From the Makers of Framing Britney Spears Comes The Rise and Fall of Janet Jackson

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Nine-sixteenths of a second is how long it took to turn Janet Jackson’s entire image upside down. She went from a global pop icon to one of the most disgraced women in America. Now, the creators of Framing Britney Spears, the documentary that sparked the #FreeBritney movement, are exploring Janet’s life.

The Rise and Fall of Janet Jackson is the latest instalment in the New York Times Presents documentary series, and the premise of it revolves around the fallout from the infamous Super Bowl halftime show, when Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed Jackson’s breast to the world for a few seconds. 

“To be quite honest, in the immediate aftermath in the release of our first film about Britney Spears, we thought some of the conversations online moved to Janet Jackson and we looked at ourselves, and said ‘yes, why not Janet Jackson?’,” Mary Robertson, the showrunner and executive producer of the documentary told POPSUGAR Australia.

The similarities between Janet and Britney’s life are alarming. The trajectory their lives took was due to sexist ideologies. But the difference between two is that while the latter experienced criticism since the start of her career, the former had everything come crashing down due to a “wardrobe malfunction” that occurred within a split second. 

The documentary series seeks to bare the truth of the incident which took place at the Super Bowl in 2004. But while the aim is to turn the narrative around, Mary and director Jodi Gomes knew it was important to revisit Janet’s stellar career before that moment. 

In true New York Times fashion, the documentary offers a wide range of perspectives to ensure fair and accurate reporting, something Mary said was crucial in the making of the film.

“We’re always striving to create works that are distinguished by their journalistic rigour and their complexity. I think it’s important for us to reach out to a wide range of sources to offer a broad range of perspectives. And critically, we need to include sources that can offer first-hand accounts,” Mary told us.

“So, this was certainly two guiding principles on our work on Janet Jackson. We wanted to make sure that we included a variety of perspectives and we wanted to absolutely do what we could to be as close to the people who are close to her, and the incidents and the culture that influenced her as we possibly could.”

But everything in the public eye comes with criticism, and documentaries on the rich and famous are not exempt. When Framing Britney Spears was released, many questioned just how ethical it was to explore the singer’s life without her approval. And with Janet having released her own series on Stan, The Rise and Fall of Janet Jackson may not be received favourably by fans of the star. 

While Janet chose not to take part in the New York Times‘ version, Mary just hopes the film starts a conversation on sexism within the industry.

“I think there’s a lot of room for a variety of accounts in any particular subject and we learned early in our filmmaking process that Janet was working on her own film and we welcomed the news. There’s space for more than one reappraisal and appraisal of her life and her career and the culture that surrounded and shaped her,” said Mary.

“Her film — which I have not watched all of yet but I’m really excited to do that — no doubt has qualities that ours does not and ours probably has qualities that hers does not. I just hope they both contribute to something fuller and more robust understanding of her and her time.”

What followed after Framing Britney Spears was worldwide outrage and, of course, the lengthy legal battle between Spears and her dad Jamie, which resulted in the end of the conservatorship that had the singer in a chokehold for most of her life. 

While Janet is free to speak about her experiences and isn’t embroiled in a feud with her family, Mary is still hopeful that the documentary will elicit an enormous amount of change.

“In this case, when it comes to Janet Jackson and the subject matter, I hope we’ve been able to provide context. I hope we’ve been able to help impart an understanding of the forces that were moving through our culture at the time of the incident and the decades leading up to it. I suppose that’s a long way of saying simply that I hope our film can contribute to an enhanced perspective.”

The Rise and Fall of Janet Jackson premieres on Wednesday, February 2 at 9.10pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.

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