Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

It was a whole different world in 2004 when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson‘s nipple for a fraction of a second during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show in the “wardrobe malfunction” that shocked the nation. The incident took place a year before YouTube launched, two years before Twitter and six before Instagram made every screen grab, meme and nip slip an instant global sensation.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the roll-out of the first wave of popular consumer DVR’s by TiVo in 1999, it’s possible the whole thing might have blown over much faster and had a much less devastating impact on Jackson’s solo career. But of course, it didn’t, and Jackson’s career suffered immensely, while Timberlake appeared to skate away nearly scot-free, going on to a mega-Platinum film and music career. 

So, what if the same thing were to happen today? When every second of everyone’s lives is tweeted, ‘grammed, ‘chatted, ‘tubed and otherwise socialized instantly? Previously verboten four-letter words and sexually suggestive language, among other things, have creeped even further into prime time, via shows like You’re the Worst and Game of Thrones. Add in last year’s explicit Access Hollywood tape starring then-candidate Donald Trump, the avalanche of sexual assault and harassment charges against Harvey Weinstein, actors, politicians, studio heads and other execs — the blink-and-you’d-miss-it flash of skin during the annual NFL extravaganza suddenly seems like no big deal, right?

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