What Led to the Shift in Public Opinion Toward Jennifer Lopez?

What Led to the Shift in Public Opinion Toward Jennifer Lopez?It was very recently that the public goodwill towards Lopez and her career were at an all-time high. How did that change so quickly? And why do people seem to delight in it?Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images/STXThere’s a particularly triumphant moment midway through Jennifer Lopez’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, which she co-headlined with Shakira. While performing “Waiting for Tonight,” one of the biggest hits of her career, she climbed to the top of a stripper pole and, as the arena screamed with delight, thrust her arms out, holding herself up with her crossed legs. Did she intend to look Jesus Christ on the cross? Who could say? Was it a stunning, electric feat of entertainment braggadocio? I would argue it absolutely was—and so would the millions who watched and raved about the performance.That the exultant tableau involved a stripper pole was a clever, intentional nod to her performance in Hustlers, in which her widely celebrated turn as a, let’s say, entrepreneurial exotic dancer was tipped to score Lopez her first Oscar nomination. Her eventual snub is considered one of the most egregious of the last decade—a topic of conversation during at least every other brunch I have attended in the last four years. Consider that performance, and Lopez perched powerfully on top of that pole, as a middle finger to the Academy, which held the ceremony at which the star should’ve been nominated seven days later.Snub aside, it was a very good time to be Jennifer Lopez, amidst a three-decade career full of very good times to be Jennifer Lopez. That she was slighted by the Academy only amplified the vocal hosannas for her acting skills, which had gone underappreciated before Hustlers. The Super Bowl performance was a barn-burner (or should we say “arena-burner”) that left over 100 million viewers slack-jawed over her sizzling dance moves. She had turned 50 six months before, setting a new standard for beauty—and energy!—at any age. Her Las Vegas residency, which had run for two years, had been the talk of the Strip.Perhaps more than any other time in her career, people loved J.Lo, and she rode the wave of that goodwill into the next few years. In 2021, she rekindled a romance with Ben Affleck, a reunion that was fawned over with odes like, “Love wins!” With the release of the 2022 rom-com Marry Me, she was crowned the “queen of the rom-com.” Did she coronate herself? Yes, yes she did. Does that unabashed hubris, which is so quintessentially J.Lo, make you kind of love her more? In my case, God, yes. Speaking of marriage, she and Affleck also tied the knot that year. There it was: love, winning again!How did things turn so quickly? Jennifer Lopez covers herself in money in a still from ‘Hustlers.’STX It’s been a rough few weeks for J.Lo in both her personal and professional lives, at least as they’ve been reported on and speculated about in the press. (To wit: The Daily Beast ran a story over the weekend headlined, “J.Lo’s Week From Hell Went From Bad to a Total Dumpster Fire.”) The tone surrounding those setbacks has been strange, with people on social media—and certainly tabloid vultures—expressing somewhat of a giddiness in her downfall.The proverbial pedestal we put celebrities on has crumbled beneath J.Lo, and a fickle public seems to be dancing in the dust and debris. However highly the public thought of her in these last four years, her reputation, based on the response to these news items, is now “on the floor.” (That’s a J.Lo song reference, people.) The speed at which this happened is startling, even for someone like myself who’s used to watching the pendulum of public opinion, when it comes to celebrities, careen from one extreme to the other. What gives?Things started to turn when rumors swirled that Lopez and Affleck were headed for a break up, after not having been seen together in weeks. This was in the wake of the release of Lopez’s much-dissected (if not necessarily hugely seen) experimental musical film This Is Me…Now, which filtered her past relationships through a steampunk fever dream, and its accompanying making-of documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told.In the documentary, she and Affleck are candid about his hesitancy to blast their personal life, which they’ve worked so hard to keep private, out in such a public way. But when rumors started about the possible breakup, with unnamed sources throwing the “divorce” word around, people on social media spun the news as some sort of “this is what you get” schadenfreude for insisting on making the This Is Me…Now projects, despite Affleck’s unease.The thesis of this whole creative manifesto was that Lopez is a woman who unapologetically seeks out love, and refutes the idea that she’s reckless or “bad” at it because past marriages and high-profile engagements haven’t worked out. The relentless villainization of Lopez amid what has only amounted to relationship gossip thus far seems crass and cruel, especially in light of that message. (Notice how there’s little speculation that, if there is a divorce looming, Affleck might be to blame.)The discussion of Lopez’s professional disappointments have had the same tenor.Her new Netflix movie, Atlas, got atrocious reviews, accompanied by choruses of critics scoffing that her film career is in shambles and she has no idea what she’s doing with it. While the movie was, indeed, very bad, it also debuted at No. 1 on the streamer’s most-watched chart, and still sits at No. 3, two weeks later—with the caveat that those rankings are self-reported by Netflix. That would be deemed a success, one that has been ignored. Stars like Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Reynolds, and Ryan Gosling have also starred in Netflix films that were trashed, but were hugely popular by the streamer’s metrics nonetheless—and yet the shrewdness of their film career decisions weren’t scrutinized in think pieces.That’s not to mention that Lopez’s next film project is a film adaption of the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. It will be written and directed by Bill Condon, best known for his work on the Oscar-winning Dreamgirls film adaptation. The role she’s playing won Chita Rivera a Tony Award for the 1993 Broadway production. Signing on for that, to me, indicates someone who has a pretty good handle on her movie career.Perhaps the most mockery toward Lopez, however, has stemmed from the recent cancellation of her U.S. arena tour. For months, the industry made a story out of the concerts’ low ticket sales, especially after Lopez canceled several cities’ dates. But then came the announcement last week that she’d be scrapping the tour entirely, with the explanation that she was taking “time off to be with her children, family, and close friends.”The timing was certainly eyebrow-raising, especially given that wording in the press release. To many people who had been following the tabloid tracking of Bennifer’s status, it screamed: “DIVORCE IS COMING!” The social media reaction played out as a meta version of the storyline from the This Is Me…Now film, a combination of mockery over yet another failed marriage and a call for a love intervention—something that actually happens in the movie.My personal, unsubstantiated theory is that the breakup rumors were a coverup planted to save embarrassment over the poor ticket sales, the personal issues being used to mask a professional failure.For people who have long mocked Lopez’ music career because of her vocals, it was open season for ridicule. Were some of the jokes funny? Of course. Social media is at its comedic finest when it gets to be dark and insulting. “Dozens affected,” a user posted on X, causing a fit of laughter in me, one of those dozens; I had purchased tickets for the tour the minute they were made available.A smattering of other responses: “I hope all 8 of you get your refunds.” “My mom is the only person upset.” “Jen was at her lowest….. and then she gave up.” “I’ve been praying for her downfall.” And, of course, a slew of images of Mariah Carey looking smug, referencing her “I don’t know her” meme and their supposed feud.I find reveling in her failure baffling. The show would likely have been excellent—we all know, regardless of what anyone thinks of her singing voice, that she’s one of the most dynamic live performers in the field. When it comes to her relationship—which very well could be fine and dandy, as far as we know—it’s bizarre that the love we were once rooting for, we’re now laughing at the potential demise of.Another person remarked on X that this is “just an unprecedented squandering of public good will in like 6 months.”I agree that the goodwill is gone, and it happened with astonishing speed. What I continue to ask is what, exactly, she had done to squander it. Perhaps there’s just something about her that agitates a mercurial public. As for now, the data proves inconclusive.