“It’s such a big stage and such an important show… I’m trying to give you guys something with substance.”
Jennifer Lopez’s new documentary is here, and it’s shedding light on the behind-the-scenes process of creating her and Shakira’s iconic halftime show.
In case you need to remember, the two legends teamed up to perform on the football field at the Super Bowl in 2020.
As two Latin women — J.Lo is American and Puerto Rican, and Shakira is Colombian and Lebanese — her performance has entered the history books as the first time two Latin artists have teamed up to headline the coveted break.
And despite only running for six minutes each, the action-packed show garnered immense praise from fans across the world, with many viewers praising the women for presenting their Latino heritage so brilliantly.
However, in Jen’s new documentary, Half an hourwhich arrived on Netflix on June 14th, we found that there were several obstacles in the way before reaching the big stage.
First, we found that Jennifer was frustrated with the NFL for hiring two headliners and making them share the same amount of time any solo artist would get, rather than doubling it down and giving women extra time to shine.
Given that previous solo headliners such as Beyoncé and The Weeknd had more than 14 minutes to themselves, J.Lo was apparently hurt that she and Shakira – the first Latin artists to take the halftime stage together – should compromise on their performance. times, then labeling the whole thing as “the worst idea in the world”.
And now that the entire documentary has been released, it appears that J.Lo and the intermission organizers weren’t in agreement on the more political aspects of the performance either.
So if you’ve watched their performance, you’ll probably remember that Jennifer made a scathing statement when she was joined by her 11-year-old daughter Emme.
Surrounded by children sitting cross-legged inside glowing spherical “cages”, Emme – who was on stage sitting inside a cage-like structure – began singing a slow, emotional version of her mother’s track “Let’s Get Loud”.
The performance then picks up pace and little Emme leaves the cage to rejoin her mother, who emerges from the back of the stage wearing a feathered cape with the Puerto Rican flag on one side and the American flag on the other.
The mother-daughter duo ended the segment with an animated rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”.
Many came to the conclusion that the young artists within the glowing spheres were intended to be representatives of immigrant children held in crowded cages in US detention centers along the southern border.
At the time, J.Lo and Shakira were widely praised for embodying political symbolism and drawing attention to the devastating treatment of immigrants in the US.
However, it now appears that the NFL was actually very reluctant to include the moment, prompting J.Lo to react to the show’s organizers in a heated phone call, documented in Half an hour.
During rehearsals, Jen and a member of her team are discussing orders from NFL bosses regarding the use of the “cages”.
Visibly annoyed that the show’s organizers are trying to limit the number of “cages” on the football field, J.Lo calls NFL producer Ricky Kirshner to express his frustration directly.
“We’re here every day trying to make this work, and every day I turn around with someone giving me some negative energy about, ‘Oh, we can’t have this! We can’t have this!’” she begins.
“It’s such a big stage and it’s such an important show… and it’s been a nightmare since we started!” She adds.
On the other end of the line, Ricky is reluctant to sympathize with Jen’s concerns, causing her to become increasingly agitated.
“I’m trying to give you something with substance, not just us out there shaking our asses and belly dancing,” she says. “I want something real. I want something that makes a statement, that says we belong here and we have something to offer.”
Not long after the document was released, that particular line of dialogue was shared on Twitter, with several fans raising concerns about what J.Lo could be hinting at about the art of belly dancing.
For some context, belly dancing has been associated with Middle Eastern cultures, and is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt. From the early days of her career, Shakira became known for this dance style, using it to channel her father’s Lebanese-Syrian Arab roots.
So, away from the broader context of the scene – in which Jennifer is trying to fight for political symbolism in the show – fans interpreted the singer’s words as reductive of belly dancing and its meaning within other cultures.
“In the new documentary, JLO compared belly dancing to just shaking your butt,” wrote one Twitter user, who claimed that Jennifer hinted that “the type of dancing and what Shakira offered [to the performance] was not culturally relevant enough to be shown on stage.”
Others have even accused J.Lo of having an ethnocentric mindset, which describes a person who believes their own culture is superior to others.
“To say that belly dancing, a Middle Eastern culture, has no ‘substance’ is so ethnocentric and perhaps racist,” someone wrote.
Among the criticisms, some were quick to note that Jennifer wasn’t specifically referring to Shakira, noting that she really does include herself in the sentiment.
“When she says shake your ass she’s referring to herself, she didn’t say anything bad about shakira,” someone noted. “That’s why she said that together they had more to offer than just another Super Bowl show.”
However, others have disagreed with this line of thinking, suggesting that it is reductive of her to equate the art of belly dancing with just “butt-shaking.”
“Insinuating that belly dancing = shaking the ass is reductive,” someone said. “Aside from the skill required, making Middle Eastern art in the US, of all places, is huge and has substance.”
Although many people have come to Jennifer’s defense, noting that while the delivery of sentiment may have been misinterpreted, the broader context of the documentary is important to better understand her frustrations in the scene.
“Did you watch the documentary??” someone tweeted. “She was trying to fight to project the message of the cages full of kids to the nfl producer and saying they are more than just shaking their ass and belly dancing on screen, she had a message about human rights.”
“This is so out of context,” agreed another. “She was talking about how they were forcing her to take immigrants out of the show…”
Well, regardless of the debate, the women were able to successfully showcase their cultures – balancing the joy and complexity of their art, while also using their platform to point to real-world issues affecting US and Latino communities.
Jennifer did not speak up to clarify her comments, nor did Shakira respond to the backlash, but we will let you know if they do.