PILLAI: Shakira, Lopez offered insight in their concert
Some viewers argued that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s hits were not current enough to be featured at the 2020 Super Bowl.
Some viewers claimed that the halftime show objectified women with its display of scant outfits and pole dancing. And some viewers were simply skeptical that these two powerhouse women could lead an entertaining act that would appeal to the masses. Not only did Lopez and Shakira smash expectations with their dazzling, eclectic performance, but they also provided insightful — and sometimes flawed — commentary on politics, race and gender.
In response to the NFL’s rejection of Colin Kaepernick, who protested police brutality and systemic racism by kneeling during the national anthem, celebrities including Cardi B and Rihanna declined offers to perform at the halftime show. Lopez and Shakira faced backlash for their decision to perform, since critics suggested that their act would detract from Kaepernick’s efforts and possibly excuse the NFL’s behavior.
The two singers saw this opportunity in a different light, using their platform to exhibit pride as the first Latinx performers at the helm of the halftime show and to protest the policies of President Donald J. Trump's administration.
Shakira paid tribute to her various musical influences with the Afro-Colombian and Soca-inspired “Waka Waka” as well as the addictive beat of her reggaeton hit “Chantaje” (I am that person who shamelessly requests that the DJ play this song at every dance I go to, and I have yet to regret that decision).
Shakira’s ululation on camera was a nod to her Lebanese heritage, proving that Latin identity is the convergence of multiple continents. On the other hand, Lopez referenced her upbringing in the Bronx with “Jenny from the Block” and wore a reversible coat displaying both the Puerto Rican and the United States flags.
The coat is not only a reminder that Puerto Rico is indeed part of the United States, but it also is a symbol of Puerto Ricans’ self-perception. This symbol illustrates Homi Bhabha’s third space theory, which has been used by artists and scholars to suggest that the Latinx community occupies a third space in between American and Latin-American identities without fully belonging to one or the other.
The Nuyorican Movement, which was founded by artists of Puerto Rican descent living in New York, often expanded upon the idea of the third space occupied by the Latinx community through writing, music and art. Lopez’s own production company is named Nuyorican Productions, so it is likely that this movement has directly impacted her fashion and music choices.
The two artists also used their time on national television to communicate a political message. As children dressed in white sang in orbs that looked like cages, viewers were reminded of the inhumane conditions that migrant children have had to endure at the southern border.
The reference to this issue, along with delayed disaster relief for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, suggests that Lopez and Shakira wanted to shed light on topics that the Trump administration has attempted to cover up.
Despite the groundbreaking nature of the halftime show, Lopez and Shakira failed to address the marginalization of subcommunities who identify as Latinx. Latin identity is far more fragmented than what the race and ethnicity checklist on applications indicates, and the same colorism that plagues the United States is prevalent in Latin America as well.
As women whose appearances conform to stereotypes of what Latinas “should” look like, the two artists were able to use their privileges to their advantage, not fully including groups who contributed to their work, such as Afro-Latinos, in their performance.
After all, many artists claim rhythms and musical sequences drawn from different cultures as their own, just as singer Rosalía did when accepting a Latin Grammy for her song “Con Altura.”
One central message that Lopez and Shakira got right was the concept of women’s empowerment. This theme was reflected throughout the show, since the gold-edged stage formed the circle-and-cross symbol used to represent females. Making her entrance atop a small replica of the Empire State Building, Lopez wanted to create the impression that “women (were) on top of the world,” as she stated in her interview on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."
Marked by the #MeToo movement and a presidential election that could have significant implications for women’s rights, this time in history offers the perfect stage for female artists to inspire women to speak their minds. By making their own political statements and crafting a show based on their life experiences, Lopez and Shakira shared their unique perspectives and encouraged other women to do the same.
Preanka Pillai is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in marketing and business analytics and information technology. Her column, "Unboxed," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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