Halftime Hullabaloo

"Scandalous" show stuns spectators

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AP Images

Zealous performers Shakira and J.Lo strike a pose during their Feb 2 Super Bowl halftime performance. The artists' exuberant dancing and skimpy costuming caused an uproar from viewers.

Admirers and adversaries alike bellow accolades and insults, hoping their ecstatic praise or indignant criticism will reach the ears of the stars they’ve come to watch. Supporters of the Chiefs or die-hard 49ers engaged in this rambunctious ritual during the game Sunday night, but the truly virulent clash emerged online after a particularly controversial halftime show. 

Firstly, the facts: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez performed an energetic song-and-dance medley for millions of viewers on live television on Feb 2. The show itself went off without a hitch; costumes changes were smooth, choreography was flawless, and the title artists appeared confident and enthusiastic. Yet an opinionated audience immediately took to Twitter to voice their displeasure. What was the cause of the uproar? Critics condemn the spectacle as raunchy, risque, and worst of all, not “family friendly”.

I understand some of the complaints, I really do. It must be hard to bond with children in a day and age where screentime dominates all; if little Jimmy is going to be glued to the TV anyway, I might as well join him and maybe make conversation over the foot-a-ball game that’s on. But come now, modern programming is not known for its virtue. Shock-and-awe is valued over substance, and violence, vulgarity, and sexual innuendo are commonplace even on the everyman’s daytime television. All manner of immoral material is available at the push of a button, and some even shows up unprompted. Obviously a responsible parent wishes to prevent offspring from viewing scantily-clad dancers gyrating on live television, but I can guarantee the darling kiddos have already been exposed to worse during their unsupervised web surfing, intentionally or otherwise.

Not one part of the halftime performance was surprising, and yet some folks, for some reason, were shocked to behold the in-character show, so here we are.”

Additionally, this self-righteous avenue of criticism is deeply shallow and reveals an obvious discrepancy within the realm of female expectation. Revealing costumes and hip-thrusting choreography presented by female artists causes a public outburst, but no such moral qualms were expressed after Adam Levine performed suggestive songs shirtless during last year’s Super Bowl halftime show. And while we’re here, let’s discuss another double standard. Male and female musicians are held up to wildly different archetypes. Every female pop star performance I’ve witnessed presents constant, fluid motion: the lead artist and her backups sing, dance, change costumes, execute gymnastic choreography across the stage, and interact with the audience. Impressive, no? On the other hand, I have never seen a male artist put equivalent effort into a stage performance. Perhaps a single garment is removed or added. Perhaps a few fancy footwork moves are displayed. Perhaps there is even another featured artist spotlighted. But most of the time, homeboy paces a five-foot circle, gestures vaguely with his hands, and breathes into the microphone. Can you imagine the outcry if Shakira and J.Lo had taken to the field in jeans and sang stationary for a quarter of an hour? Creating such an intricate show takes an incredible amount of effort and collaboration; give hardworking artists the appreciation they deserve.

Shakira and Lopez are grown women; they have the choice to present themselves however they wish. And honestly, the Sunday performance was absolutely on-brand for both artists. A performer whose most iconic song is called “Hips Don’t Lie” is not likely to sway onstage in demure and flowy raiment, and a star still riding the fame of her lead role in a film about sex workers wouldn’t perform a routine you’d expect from a children’s church choir. Shakira’s belly dancing is always a part of her choreography, and her outfit, though revealing, was a typical choice as well (in fact, the red two-piece ensemble she sported Sunday is the same clothing her character wore in the animated Disney film Zootopia, so jot that down). Similarly, J.Lo is one of the most popular and best selling entertainers in Vegas, where provocative pageantry is not only encouraged but expected. Not one part of the halftime performance was surprising, and yet some folks, for some reason, were shocked to behold the in-character show, so here we are.

Now, I’ve heard objections bashing Sunday’s performance in relation to the #MeToo movement. “Women can’t demand respect in the workplace and then go around acting like that!” Actually, they can. Fundamental human esteem and dignity should be given in every circumstance, even if you disagree with the entity’s personal choices. And a woman should not be forced to choose between success in her chosen field and baseline courtesy for her being. Plot twist, folks! This is not the first act of High School Musical: you can sing and play basketball and still expect respect. Stop equating a woman’s worth to the extent to which she fulfills your personal ideals of proper femininity.

So, in conclusion, Shakira and Jennfier Lopez produced a show you may or may not have liked, and that’s okay. You, as a freethinking audience member, can interpret a performance however you wish, but your criticisms should not devalue the effort of a production or strip artists of their inherent individual worth. If you don’t like halftime, turn off the TV. The power is in your hands.