Beyoncé: Opportunist or Social Conscience?

By Eva Andrews

    Oct. 15th, 1966. Black Panther Party formation.

    Feb. 7th, 2016. Beyoncé slays.

    Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance at the Super Bowl was unexpected, but it was social commentary and an anthem for some while opposition and hostile to others. The Super Bowl performance was paying homage to the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Black Panther Party, which is hinted at by the song name “Formation.” Beyoncé and her backup dancers also wore Black Panther attire in accordance with the activist organization.

    Some say that Beyoncé does not deserve the title of activist for this song; however, she did use her platform and celebrity to comment on the social injustices facing America.Beyoncé seems to be trying to reclaim certain identities and roles through songs like “Girls Run the World,” “Flawless” or “Formation.” Beyoncé’s image is encouraging women to own their sexuality while being just as good if not better than men.

The way her message is being produced and portrayed, however, is disputable because it is being done so through pop music. Regardless, it cannot be ignored that Beyoncé is sharing her perspective on the struggle of women in a patriarchal society. This message is easy for women of all shades, shapes, and sizes to relate or draw from, but “Formation” zeroes in on a more specific identity reclamation, and this has caused somewhat of a divide among fans.

     In the song, Beyoncé mentions various stereotypes related to Black people such as a like of collard greens, which in some ways can be interpreted as degrading, but in other ways empowering because of the reclaiming involved. Her style of music is about flaunting with an attitude and autonomy, which are characteristics that are often associated with the rap genre. Beyoncé is trying to use her position to present large scale issues of race  with a catchy beat and easy, repetitive lyrics.

    She ends the song with the line, “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper”, which could be interpreted as “build your own monetary capital and work hard to create your own future.” This message seems to encourage change through gain of capital through hard work.

    She is also putting out the message that yes she is Black and yes she may fit the stereotypes of a hot sauce carrier, and yes she is still successful and supersedes the rest.

    The new hashtag among those who disagree with Beyoncé’s new subject matter is: #boycottbeyonce. The boycott in all likelihood will not be successful in declining Beyoncé’s sales, but it shows how reclaiming or re-identifying one’s own culture and race can be such an issue to those outside said culture or race.

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