The last few years have seen a persistent—and welcome—re-evaluation of the way the media and the wider world treated the female pop stars of the 1990s and 2000s. (I.e., the realization that pretty much every aspect of said treatment was shot through with misogyny on a frankly staggering number of levels.)
Now—on what is also, coincidentally or not, the same date as the end of one of the enduring symbols of that period, the conservatorship of Britney Spears—FX has released a trailer for a new documentary tackling another milestone in our collective crappy cultural treatment of women superstars: Malfunction: The Dressing Down Of Janet Jackson.
In case the title didn’t somehow give it away, the New York Times-produced doc is centered on the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, during which Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s costume, briefly exposing her body to cameras—an event for which the vast majority of blame, outrage, and general nation-wide freaking out was somehow assigned to Jackson.
And while the documentary talking heads might be going a bit overboard by describing the “wardrobe malfunction” as “the 9/11 of the culture wars,” that second or so of footage has undeniably been hugely influential on the world that followed. (This is where we note the standard anecdote that the foundation of YouTube was at least partially inspired by co-founder Jawed Kawim’s inability to find an online copy of the clip.)
Malfunction is being directed by Jodi Gomes, who previously filmed Jackson’s brothers Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, and Tito for A&E’s docuseries The Jacksons, which aired six months after Michael Jackson’s death. Her most recent film was One Child Left Behind, a documentary about the Atlanta Public Schools testing scandal from the late 2000s.
It doesn’t look, from the trailer, like either Timberlake or Janet Jackson were involved in the production of Malfunction, although a press release does note that it features “new reporting” from The Times, which also produced both Framing Britney Spears, and follow-up Controlling Britney Spears.
Malfunction debuts on November 19 on FX.