Super Bowl Halftime Show receives unwarranted, sexist controversy


Jacqueline Barba

J.Lo and Shakira’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was one of the best we’ve seen in years.

More popular than the game itself, the 2020 halftime show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira sparked major controversy among viewers about whether their dance moves and outfits were appropriate and kid-friendly. The fact is that this controversy is yet another example of how harshly we judge women for embracing their sexuality and how we doubly judge Latinas on an unfair scale.

Reactions to the halftime show were mixed, with some saying it was one of the best to date but others arguing that it should have come with a parental warning. The New York Post called the performance “too sexy,” citing Twitter users who took to social media to share their horror over “the worst, most vulgar halftime show ever.”

Meanwhile, Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, saw the show as indicative of America’s moral indecency.

“I don’t expect the world to act like the church, but our country has had a sense of moral decency on prime time TV in order to protect our children,” he posted. “We see that disappearing before our eyes. It was demonstrated in tonight’s @Pepsi #SuperBowl Halftime Show – w/millions of kids watching.”

The main problems that people seemed to cite were J.Lo and Shakira’s costumes, dancing and the presence of two key items — a stripper pole and a “Cuban flag.” Watchers felt that Shakira and JLo were too scantily clad for national TV, turning the treasured halftime performance into some sort of sex show.

Here’s the problem with that argument — Adam Levine wasn’t wearing a shirt during his halftime show performance last year, and no one argued that he was morally indecent and scarring American children.

Double standards aren’t new to the halftime show. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl XXXVIII performance in 2004 went down in infamy, called “Nipplegate” because Timberlake ripped off Jackson’s breast plate, exposing her nipple. In the aftermath, Jackson’s singles and music videos were blacklisted on a variety of platforms while Timberlake walked away with no repercussions.

And he’s the one who actually exposed her.

As for the dancing, absolutely no dance moves that Shakira and J.Lo performed were anything less than exemplary of their skills as dancers. Both are well-known for their dancing talent, and the halftime show simply highlighted that. Take some time to watch the music videos of the songs they sang — the dance moves are the same.

Shakira’s hips didn’t lie 15 years ago and they didn’t lie at the Superbowl either.

In fact their prowess for dance is what elevated their performance from others, drawing a stark contrast to Coldplay’s (at best) excited jumping during the 2018 halftime show.

The stripper pole (which technically wasn’t a stripper pole because J.Lo didn’t strip) was nothing more than a prop to show the skills she learned while filming the movie “Hustlers.” Mind you, those moves take not only a lot of practice but physical strength and skill.

The fact that 43-year-old Shakira and 50-year-old J.Lo can pull off those moves at their respective ages as well as they could when they first stepped onto the music scene should be cause for respect, but yet again, they were subjected to unnecessary criticism instead. The discomfort over their dance moves and the stripper pole specifically seems to stem from a discomfort with women embracing their sexuality.

Status quo states that women can be sexual if it satisfies a man’s fantasy, but when women take over their own sexual desires, it’s suddenly immoral. Hence the discomfort with J.Lo’s use of a pole during her performance but the celebration by men everywhere of strip clubs.

During a performance of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A,” J.Lo dueted with her daughter Emme, J.Lo wore a feather cape that had the American flag on one side, and the Puerto Rican flag on the other. Confused Twitter users who were up in arms over the “Cuban flag” that J.Lo wore during America’s prized halftime show were actually just ignorant to the flag of one of the U.S’s territories and J.Lo’s country of origin.

Noone was stealing from America’s spotlight, least of all Puerto Rico, who we continue to forget is our own territory. Especially when they need aid.

To sum up, the Super Bowl LIV halftime show is to date, one of the most well-choreographed, well performed and representative of Latin culture that we’ve ever seen. This was the first time a Latin artist had ever headlined the halftime show and the fact that it included not only Shakira and J.Lo, but Latin performers J Balvin and Bad Bunny who represent a whole new generation of Latin music, was monumental and special.

For the first time, Latinos like myself saw their artists, their music, and their dance styles represented in one of America’s most well-known performances. For one of the first times, the national consciousness was reminded that Latinos are American’s- that we too are a part of the diversity of this nation.

That this historic moment was instead marred by petty and unfounded criticism was not only heartbreaking but representative of how behind we are in accepting women’s sexuality for their own pleasure, as well as Latinos into our traditionally American spaces.

Todavía tenemos trabajo que hacer.

We still have work to do.