Set to air Nov. 19 on FX and Hulu, the film is part of series The New York Times Presents, which previously released Controlling Britney Spears. The documentary was directed by Jodi Gomes.
The film’s official synopsis notes, “In 2004, a culture war was brewing when the Super Bowl halftime show audience saw a white man expose a Black woman’s breast for 9/16ths of a second. A national furor ensued. ‘If the culture wars could have a 9/11, it’s Feb. 1, 2004,’ said one observer. The woman was Janet Jackson, and her career was never the same. The man was Justin Timberlake; his stardom only grew. The New York Times examines the racial and cultural currents that collided on the Super Bowl stage, and explores how the incident impacted one of the most successful pop musicians in history.”
Malfunction includes rare footage and interviews with several people who were at the controls that night in Houston, including N.F.L. and MTV executives. It also features new reporting by The Times, as well as insights from music industry insiders, cultural critics, and members of the Jackson family.
Following the airing of Framing Britney Spears, the documentary that preceded Controlling Britney Spears, in February, Timberlake issued a public apology to both Spears and Jackson.
“I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed,” Timberlake said. “The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position, I have to be vocal about this. Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”