If our children or our children’s children ever dig up a time capsule from the beginning of the new millennium, they will find that in February 2004, America collectively lost its damn mind. Here’s what they’ll see: Janet Jackson on a stage in the middle of Houston’s Reliant Stadium, wearing a leather kilt and bustier, surrounded by dancers in corsets and bikini tops and bowler hats and helmets, looking like a ragtag steampunk army of cabaret chorus girls and Highlander extras and BDSM enthusiasts. They’re grinding their hips, Janet is caressing her corseted torso and 71,000 Super Bowl spectators are screaming themselves hoarse for the beatboxing of a 23-year-old white boy. Justin Timberlake emerges from an elevated platform beneath the stage in too-big khakis and a too-big jacket and a brass band blasts him into “Rock Your Body,” a song from his first solo album. He and Janet are romping across the stage, pausing their cat-and-mouse game every so often to work her booty into his hips.
You know what happens next. Justin reaches over, grabs a corner of Janet’s right breast cup and gives it a hard tug. Her breast spills out. It’s way more than a handful, but a hand is the only thing Janet has available to cover it, so she clutches it with her left palm. The breast is on television for 9/16 of a second. The camera cuts wide. Fireworks explode from the stage. Cue the end of halftime. Cue the beginning of one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in America since the Salem witch trials.
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