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It’s been 15 years since Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, but Adam Levine’s strip show at this year’s game is renewing conversation about the original nipplegate and the disparity in how male and female nudity is perceived by the FCC and the public.
More than 50 people filed complaints with the FCC about the Maroon 5 frontman’s decision to take off his shirt during his halftime performance, according to documents obtained by The Hollywood Reporter on Friday. The backlash pales in comparison to what Jackson faced, and that’s precisely what most of the people who contacted the agency are upset about.
The FCC deputy chief for the consumer policy division Nancy Stevenson tells THR in a letter that the agency isn’t required to keep records of informal complaints for more than three years. So, all records of consumers who were unhappy about Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction have been purged. At the time, it was widely reported that more than half a million people complained to the FCC. The agency issued a $550,000 fine, but it was eventually thrown out following a legal battle that almost went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It was also widely noted that Jackson’s career took a hit and she was forced to apologize for the incident, while Timberlake emerged largely unscathed.
A decade and a half later, many people turned to Twitter to demand #JusticeForJanet, while others reached out to the FCC. Here’s a sampling of some of the complaints sent to the FCC following the big game, most of which demanded gender equality when it comes to nipple baring-related punishment. (Spelling and grammar errors have not been corrected. Read the full set of complaints below.)
Subject: Adam Levine’s Wardrobe Malfunction
Location: Boise, Idaho
Message: I want him banned, just like they did Janet.
Subject: Super bowl halftime show
Location: Lakewood, New York
Message: Adam Levine showed both his nipplesby taking his shirt completely off. NFL/CBS/Maroon 5 should be met with twice the consequences as those that faced consequences of the 2004 “wardrobe malfunction”
Subject: Gender Equality in Super Bowl Halftime Shows
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Message: In 2004, CBS was fined $550,000 for airing what has become known as the “Nipple Slip”. In 2019, CBS aired Adam Levine removing his shirt exposing both nipples. This must be dealt with in a similar manner, or the double standard must be made public.
Subject: Sexual simulation; Nipple exposure
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Message: I witnessed the exposure of nipples during the halftime show of the super bowl. My children were watching. If I wanted them exposed to the trash I would let them go hog wild on pornhub. Adam Levine and the NFL need to be punished for such indecency.
Subject: Superbowl Nipple, half naked, inappropriate
Location: Fremont, California
Message: Hi I am writing because I am upset about the half naked stripper on stage of the halftime show. That was unnecessary and out of line.
Subject: Indecent content
Location: Dallas, Texas
Message: Seeing Adam Levine’s nipples was repulsive. Also the fact that there hasn’t been an immediate backlash like the Janet Jackson incident is disturbing and sexist
Subject: Shirtless on Super Bowl
Location: Concord, California
Message: I had to see some tattooed guys nipples on TV with my family. It was not right. How come when a black woman does it it isn’t for the family but it’s okay if some tattooed white guy does it it’s okay? Janet Jackson should be issued a formal apology and Adam Levin should issue a formal apology for showing his nipples and horrible tattoo choices on live television.
Subject: Nipples at the Super Bowl
Location: Macedon, New York
Message: It is extremely distasteful for Adam Levine of Maroon 5 to display vestigial male nipples on live television where any child can see these evolutionary leftovers. If the FCC punished Janet Jackson for showing her functioning nipples in 2004, they must immediately fine Adam Levine for displaying his vestigial nipples. The fine should also be doubled as Levine displayed double the nipple.
Subject: Adam Levine’s nipples
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Message: I am insulted by the exposure of Adam Levine’s nipples during the Super Bowl half time show. Not because I am offended by the sight of another human’s nipples, but because of the hypocrisy that it did not spark an immediate apology from CBS. I thought we were trying to get past treating men and women differently in this country. CBS should immediately apologize and be fined.
The agency also received nearly two dozen complaints from parents who were angry that their children saw the trailer for Jordan Peele’s upcoming horror flick Us.
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