J-Lo and Shakira
Courtesy of Pepsi

With total Super Bowl viewership up 2% from last year, the game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs wasn’t the only thing that sparked controversy among Americans as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s halftime show also garnered significant attention. 

The show featured the artists performing in tight costumes while dancing with a considerable amount of body rolling, pole dancing, butt shaking and what many considered to be questionable camera angles. 

College students shared their opinions about the halftime show:

Question: What overall thoughts and opinions did you have about the Super Bowl halftime show?

“I thought it was really well done, but I felt it was overly sexualized. Having people on stage who were not white and for the main performers to both be Latina women added to the diversity and inclusion aspect of the show. The outfits were very expressive, and people and women should have the chance to wear anything, but I felt for a Super Bowl performance, there were moments that were too much for the time it was broadcast,” an 18-year-old male said.

“I thought it was a normal halftime show. They go over the top and that’s how they’re supposed to be. Anyone who isn’t aware of Hispanic culture could be culture-shocked by the performance but it’s very typical for the culture,” a 21-year-old female said.

“I loved it. It was fantastic to see proud Latinx representation, and I don’t think it was at all inappropriate. Shakira and J-Lo are both performers and DANCERS. They are proud of their bodies, their sexuality, and take zero s**t. Adam had his shirt off the entire time Maroon 5 performed last year, and no one cared. I’ve seen people calling this halftime show ‘perverse,’ and honestly, it makes me sad to see people hating confident women so much,” an 18-year-old female said.

“It was a bit more sexualized than I normally see, but if you want me to get up on a high perch and decry the destruction of American values and how we’ll all turn into animals in a few years, no that’s not going to happen. People are allowed to do what they want and it’s not in me to decide what’s appropriate,”  an 18-year-old male said.

I think it’s ridiculous that J-Lo and Shakira are receiving the backlash they are. Was the show ‘family-friendly?’ No. But, by that definition, neither was sweaty, topless Adam Levine last year nor many of the other halftime shows that have come before them. And I thought it was empowering. The women weren’t being used as sex symbols; they were choosing to take back the power and own their sexuality. The only reason their outfits were seen as ‘sexual’ is because society sexualizes the female body. If someone was made uncomfortable by the show, that is their own opinion. But rather than covering their kids’ eyes, parents should be teaching them how to properly and respectfully view others. Side note — they wouldn’t be receiving the same criticism if they were men or they were white,” a 20-year-old female said.

On another level, the performance also included what could be perceived as political statements in the form of flags and children in cages. These notions were confirmed by ‘J-Lo’ herself. 

Here are some responses regarding the political statements in the performance:

“Shakira and J-Lo are very talented, but overall it was uncomfortable to watch with family and I knew few of the songs, which lessened my enjoyment. I liked the political reference and the children’s choir but they seemed a little out of place in the performance,” a 20-year-old female said.

“It was great! After doing some research, I learned about the references they had to the Latino culture sprinkled throughout the performance … I didn’t notice it until I was told about it online, but [there were] the kids in the cages representing the separation of families at the border,” a 24-year-old male said.

“It was a concert — every song has a meaning behind it whether it’s good or bad,” a 19-year-old female said.

“I suppose I wasn’t considering it, though it’s also contingent on what you describe as ‘political.’ I mean, J-Lo showed up in a flag of Puerto Rico and Shakira is from Colombia, so seeing further Latina representation in important global stages is cool, does that count as a political reference? Some interpretations would say yes, others no,” an 18-year-old male said.

“The American flag along with another was onstage, so that could be political or just a fun way for J-Lo to show her pride for both countries,” an 18-year-old female said.

Broadcast Production and Sports Media student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Long Island, New York