
    July 22, 2008

    The fact there is still controversy over this astounds me. I was in a room with 4 couples, all with young children. When “the flash” happened, one of them was actively breastfeeding, and another had just finished. The toddlers barely even noticed the 2D breast but were actively being exposed to at 3D breast at that very moment.

    I wonder what sort of depraved behaviours we all demonstrate now, all these years later, as a result?


  7. #7 jim
    July 22, 2008

    I think if people didn’t make such a big deal out of it that they wouldn’t have done it. While I don’t think it was the place for the wardrobe malfunction; my first thought (and I missed it also, but big whoop) was those attention whores. Oh well, lets move on, no harm done. If they had done something violent then I would have objected.

  8. #8 Stephanie Z
    July 22, 2008

    While Jackson would probably have received the heaping share of the blame anyway, I suspect the piercing tilted things even further. ‘Cause, you know, that makes her freaky and female.

  9. #9 JanieBelle
    July 22, 2008

    The full decision, as a .pdf, can be read here.

  10. #10 llewelly
    July 22, 2008

    Oh, and why was all the scorn heaped on Janet and nothing on Justin Timberlake?

    Perhaps it shows that our culture accepts that males will grab at the décolletage – and that women will be blamed.

  11. #11 the real cmf
    July 22, 2008

    “I’m still a little unclear on what was “indecent” about a bare human female breast”
    um, you miss th point: it is Janet Jackson’s breast–double–no triple *yukkie.

    “why was all the scorn heaped on Janet and nothing on Justin Timberlake?”

    Because she is the main person profiteering from the exposure. She is the one who had ‘the power’. To give you an analogy: Kobe Bryant (with power AND penis) has some skanky gold digging head-fcucked trailer slattern accuse him of rape; the whole world knows she is lying (except for feminists and rapeology profiteers), and yet we all wait until the results are in ( the results we all know about fcucked women) that she had like, um, half a dozen or so other men mining her uterus that day of the alleged assault–but we all jus’ hated on Kobe, din’t we?

    And why has no one questioned the more subtle bit of scorn that the seconds long image has promulgated? Specifically that of reducing 1) men to the role of mere sexual assailants 2) reducing the entire white male, black female interaction into an act of sexual aggression?

    JanieBelle: I suspect that you might be indoctrinated by leftist archetypes and rap videos full of men that (admit it) you would poke if you could–men who deem themselves “pimps”.

    But i for one see nothiong glorious in the terms pimp or it’s cousins like ‘playa’, etc. I imagine one would have to be in the ranks of 12-26 yr old white suburbanites who worship blackness to find any of these terms appealing.
    Hmm…john= my dads name…
    whore = a name every good girl I ever knew struggled with and eventually embraced in some way
    pimp= see above…
    and madam? That is a term they use in France for Audrey Hepburn, and old fat white women(if the movies are to be believed).

    In the streets of today, they often call men(johns) and other vulnerable or stupid people “tricks” quite derisively; it means they are stupid enough to buy it and so they can be ‘tricked’ by feminine sexual advances into dark alley where the ‘trick’ can then be victimized by a violent ‘pimp’ who robs said ‘trick’.

    There is also a great expression from the black and Puerto Rican street culture of my youth that I remember every time a woman questions the ‘virtues’ of the word ‘pimp’: “no woman ever hit the street before her mama put her there, and no girl met a pimp could out-pimp her own mother.”

    In China they call men “piao ke” or “ticket paying customer” which is very derisive indeed–because ‘real men don’t pay for it’.

  12. #12 Stephanie Z
    July 22, 2008

    CMF, Timberlake profitted plenty by the exposure and the exposure. He was making a switch just then from being a boy-bander and Spears’ ex-boyfriend to the guy who would help write and sing “Dick in a Box.” Appearing with a Jackson also helped legitimize his status as the slightly darker Michael.

    And, dude, JanieBelle is not the sort of gal you want to make any assumptions about. Trust me.

  13. #13 the real cmf
    July 22, 2008

    Steph: re: JanieBelle…do I sense a slight bit of girl-bonding aisle hand holding going on here in your response regarding JB? i wasn’t making assumptions at all–jus’ sayin’. For all I know, she is the ten thousand pound fifteen year old feminist in the middle of the room, or an angle…so notice how I put JB in the power position to whit: “would POKE if you could…”
    re: JT-lake “a switch just then from being a boy-bander and Spears’ ex-boyfriend to the guy who would help write and sing “Dick in a Box.” ”
    Dic–k–in–a–bo-hawhawhaw…that video summed up the entire so-called R&B soul music scene forever.Well, except for Mary Blige and all those other closeted thinly veiled lesbians in that scene…
    BUt still, we rode Janet’s fake titties so hard because, well, she put them out there for exactly that, and more when she went all-fake-meat.

    But the phallus: that is a transient thing, and it don’t fit in no box I ever saw…;-)

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    July 22, 2008

    CMF, if you consider troll-hunting expeditions to be female bonding, I guess that works for me. Think of it more as a friendly heads-up that there’s another person hanging out who knows their way around the words and with whom you might have more in common than you think from just a comment or two.

  15. #15 JanieBelle
    July 22, 2008


    You’ve indeed made several assumptions. Each of them utterly erroneous. You might consider listening to the sound of someone else’s voice for a change.

  16. #16 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 22, 2008

    CMF – You know I have never thought much of you or your trolling idiocy. But, I really think it would be fun to see you talk to JanieBelle in real life the way that you do here.

  17. #17 Sven DiMilo
    July 22, 2008

    Lou FCD, this shit still creeps me out, man.

  18. #18 Beth
    July 23, 2008

    I was out of the room during the half-time show, reading or something. Afterwards, I asked my husband how it was. He shrugged, “Forgettable.” Turns out that he wasn’t paying that much attention and didn’t even notice The Boob, but even then, he probably would have found the incident forgettable. It was silly to make all that fuss over something my little ones could see every day (minus the jewelry, ow).

  19. #19 the real cmf
    July 23, 2008

    To all and sultry: you hunorless turd munching navel lickers.

    To Haubrich”FCD”( credentials are everything with Mikey): I have always felt that you are just a pedantic windbag with a less than readable blog,and no sense of humor. Worse, I have always read in your words the most fem-pandering blather imaginable–you are a relic–a castrati chiming in on the dullest notes of eighties feminism. An ass-kissing keep it all positive sort of troll in your own right. A true academican…

    JanieBelle: I have read your blog and enjoyed it–yes we are actually on the same page as that ever loving navel-lint picker Steph has suggested.

    Steph: I don’t think that I qualify as troll–considering I have been reading this blog since before you or yours was born–with that trepidacious, somewhat self doubting first post about…um…I forget now…

  20. #20 the real cmf
    July 23, 2008

    JB: *somewhat on the same page…

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2008

    OK, everybody, take a deep breath. Its not like we’re getting harassed by DrugMonkey or anything.

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2008

    CMF, if Janie and I have been hunting trolls together, don’t you think you would have noticed if I was talking about you? And really, I’m older than I look, even if my blog isn’t.

  23. #23 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    July 23, 2008

    CMF – I am glad to see we have mutual opinions of each other. Makes me feel better about myself.