How A Halftime Show Wardrobe Malfunction Changed The Internet

Feb 1, 2014
Originally published on February 1, 2014 6:45 pm

The online magazine Ozy covers people, places and trends on the horizon. Co-founder Carlos Watson joins All Things Considered regularly to tell us about the site's latest feature stories.

This week, Watson talks with host Arun Rath about Super Bowl ads targeting female viewers, how Janet Jackson's infamous halftime show wardrobe malfunction 10 years ago influenced social media. They also discuss a company with an interesting toilet design aimed at saving water.

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From NPR West, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath.

It's time now for The New and The Next.


RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. Each week, he joins us to talk about what's new and what's next. Welcome back, Carlos.

CARLOS WATSON: Arun, always good to be with you.

RATH: So big game tomorrow, of course, the Super Bowl. This week, Ozy examines some of the buzzy commercials and found that there are more that are catering to women this year.

WATSON: Well, you know, it's interesting. Now, nearly half the viewership of the Super Bowl are women, so it's been an interesting change in migration over the last 20 years. And yet, many of the ads that we've seen in the past have clearly still been geared towards men. But seems that things are changing. The group known as Axe Body Spray, that in the past was doing things that were a little more risque, are now running a documentary style video called "Make Love Not War."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Make love not war with new Axe Peace.

RATH: Yeah, that Axe commercial proves that they can be completely offensive without being sexist at all, which is an interesting trick. Let's hear a little bit of that mock PSA by Sarah McLachlan.


SARAH MCLACHLAN: Hi. I'm Sarah McLachlan. Will you help these misunderstood animals? Every day they're crying out for your help.

(Singing) Ooh, don't know why...

WATSON: That's an Audi ad. And last year, Audi got critiqued for running an ad that some people said glorified sexual assault at a high school prom. So...

RATH: Oh, this - the nerd kind of forcing the kiss on the prom queen.

WATSON: Correct. That one. So something very different and, again, signaling a wider change in recognition on the part of advertisers that they've got a big female and male audience that's watching.

RATH: OK. One more nut on the Super Bowl. Ozy reminded us that this week - I can't believe this - it's been 10 years since the wardrobe malfunction with Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.

WATSON: It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago. But there was a really interesting speech a couple of years ago by one of the co-founders of YouTube, who said that that event where Justin Timberlake seemed to rip off and expose part of the breast of Janet Jackson, not only did that turn out to produce the most searched term ever in Internet history at the time but, maybe more importantly, he said part of the inspiration for YouTube came from how popular that was and his recognition and his co-founder's recognition that many people wanted to be able to watch video again, over and over again on the Internet.

And in fact, that might be a bigger audience than the audience that sees the original on classic standard television.

RATH: Well, you know, we were joking a little bit about the halftime show kind of being like a multimillion-dollar bathroom break, which makes the natural transition to one more Ozy story. You have this piece about an interesting toilet that really could help save a lot of water.

WATSON: It's called SinkPositive. And a couple years ago, a young woman who was still in college at Wake Forest encountered an interesting kind of toilet that was a classic toilet underneath but on the top someone had put a true faucet. And the idea was that I wash my hands in the faucet, the water runs down, fills up the toilet, and that that's ultimately the water that's flushed. And it came out of a recognition that something like 30 percent of the wasted water in America, or about $5 billion worth of water, comes from us flushing clean water, which, when you think about, is kind of a little crazy.

So she said, why don't we flush dirty water? Makes a ton of sense. And while she thought originally people were going to get excited about it for environmental reasons, it turns out that some people like it also for space reasons. In crowded cities where you have small apartments, some people like the idea of combining their sink and the toilet in an environmentally friendly way.

RATH: Carlos Watson is the co-founder of the online magazine Ozy. You can explore all the stories we talked about at Carlos, thanks again.

WATSON: Arun, good to be with you. And go, Seahawks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.