Since the moment Shakira and Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl Halftime Show aired, chatter and debate on the performance have been dominating social media. A week later, it’s still talk of the town.
Some critics hated it because they believed it was “inappropriate.” Other fans loved it for its message of empowerment and its nod to Latin culture. Their show certainly gave viewers and non-viewers alike something to talk about.
There were a lot of moments that stuck out, becoming still shots, gifs, and memes, but no moment was so meme-worthy as Shakira’s now-infamous tongue flip.
Shakira’s tongue wag left some fans confused
During Shakira’s part of the performance, after singing a portion of “Hips Don’t Lie” and going for a crowd surf, she hopped back on stage, leaned into the camera and waggled her tongue, making a high pitched sound. Not knowing the cultural significance of the tongue move, many were quick to jump to speculation and jokes about why in the world she did that.
One Twitter user commented: “Since I didn’t watch the super bowl halftime show I really thought y’all added that damn sounds to Shakira sticking her tongue out and made it a meme THAT SHIT WAS REAL! No way!”
All kinds of incorrect assumptions about what it meant floated around the web: from assuming it was sexual, to commenting how she had gone crazy, to some fringe few thinking it was something far more dark and nefarious, like devil-worship. Yikes.
To be sure, if you had never seen this expression before, it was a bit of a jolt to witness and seemed out of place in the context of the performance. For those that are familiar with this move though, it seemed completely natural.
Let the Shakira tongue memes begin
In addition to the speculation, what followed was a string of posts on social media showing clips of that moment with one-liners. Some were innocent such as: “Me trying to get the last peach out of the fruit cup,” and “me when my chickie nudges are too hot.” Others, not so much.
There were also plenty of memes that compared her to the popular cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, especially scenes from when he’s going jelly fishing. Another common meme featured audio from Shakira’s tongue wag over a video of a goat waggling its long tongue.
For fans that knew the significance of the gesture, however, many attempts were made to educate others on what the tongue wag was really all about.
Shakira’s tongue flip was a teachable moment
Many people know Shakira is Colombian and teamed up with Lopez, who is Puerto Rican, which meant the show had a distinctively Latin flair. What many fans didn’t realize, however, is that Shakira is Lebanese too, and she also used the show to give visibility to that side of her heritage.
Twitter User Danny Hajjar explained: “You really have to understand how huge Shakira’s performance was for the Middle Eastern community. She had belly dancing, a mijwiz and a derbeke, performed “Ojos Asi” which was one of the few Shakira songs to have Arabic in it, did a Zaghrouta, all love on the biggest stage.”
Zaghrouta is the name of the sound and tongue wag Shakira showed the world, known as ululation in English. It’s an Arab expression of joy and is often seen at celebrations such as weddings. For those in the Arab community, it was completely normal and familiar.
The media took to educating the public on the move as well, and there are now a plethora of articles about the cultural significance of the Zaghrouta. Publications from The Washington Post to the Chicago Tribune now have readers that are a little more educated about Arab and more specifically Lebanese culture, all thanks to Shakira’s representation.
Still, sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. One Twitter user responded writing: “We don’t want to know the cultural relevance of Shakira’s tongue thing alright. We just want to make memes. #SuperBowlSunday.”
To each their own, it seems.