by D. Deino
Los Angeles, California
On January 30, 2004, Janet Jackson pulled one of the most shameless publicity stunts in television History during the Superbowl XXXVIII Halftime Show. Dressed like a desperate, aging diva, she lip-synched a couple of her older bubblegum hits and hoping to promote her upcoming album, Damita Jo, she invited Justin Timberlake onstage. Janet then began to simulate a rape scene in which Justin pulled of part of her wardrobe to reveal a sagging, pancake shaped breast. Janet didn’t have the guts to live up to her deplorable stunt, so she “apologized” on national television the next day. Still not able to take responsibility, Janet and her supporters have blamed Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, racism, and just about everything else to detract from what will be known as the beginning of the end to her career. She still has some supporters who say, “It was only a boob!” They claim the reaction to this event shows how prudish America is. What they don’t realize is that Janet Jackson hijacked a family oriented event and turned it into a talent-free strip show. If she had done this on MTV, HBO, or any other venue in which parents had the choice to have their children watch or not, this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.
Shock is nothing new in the music world. Just recently, Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera shared a passionate kiss on stage at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. Some people were turned on, while others were disgusted. Some didn’t understand why such a big deal was made out of a tenth of a second kiss in the first place. During the same evening, rap star Snoop Doggy Dog was carrying women on leashes. MTV is known to shock. Any parent who complained about their child seeing these “degrading” things can rightfully be asked why their kids were watching MTV in the first place.
Around the same time as what has become commonly known as Nipplegate, millions of Americans tuned in for the final episode of the rightfully critically acclaimed Sex In The City, which deals with the friendships, romances, and explicit sex lives of four professional women living in New York City. Since this show is on cable television, barely anybody has complained about it.
One of the brilliant things about Sex In The City is that this show has turned around sexual stereotypes. It’s a mystery why a show about sexually adventurous females, who are completely in control of their lives, has taken so long to become acceptable. Madonna bravely started the trend of the sexually expressive and in control woman in the late eighties in her music videos and live performances, but destroyed what she had built with the degrading Sex book. Unfortunately, Janet Jackson had tried to take her place. Once Madonna was declared “over with” (which was proven wrong with Madonna’s comeback album Ray of Light), Janet returned to the scene with oversexed songs, oversexed videos, and even posed on the cover of Rolling Stone with somebody grabbing her breasts. Janet had then taken over as America’s greatest sex symbol. Janet was declaring her sexual “freedom,” but it was more like sexual frustration: she replaced real singing with moaning; she danced like a horny high school cheerleader with talent-free, robotic dance moves; she released music that belonged on the bottom of a porno shop cereal box; and started to look 10 years older than her actual age. The same Janet Jackson that released the highly acclaimed Rhythm Nation in 1989 had indeed taken a wrong turn.
It is surprising that it took ten years for a well-deserved backlash against Janet Jackson to begin. When releasing her album Janet in 1993, critics were quite amused with the new sexually adventurous Janet Jackson. Judging from the instant multi-platinum status of the album, the general public was, as well. Despite the fact that Janet was teaching young impressionable children about oral sex, simulated masturbation, and three-ways, Janet was perfectly acceptable. Dismal album sales of her 1997 album release The Velvet Rope didn’t stop Janet from expressing, even exposing herself. During her concerts, she invited men up on stage, tied them up to a chair, and pretended to go down on them. Janet knew that if the public was going to use a female star as a target for our repressed sexuality, it would be Madonna. However, Madonna had wised up by then and realized that she didn’t need to exploit herself to sell records. Ray of Light, which dealt more with spirituality than sexuality, was one of the most successful albums of 1998 and proved that aging stars didn’t need to use sex as a weapon anymore. Too bad Janet didn’t learn.
Still claiming that she was “growing up and expressing her desires”, Janet released her next album, All For You, in 2001. Though the title single for the album was a hit, the other singles bombed. Janet toured to half empty venues later that year, while still repeating her routine of tying men up in chairs. Reviews for the tour were mixed, with most being negative. An HBO special, which aired in early 2002, barely garnered interest. To Janet’s credit, she was still considered a pop icon and mistakenly idolized by many in and out of the music industry. Soon, that would end.
In 2004, Janet finally got what she deserved. The backlash against her Superbowl stunt was intense, as even MTV refused to embrace the once idolized star. With disappointing album sales from Whitney Houston, Madonna, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion, many hoped that Janet Jackson, despite her lack of musical capabilities, would be the only lasting 90s star. Radio stations gave her single ‘Just a Little While’ a chance, but many programmers took the song off the air after the horrible response from listeners. Still not learning her lesson, a 50 year old looking Janet Jackson decided to pose nude on the cover of her album ‘Damita Jo’, which was released a couple months later to horrid reviews and sales. Janet was fired from many movie projects, including a well-publicized documentary on Lena Horne. She tried to reverse the backlash by appearing on ‘Saturday Night Live’. Both her musical and acting performances on the show received more critical bashing. Janet then filmed a “dance” video to her next flop single, ‘All Night Long’, which rehashed the same high school cheerleader dance moves that ruined many of her other videos. When that failed, Janet appeared at a New York City gay pride event and asked the crowd, “How many of you are bottoms?” Shocked to get no response, perhaps Janet didn’t realize that they gay community had moved on to far more talented divas such as Kylie Managua and Christina Aguilera. By the way things are going, we can expect Janet to play porn shops on her next tour. Even then, ticket sales would still be bad.
Janet’s supporters are correct: There is nothing wrong with a boob! After all, it is a part of the body! However, the big picture goes way beyond the fact that a sagging boob was exposed. Perhaps it would be easy to forgive Janet if her message was that the naked body is a beautiful, natural site. Instead, her message was that when you can’t sing, dance, or act, you need to resort to rape performance scenes in which a fellow singer violently rips off your clothes and says “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song.” in front of millions of impressionable children. Contrary to reports, Michael Jackson isn’t the real “Wacko Jacko.” Janet deserves that title more than ever.