"He looks like he's about to cry me a river": Internet awash in memes after Justin Timberlake's DWI

The singer's recent arrest in the Hamptons has thrown his public image and past treatment of women in the spotlight

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published June 20, 2024 5:59PM (EDT)

Justin Timberlake performs onstage at the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards held at the Dolby Theatre on April 1, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty Images)
Justin Timberlake performs onstage at the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards held at the Dolby Theatre on April 1, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Michael Buckner/Billboard via Getty Images)

Justin Timberlake in the early morning hours on Tuesday was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in a wealthy Hamptons community in Long Island, New York, sparking a deluge of backlash online, largely in the form of memes related to the singer's music or past career indiscretions. 

The police report filed by Sag Harbor Village Police Officer Michael Arkinson at the time of the arrest determined that Timberlake's eyes were "bloodshot and glassy," and that "a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage was emanating from his breath."

"He was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot, and he performed poorly on all standardized field sobriety tests," the report added, per NBC. An anonymous source speaking to Page Six reportedly shared that the arresting officer was “so young that he didn’t even know who the pop star was.”

“He didn’t recognize him or his name,” the source told the outlet. 

Another Page Six source added, “Justin said under his breath, ‘This is going to ruin the tour.’ The cop replied, ‘What tour?’ Justin said, ‘The world tour.'”

After allegedly telling the officer that he'd only consumed one martini, Timberlake — who recently kicked off his "Forget Tomorrow" world tour and is slated to perform at Madison Square Garden on June 25 and 26 — was charged with driving while intoxicated and was held overnight before being taken to Sag Harbor Village Justice Court the following morning to be arraigned. The New York Times reported that he was released without bail. 

Timberlake's music career kicked off in the late '90s and early aughts — when he was a member of the hugely popular boy band, 'N SYNC — and continued after he splintered off from the group in 2002 as a solo artist. 

Social media was quick to jest about the "Sexyback" singer's arrest. “Sir I’m gonna need you to step out of the vehicle and walk in a straight line," wrote one X/Twitter user above a video of Timberlake dancing frenetically onstage. The post has been viewed more than 6 million times. 

“Now bring sexy forward, in a straight line," tweeted another user in response to the clip.

"I heard that when he asked when the trial would be he was told, 'It’s going to be May,'" wrote one Instagram user under a post of Timberlake's mugshot, alluding to 'N SYNC's hit 2000 song, "It's Gonna Be Me."

"Honest to God, if Justin Timberlake had said to me 'This is going to ruin the world tour' to me, I would have asked 'The Trolls World Tour'?" one X/Twitter user wrote, referencing Timberlake's role in the film franchise by playing Branch in 2016 animated children's movie, for which he also contributed the song "Can't Stop the Feeling!" to the soundtrack.

The incident also marks the latest in a series of publicly scrutinized career missteps that have marred the pop star's image, namely, those including singers Britney Spears and Janet Jackson. Timberlake has faced criticism for his treatment of singer Britney Spears, who he dated in the early 2000s. In Spears' 2023 memoir, "The Woman In Me," she revealed that she had an abortion when she was 18 because Timberlake "wasn't ready to be a father," calling the experience "agonizing."

"Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy,” she wrote. “He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young." 

“I wanna apologize for some of the things I wrote about in my book. If I offended any of the people I genuinely care about I am deeply sorry,” Spears had later posted on social media. "I also wanted to say I am in love with Justin Timberlake's new song 'Selfish' it is soo good and how come every time I see Justin and Jimmy together I laugh so hard ??? PS 'Sanctified' is wow too," she added, referring to one of Timberlake's appearances on comedian Jimmy Fallon's "The Tonight Show."

Speaking to a New York City audience in February 2024, Timberlake seemed to respond to Spears' claims mere days after she apologized. “l'd like to take this opportunity to apologize — to absolutely f***ing nobody,” Timberlake said.

Following Timberlake's remarks, Spears scrubbed her apology from the internet and wrote, “Someone told me someone was talking s**t about me on the streets!!! Do you want to bring it to the court or will you go home crying to your mom like you did last time??? I’m not sorry!!!"

Per the NYT, Timberlake jested at Spears' prior virginity during "Saturday Night Live" and separately spoke openly about their sexual relationship. Following the then-young couple's breakup, Timberlake released "Cry Me A River," a revenge track about a cheating partner ostensibly aimed at Spears. The song's music video even featured a woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to her. 

Following the recent arrest, Spears seemed to indirectly comment on her ex's legal plight when she posted an image of a cocktail on the day he was arrested, captioning the post, “It’s the little things you know!!!”

Meanwhile, many of the memes are now pulling in Janet Jackson. This most likely is in reference to the 2004 Super Bowl Halftime Show, in which Timberlake reached across Jackson's chest and ripped off a section of her bustier to reveal her breast. The incident, known as "the wardrobe malfunction," spurred significant public outrage directed at Jackson — she subsequently lost her record label deal, movie deals, and sponsors, and was even barred from attending the Grammys. In contrast, Timberlake's career took off. 

In an Instagram post shared in 2021, Timberlake acknowledged that he owed both women an apology and could have better defended them from slander. “I am deeply sorry for the times in my life where my actions contributed to the problem, where I spoke out of turn, or did not speak up for what was right,” he wrote in the post, which is no longer available. “I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson.”

In addition to sarcastic and humorous memes, Timberlake's DWI has also generated online discourse about his prior treatment of women. 

"Anxiously awaiting Justin Timberlake to release a statement somehow blaming Britney for his recent DUI," wrote one used on X/Twitter.

Former economics and finance editor at The Guardian, Heidi N. Moore, argued on X/Twitter that "'hating Justin Timberlake' brings so many people together."

"People who love Janet Jackson. People who love Britney Spears. Millennials who resented the bodyshaming of Jessica Simpson. Who else am I missing; what other women did he screw over?"

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Aggregate Britney Spears Dwi Hamptons Janet Jackson Justin Timberlake Memes