Shimmying across the Super Bowl stage last night, Adam Levine casually took his shirt off— which happened to look like a Target pillow — revealing his nipples. (He also revealed a tattooed torso, replete with a belly rocker that reads "California.") It's a cool move for a band frontman who wants to show off mid-performance. But the shirtless moment recalled the 2004 Super Bowl, which had different results.
In 2004, Janet Jackson not-so-casually had a portion of her top removed by Justin Timberlake, revealing a nipple covered by a star-shaped metal pasty. Jackson was forced to apologize, and, just last year, Huffington Post reported that Les Moonves subsequently tried to stymie Jackson's career over the incident. Then-chairman of the FCC Michael Powell called the mishap "a classless, crass and deplorable stunt."
Levine's now-viral topless moment made many wonder: What gives?
Jackson's performance and the fallout from it has become a source of scrutiny in recent years, as the Super Bowl becomes increasingly political. The biggest television event of the year, the show has tried and failed to stay apolitical, especially with Colin Kaepernick still unemployed. Maroon 5's performance this year was already controversial — but don't worry, Adam Levine said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that he wanted to "move on from [the controversy] and speak through the music." Unfortunately, 'twas not to be! Like it or not, in 2019, even the most anodyne of artists are now being held accountable for political complicity. Congratulations, Levine, you've leveled up.
His nipples are just the cherry (the nipple?) on top of a messy Super Bowl halftime history. Last year, Justin Timberlake returned to the Super Bowl stage, but Jackson was notably not by his side. (The right thing to do would have been to have Jackson return, too, as a form of apology.)
The nipple double standard — which is often a topic of discussion on Instagram, where only female nipples are censored — has officially reached the national stage. Levine is the first Super Bowl Halftime performer to take his shirt off since Jackson unwillingly did so in 2004, and he did so without reproach. Even former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe gave her opinion:
There's a chance that Levine's shirtlessness was an example of the double standard, a "screw you" to the censors who would have balked at the sight of a female nipple. Representation for Levine has yet to respond to Refinery29's request for comment, but maybe Levine had good intentions, here. After all, the conversation has started, although the FCC has yet to return Refinery29's request for comment as well. Maybe there's a future in which the Super Bowl has a line of women, all clad in sheer tops, nipples free and unafraid.
I'll leave you with this Clickhole headline: