Jennifer Lopez’s documentary, Halftime, is now streaming on Netflix, have you watched it yet? I’ve only watched it once so far and I’ll probably be going back for another go tonight, but my first priority the last few days was to see how the Shakira situation would be presented in context. Because the headlines after the premiere at the Tribeca Festival last week made it sound like JLo was all about ego and didn’t want to share the stage with another woman. If you’ve seen the film, that’s not exactly the way it goes down.
JLo and Shakira were co-headliners at the Super Bowl in 2020. The year before, in 2019, the headlining act was Maroon 5. They had special guests (like Travis Scott and Big Boi) but they, the band, were the headliners. In 2018, the headliner was Justin Timberlake who did not opt to have any big-name guests joining him. Before Justin it was Lady Gaga, the sole headliner who also did not have any big-name guests. So JLo’s point is that in the years preceding her Super Bowl halftime show, there was always just ONE headliner and it was up to that headliner if they wanted to ask others to be on that stage with them. As her manager Benny Medina said, “It was an insult to say you needed two Latinas to do the job that one artist historically has done.”
This is the actual context of that quote that’s been shared and debated over, when she said that having both she and Shakira headlining was “the worst idea in the world”. It wasn’t about woman-on-woman hate, it was about why, when there was a precedent for there typically to be only ONE headliner, that one Latinx woman wouldn’t have been enough.
But because they went ahead with two female Latinx co-headliners, the next issue became about time. The halftime performance is usually just over 12 minutes long because of all the staging and logistics that have to happen. One headliner means that act can try to fit as many of their hits as possible in the show, but two headliners essentially reduces each of these women to only six minutes for their music. For JLo, since this is her movie, that was her challenge – how does she pack in all of those hits into just six minutes?
More context: even though JLo was initially disappointed about the NFL’s decision, she’s shown on the phone with Shakira talking about how they’re going to time out their performance. She is very clear with Shakira that she thinks they should both get EQUAL amount of time, divide it in half. She also tells Shakira that, really, since there are two of them, they should have been given 20 minutes total of performance time so that they can fairly represent their music. Later on, she’s shown in rehearsal with Shakira and the two are collaborative and professional and there’s nothing to suggest that there’s any drama between them. At the end of their Super Bowl performance, they hug, they are ecstatic, so all this hype about how JLO was the diva, at least from my viewing of the documentary, is way off base.
But it does actually prove one of the points she makes in the documentary – which is that people have made assumptions about her, have fed into one storyline about her behaviour and attitude so that they don’t have to credit her for her tenacity and work ethic. We also in Halftime are asked to revisit how the culture made her a punchline, and how the media racialised her for years without having to answer for it. She plays racist clips from television shows like South Park that made fun of her Latin background, she shows clips from Conan O’Brien mocking her relationship with Ben Affleck by bringing out a guy who looked like him and a woman dressed as a cleaning lady. There’s a headline that flashes across the screen admonishing Ben for their broken engagement, reminding him that this is what happens when you fall in love with “the help”.
It’s disgusting but at the time, remember, it was not an issue. Nobody was cancelled for it. Nobody was called out for it. But she had to eat that sh-t and even though she’s the seemingly all-powerful JLo, who bounces back from everything, who doesn’t let anything stick to her, obviously she’s internalised it. Obviously it hurt.
These are just a few of the multiple examples of racism and sexism that she experienced that are included in the film, and it’s not unlike how Reframing Britney Spears revisited the media and the public’s treatment of Britney in the 2000s. And, sure, yes, JLo isn’t trapped in a conservatorship and is quite in control of her life and has never given anyone the impression that she needs saving but it doesn’t mean we should minimise these harms. Especially since, ironically, the same kind of sh-t has just happened in response to this film in which she lays out just some of the grossness that was aimed at her only to be met with all that inaccurate reporting over the last few days misrepresenting the situation with Shakira.
I have more thoughts, obviously, about Halftime and I’ll include them in subsequent posts either later today or maybe later this week when more of you have a chance to watch it but this is a good place to start when assessing Halftime because, as always where celebrity is concerned, the way we engage with the stars is a reflection of the overall culture, and the culture definitely did JLo dirty.
Attached - JLo arriving at a studio yesterday in LA.