The initial announcement sent ripples through the pop culture universe: The New York Times is developing a documentary on Janet Jackson's Super Bowl incident.
That's because the newspaper's documentary work for FX's The New York Times Presents series has been nothing short of spectacular. In particular, its two films on Britney Spears—Framing Britney Spears, released in February and Controlling Britney Spears, aired in September—are widely credited with jump-starting a public conversation which culminated in a judge ending the pop star's 13-year conservatorship just last week.
Those films had such impact, in part, because they pushed us all to reconsider how Spears was treated more than a decade ago by media outlets, standup comics, the music industry and even her friends and family in light of modern attitudes about misogyny and mental health.
But their new documentary, Malfunction: The Dressing Down of Janet Jackson, doesn't have quite the same impact—in part, because the film itself reveals a more complicated situation and fails to answer some basic questions.
Sorting through the Super Bowl controversy
It's centered on the massively explosive controversy kicked off when surprise guest Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson's costume during their performance at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004, briefly exposing one of her breasts.