Nipplegate at 10: A Flash — and a Flash in the Pan

Via: Tuned In

A confession: I watched the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 1, 2004, and I did not notice Janet Jackson’s nipple. I don’t remember why. Maybe I was looking down, typing notes on my laptop (this was a year before I started Tuned In, but I usually reviewed the Big Game-cast for TIME.com). Maybe I saw Justin Timberlake rip a patch from Jackson’s outfit, assumed she was wearing some type of sheer bodysuit, and thought nothing more of it. (I wouldn’t have HDTV for two more years.) Maybe I blinked. But not until chatter started popping up on blogs later—this was years before Twitter, three days before the founding of Facebook—did I go back to my TiVo recording, rewind, slow-mo, and—oh, yeah! There. I say all this not to excuse my own cluelessness, but to emphasize something that, 10 years after the world learned the phrase “wardrobe malfunction,” we tend to forget: it was really, really fast. It clocks in at 9/16 of a second. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of close-up stageside photos, slo-mo replays, enlargements scrutinized like the Zapruder film. It’s become pop-cultural legend. So people could be excused for remembering it, in hindsight, as if the camera zoomed in, Reliant Stadium fell silent, and Timberlake boomed: “Gaze upon this flesh, America! See what decades of moral permissiveness hath wrought! Behold your doom!” In truth, there was just not that much nipple. In the actual CBS broadcast (you can watch it right here) Timberlake and Jackson are shot from the middle distance. He rips; there’s a breast—is it covered? isn’t it?—and the presumably panicked director’s booth instantly cuts to a pyrotechnic explosion. If your eyes can discern, even on replay, Jackson’s sunburst-shaped “nipple shield,” much less the fraction of areola beneath it, you have have been eating your carrots, my friend. Over that, America went absolutely nuts. And—even though I later wrote a cover story for TIME about the ridiculously excessive reaction—it was not totally without cause. It was not so much about a nip

Read full story at: Tuned In

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