Skip to main content

Why We Can’t Forgive Justin Timberlake (Even If Janet Does)

Janet Jackson. Image credit: Kathy Hutchins /

Janet Jackson is the latest female public figure to find the public reexamining the cultural sins against her. At the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004, while performing with Justin Timberlake, a piece of cloth was pulled off more than expected, and Jackson’s nipple was exposed for a second.

This infamous nip-slip took Janet Jackson from being one of the most acclaimed and popular pop artists of her time to being blacklisted and turned into a figure of ridicule.

In the two-night Lifetime and A&E documentary event Janet, in addition to discussing the impact of the fallout, she also took the time to defend Timberlake, who has often been criticized for doing little to help Jackson with the fallout as his own career blossomed at the time.

“Honestly, this whole thing was blown way out of proportion. And, of course, it was an accident that should not have happened, but everyone is looking for someone to blame and that’s got to stop,” she said in a message to fans (via PEOPLE). “Justin and I are very good friends, and we will always be very good friends.”

Jackson continued, “We spoke just a few days ago. He and I have moved on, and it’s time for everyone else to do the same.”

There was also a moment in the documentary when she spoke to her brother, Randy Jackson (and no, not the guy from American Idol), saying that she and Justin talked and he had asked if they should make a statement due to all the backlash coming at her. In response, she claims she said, “Listen, I don’t want any drama for you. They’re aiming all of this at me.’ So I said, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t say anything.'”

This is stark contrast to what she told Oprah in 2006, that she felt “all the emphasis was put on” her, and when asked if she felt like Timberlake had “left her hanging,” she replied, “To a certain degree, yeah.”

I’m sure Timberlake’s DMs are very toxic with both the stuff surrounding ex-girlfriend Britney Spears and this. Regardless of whether Janet said “I wouldn’t” or not, the reality is that he was a white man who left a Black woman to take on the brunt of a public onslaught.

It was disrespectful, combined with his cultural appropriation of Blackness (we remember the cornrows) and the fact he is a repeat offender of leaving women and Black artists in the dust.

Janet Jackson is a star, and I’m glad she has found peace with Timberlake. She might be able to forgive, but when Timberlake puts as much time and effort into helping uplift her as he spent ignoring, then we can talk.

Just like every white ally that claims to be standing up for people of color, but doesn’t do the work—we will start the conversation about forgiveness when the work is put in. Sorry, Justin, you are a stand-in for every other male Karen out there.

(via PEOPLE, image: Everett Collection /

 —The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.