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Speaking of Malfunctions...

So Justin Timberlake is apparently a member of polite society, what with showing up in a big-boy suit and acting all sober and apologetic so it wouldn't seem wildly inappropriate when he won his Grammys later. He's to be congratulated for compressing an entire decade's worth of Behind the Music-worthy, hubris-fueled-fuckup-and-redemption into a week.

However, why is he the one getting off so lightly in this whole bra-vesty? True, it wasn't his pierced nipple on national TV -- but you know, Janet Jackson didn't undress herself. She had help, and that so-called "wardrobe malfunction" wasn't a result of Janet velcro'ing the missing red lace cup to her bustier, but rather, it happened when Justin got a little grabby. We may have seen Janet Jackson's bare breast, but he is the one who bared it.

This has gone conveniently unremarked-upon all week. People have howled about Jackson's shameless exposure, but they're giving Timberlake a free pass on this one. That's ridiculous. It's also unsurprising: apparently, having breasts in America gives you the power to offend people, whereas ripping someone else's clothing to expose those breasts ... does not. The entire Superbowl halftime show was a tumescent testament to testosterone, from Nelly's prostate self-exam to Kid Rock's recitation of the traits he finds valuable in a woman (hint: sparkling conversational skills aren't mentioned) to every XY performer emphasizing lyrically that women + clothes = wrong. And then, some woman does end up losing her top, with help, and she's suddenly the symbol of everything that's wrong with MTV nation? If you actually listened to any of the performers' lyrics, you might be forgiven for thinking that her stripping at Timberlake's hands was actually the logical finish to the show.

Yet it's been a week and everyone's already resorted to the "She brought this on herself" defense. CBS is already on that train -- its Grammy spin is that Jackson refused to come to the show and apologize for the hundredth damn time, implying that if she had, maybe people would stop being so outraged. MTV is hardly going to point out the hypocritical contrast between everyone's relatively unquestioning acceptance of the show's lyrical subject matter and their hysterical outrage over the literal culmination of the lyrics. Instead, it's all about Justin making contrite while that brazen Janet Jackson and her breasts go into hiding. Because sure, Justin's already weathered his Behind the Music arc, but Janet's still a few humiliating lows and a commercial break away from redemption.


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