What Happened at the Super Bowl Halftime Show?

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In the U.S., the Super Bowl is usually the most-watched televised event of the year. The massive audience that the event draws has turned the game into not just the most competitive annual slot for commercials and advertisements, but a moment when pop music’s biggest icons put on extravagant, unforgettable performances for tens of millions of viewers nationwide. The Super Bowl halftime show – which, as its name suggests, takes place between the Super Bowl’s second and third quarters – has proved a platform for legends ranging from Beyonce to Prince to deliver some of their most meaningful, sometimes controversial artistic statements. 

Last night, at the 54th Super Bowl, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira performed together during a halftime show that’s already resulted in at least one viral meme. The meme isn’t the only way that the J. Lo-Shakira performance affected the internet – social media debates about the meaning of the performers’ provocative dancing in the #MeToo era began within moments of the two hitting the stage. The duo’s performance has already left an indelible mark on pop culture – here’s everything that happened at J. Lo and Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show.

The tongue meme

At one point during the Super Bowl halftime show, Shakira looked directly into the camera, wiggled her tongue, and made a sound that, to many American viewers, sounded unusual. The moment quickly turned into a meme that mocked Shakira, in reaction to which other people noted that the sound Shakira made has an extensive historical background.

The sound Shakira made is known as zaghrouta. This Tunisian word describes a tongue motion similar to Shakira’s, the resulting sound, and the joy they symbolize. Shakira’s gesture resonated deeply with many Arab viewers, possibly due to Shakira’s partial Lebanese background. Shakira, like J. Lo, has become a prominent Latinx figure in the American pop landscape, but extensive media coverage of her Colombian roots has somewhat erased her Lebanese identity from the public eye, and she may have made the zaghrouta sound to remind viewers of her full background.

The online debate

Although J. Lo and Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show included a children’s choir and J. Lo’s own 11-year-old daughter, many people thought the pop stars’ performance was very provocative. Online, this interpretation led to debates about whether the Super Bowl halftime show was objectifying its two women performers in an inappropriate, pre-#MeToo way or sending a message of empowerment by having two women of color older than 40 dancing so provocatively. So far, Twitter has leaned in the direction of the latter sentiment, especially following endorsements from Lady Gaga (who headlined the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show) and Kim Kardashian.

The political statement (and another tribute)

J. Lo and Shakira are both Latinx artists who wear their heritage boldly and proudly. Given their background, the children in cages on the duo’s stage weren’t just decorative – they were a subtle but direct lambasting of the Trump administration’s treatment of children detained while attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico. Although the artists’ political statement wasn’t necessarily overt, many Twitter users were quick to point it out and praise it. Most prominently, Twitter users praised the performance of J. Lo’s “Let’s Get Loud” while the children in cages were visible. This timing, users argued, implied that the treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border is an issue that remains worth shouting about.

Even more subtly during “Let’s Get Loud,” the lighting briefly changed to gold and purple, which are the colors of the Los Angeles Lakers. Some people have interpreted this moment as a tribute to the recently deceased Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, for whom an explicit tribute was held earlier in the Super Bowl.

What did you think of the Super Bowl halftime show? Sound off in the comments!

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