The Superbowl halftime show should be seen as a celebration of culture

Ebun Kalejaiye, Staff Writer

The Superbowl Halftime show with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) has been widely accepted by the American public as a sexualization of women and inappropriate for children. However, the question must be asked, “For what children was it inappropriate?” and “In what way was it an explicit sexualization of women?” To the Latinx community, including Latinx students at Westmont, the show beautifully celebrated and represented their culture.

According to Westmont student Amarilis Falconi-Kroeker, who identifies herself as biracial (half Ecuadorian and half white), the performance represented a side of her that isn’t normally seen on such a large national stage. “I recognize the cultural things and that was a cool thing,” she commented; the songs, dances, and outfits were reminiscent of her childhood. Falconi-Kroeker continues by highlighting a part of the performance that many tend to overlook — the children in cages, alluding to the issue at the US-Mexico border. “The message with the kids was very interesting and very thought provoking,” but we have seen that the American public would rather focus on what Shakira and J-Lo wore rather than the people they wanted to represent. 

One of those people is Mexican-American Chicana Jessica Aragón, who leads Westmont’s Latinx Student Union. Originally Aragón was conflicted about watching the show because of the NFL’s history of racism and sexism. But after watching the performance all she could say was that “[t]he talent, the beauty, and the pride was unreal” and that “everything about the performance was f—— bada– and that’s undeniable.” The joy she felt at being represented was in stark contrast to the expected disappointment she felt after seeing the public reaction.

Aragón labels the “outcry from the ‘appalled American audience’ as racist, invalid, and quite frankly, jealous.” She explains that the complaints about the dances and the outfits worn by Shakira and J-Lo are not warranted because none of it was a deviation from the norm. Plenty of Americans have paid to see the two singers in action. She explains that they “did not perform in clothes or manners that had been more scandalous than past [Super Bowl] performers.” Aragón sums up the issue perfectly when she asserts that “these women were criticized and condemned because they are women of color.”

This sentiment was elaborated on by Amy Fallas, a PhD student of history at UCSB when she was invited to speak at an ICP Roundtable event on the halftime show. Fallas agrees in her article “In the Garden of Eden with Shakira” that the Super Bowl and the NFL are open to criticism but continues that “to denounce the celebration of of Latinx heritage by reducing Shakira’s and Jennifer Lopez’s performance to moral degeneracy not only propagates racist tropes of Latina hypersexuality, it also propagates the centuries-long Christian bias of seeing women as the source of the fall of man.” Falconi-Kroeker echoes this when she expresses her frustration in the seeing “the exotification of foreign or non-white women” and that it’s “pretty consistent with American culture.”

The lack of understanding surrounding these cultures forces the white American public to make assumptions about the intentions of these artists. When Fallas broke down how they were “blending Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Afro-Caribbean cultural influences,” it was easier to understand why students like Aragón and Falconi-Kroeker loved it. Aragón explained that she thought “having Latina identified women headlining the Super Bowl halftime show was extremely powerful and [she] loved the way it catered to Americans.” By Americans she “doesn’t mean the white Americans, [she] means the Americans that speak Spanish, celebrate Latinx culture, and that enrich this country.” Aragón is proud to say that “the Latinx community has been aware of the talent and beauty that they exude and now others are too.”