It is an incontrovertible fact that Jennifer Lopez was snubbed by the Oscars this year. Her inspired performance in “Hustlers” was clearly Best Actress material, despite the Academy’s judgment otherwise, even in the face of stiff competition. But while an Oscar nomination would have conferred upon Lopez elusive and well-deserved prestige, the Super Bowl halftime show is the superior honor.
Sure, she could have had both. February 2020 could have gone down in history as the month JLo soared to new heights of cultural ubiquity. Instead, Lopez finds herself without a nomination, resigned to split the bill with Shakira during Sunday night’s show.
Good. The pairing of Lopez and Shakira all but promises a performance of historic proportions. Their combined star power, compelling chemistry, and near-certain success should be enough to cement legend status, as far as halftime shows go.
More importantly, the Super Bowl towers over the Oscars in cultural importance. Last year, the big game’s ratings were disappointing—a paltry 98 million Americans tuned in. The Oscars, by contrast, posted an increase in 2019, drawing roughly 30 million viewers. It’s not much of a competition. (Kind of like last year’s game.)
“Hustlers,” it should be noted, has grossed more money than every other film from which a woman was nominated in this year’s Best Actress category. (Bear in mind “Marriage Story” is on Netflix.) The Oscars are broadly popular with elites, and still capture a relatively large audience in general as far as viewership today goes. But their actual impact is overstated, likely because the ceremony and its slate of highbrow films is more popular with people who work in media than those who don’t.
With 100 million eyeballs, and the promise of pop culture history at her fingertips, Lopez can enjoy her Oscar-less February. The Super Bowl halftime show is the biggest platform in entertainment. It more than triples the viewership of the Oscars. It is a vestige of the monoculture, still captivating a wide swath of the country like no other event can.
Surely Lopez still craves the prestige of an Oscar, the recognition of her talent as an actress. As the youngest 50-year-old woman on Planet Earth, surely she will also have many more years to chase it. But should that honor never come, Lopez will always have the Super Bowl halftime show, an honor far fewer people will ever earn, a platform that will beam her into 62 percent of the country’s homes, and burn her into our collective pop culture memory.