“It’s such a big stage, and it’s such an important show… I’m trying to give you 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 reminding, the two legends came together to perform on the football field at the Super Bowl in 2020.
The two Latina women — J.Lo is American and Puerto Rican, and Shakira is Colombian and Lebanese — their performance forged itself into the history books as the first time that two Latinx artists have teamed up to headline the coveted halftime slot.
And despite only having six minutes of performance time each, the action-packed show garnered immense praise from fans across the globe, with many viewers commending the women for platforming their Latin heritage so brilliantly.
However, in Jen’s brand-new documentary, halftimewhich hit Netflix on June 14, we discover that there were a number of bumps in the road before making it onto the big stage.
Firstly, we learned that Jennifer was frustrated with the NFL for booking two headliners and making them share the same amount of time that any solo performer would receive, as opposed to doubling it and the women extra time to shine.
Given that previous solo headliners like Beyoncé and The Weeknd have been allotted upwards of 14 minutes to themselves, J.Lo was seemingly hurt that she and Shakira — the first Latinx artists to take to the halftime stage together — would be expected to compromise their performance times, later branding the whole thing “the worst idea in the world.”
And now that the entire documentary has been released, it seems that J.Lo and the halftime organizers weren’t quite seeing eye to eye about the more political aspects of the performance either.
So, if you’ve watched their performance, you’ll probably recall that Jennifer made a pointed statement when she was joined by her then-11-year-old daughter, Emme.
Surrounded by children sitting cross-legged inside glowing spherical “cages,” Emme — who was onstage seated inside a similar cage-like structure — began singing a slow and emotional rendition of her mom’s track “Let’s Get Loud.”
The performance then picks up tempo and little Emme steps out of the cage to be reunited with her mom, who emerges from the back of the stage wearing a feather cape with the Puerto Rican flag on one side and the American flag on the other.
The mother-daughter duo then ended the segment with a lively rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”
Many came to the conclusion that the young performers inside the glowing spheres were intended to be representative of the immigrant children being held in crowded cages at US detention centers along the southern border.
At the time, J.Lo and Shakira were both widely praised for incorporating 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 push back at the show’s organizers in a heated phone call, which is documented in halftime.
During rehearsals, Jen and a member of her team are discussing orders from the NFL bosses regarding the use of the “cages.”
Visibly annoyed that the show organizers are attempting to limit the number of “cages” on the football field, J.Lo calls NFL producer Ricky Kirshner to express her frustration directly.
“We’re here every day trying to make this work, and every day I turn around with somebody giving me some negative energy about, ‘Oh, we can’t have this! We can’t have that!’” 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 phone, Ricky is reluctant to empathize with Jen’s concerns, prompting her to get increasingly more agitated.
“I’m trying to give you something with substance, not just us out there shaking our fucking asses and fucking belly dancing,” she says. “I want something real. I want something that’s gonna make a statement, that’s gonna say we belong here and we have something to offer.”
Not long after the doc was released, this particular line of dialogue was shared across Twitter, with a number of fans raising concerns about what J.Lo might have been insinuating about the art of belly dancing.
For some context, belly dancing has long been associated with Middle Eastern cultures, and is thought to have first arisen in Ancient Egypt. From the earliest days of her career, Shakira has become known for this style of dance, using it to channel her father’s Lebanese-Syrian Arab roots.
So, away from the wider context of the scene — in which Jennifer cultures is attempting to fight for the symbolism in the show — political fans interpreted the singer’s words to be reductive of belly dancing and its significance within other cultures.
“In new documentary, JLO compared belly dancing to just shaking the ass,” wrote one Twitter user, who went on to claim that Jennifer hinted that the “type of dance and what Shakira offered [to the performance] wasn’t culturally relevant enough to be shown on stage.”
Others even accused J.Lo of having an ethnocentric mindset, which a person who believes their own culture describes to be superior to those of others.
“To say that belly dancing, a Middle Eastern culture, has no ‘substance’ is so so ethnocentric and, perhaps, racist,” someone wrote.
Among the criticisms, some were quick to note that Jennifer wasn’t referring specifically to Shakira, highlighting that she actually includes herself in the sentiment.
“When she says shake her ass she refers 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 took issue with this line of thought, suggesting that it’s reductive of her to equate the art of belly dancing with just “shaking ass.”
“To imply that belly dancing = ass shaking, is reductive,” someone said. “Aside from the skill it takes, performing middle eastern art in the US, of all places, is massive and has substance.”
Although of people came to Jennifer’s defense, highlighting that, while the delivery of the sentiment may have been mishandled, the wider context of the documentary is important to better understand her plenty of frustrations in the scene.
“Did you watch the documentary??” someone tweeted. Ela She was trying to fight to project the message of the cages filled with children to the nfl producer and saying they’re more than just shaking their asses and belly dancing on screen, ela she had a message about human rights.”
“This is so taken out of context,” agreed another. “She was talking about how they were forcing her to take the immigrants bit out of the show…”
Well, regardless of the debate, the women were able to successfully showcase their cultures — balancing the joy and intricacy of their art, while also using their platform to point toward real-world issues affecting US communities and Latinx people.
Jennifer hasn’t spoken out to clarify her comments, nor has Shakira responded to the backlash, but we’ll let you know if they do.