Each year, a little more than a hundred million viewers tune in to see the NFL’s Super Bowl Halftime show, a celebration of an artist’s or artists’ music and performance ability.
Shakira, a Colombian singer, and Jennifer Lopez, an American actress and singer led this year’s show, but not without controversy over their allegedly “sexualized” performance.
Before investigating these claims, it is important to consider the platform the duo had. While less than Katy Perry’s 118.5 million viewer record in 2015, the duo drew 104.1 million viewers, with less viewers in the 18-48 and 25-54 age range according to Jeremy Carey, managing director of Optimum Sports in an NBC Business article.
Demographic viewing numbers are not available for under 18 year olds, but many parents allege that the “racy” nature of the show was inappropriate for their children to see.
“Racy” was defined partly as the artists wearing “skimpy outfits” that were tight, showed Shakira’s stomach, and clung to Lopez’s body. However, this criticism ignores outfits, or lack thereof, of past Super Bowls. In 2017, Lady Gaga wore a bodysuit on stage and in 2019, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 took off his shirt.
Those two artists did not face allegations of over-sexualization even though their actions were similar. Policing Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s bodies and fashion, when not done across the board to other artists, seems incredibly unjustified. Furthermore, Shakira’s outfit, like her outfits of the past, is meant to show her hips as one of her biggest dance moves is shaking her hips.
Beyond outfits, critics had a problem with the dance moves. To begin with Shakira, some members of the audience felt the hip shaking and more “seductive” dance moves to be appropriate. However, these critics ignore a critical aspect of Afro-Colombian dance, using and moving the body, especially the hips. Instead of standing straight and robotic, Afro-Colombian dance prioritizes using motion to create, and this doesn’t happen by standing still.
Furthermore, critics labeling the moves as “seductive” speak more to their own perverseness than the artists’. A Latina artist’s, and honestly any artists’, role is to create lively, exciting performances. The duo chose moves and performance aspects not because they wanted people to “thirst” or lust after them. People decide themselves whether those moves are sexual and can often over-sexualize moves that are more about the performance aspect than sexuality.
A more helpful approach is using this performance as a conversation starter about different cultural dances, different performance types, and respecting others’ bodily autonomy.
If adults want to protect their children from over-sexualized content, then they should consider recording and screening every halftime show and television programming, as it is highly likely that talented adults will move in a way that a parent or guardian seems “inappropriate”.