No Miss in Formation
A powerful black woman making a powerful racial statement. Political? Yes. Criticizable? Absolutely not.
By Juliana Neves, Loyola University
It’s no surprise that everyone is talking about Queen B, but this time some people are actually criticizing her.
Blasphemous, right? Well, not really. We all have a right to our own opinion, even when it comes to Beyoncé. I am here to offer some insight on the controversial video as well as some real perspective.
Ok, so recap. Beyoncé’s new song and video “Formation” came out the day before her Super Bowl performance (which was also controversial, but that’s another story). On her part, it was a great publicity stunt. Reaction exploded after the release of the video and ensured people would watch her live performance the following day. Even though Beyoncé doesn’t have to worry about getting enough people to care about her, it was still well done.
I know, I know, the video.
The video is a politically charged commentary on racial issues in the United States. She begins it with a voice clip of Messy Mya, a YouTube sensation known for his “fluorescent hair and caustic barbs,” in addition to his comedic and often crude opinions on New Orleans and the violence in the area.
If you watch any of his videos, he has no reserve and is brutally honest. Unfortunately, some did not appreciate Mya’s outspoken nature, and he was tragically murdered in 2010. By alluding to Mya, Beyoncé is implicitly asking viewers to remember the violence and turmoil in New Orleans, as well as other cities across the United States.
The video does more than simply insinuate the racial divide present in the United States; it stands as an anthem of black pride. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The video begins with Beyonce standing on a sinking police car in what looks to be post-Katrina New Orleans. It could be interpreted as a symbol of the current issues of police negligence and brutality against the black community. Some say, including Rudi Giuliani, that Beyoncé is calling out the police. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t, but we can agree on one thing—she would not be the first and will not be the last to do so.
Second, one of the most powerful images in the video is of a boy dancing in front of a line of white cops. The boy is wearing a hoodie—a not-so-subtle reference to Trayvon Martin.
After his dance, the cops put their hands up. “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Sound familiar?
Next, there are multiple scenes of her with other black and brown women. Just like Bey, the dancers are beautiful and powerful. At one moment, she and the other women are in refined lace gowns. They look like the kind of old money bourgeoisie that scoff at Gatsby’s fortune. The scene suggests that those who were once powerless are now in power, or as Beyoncé would say, “Those who were once enslaved are now slaying.”
Her aristocratic scenes are punctuated with a clip from a wig shop that alludes to the dialogue surrounding stereotypical western forms of beauty. To reinforce this idea, during the entire video Beyoncé’s back-up dancers and performers all have either natural hair or braids. With these aesthetic choices, Beyoncé is standing up to say that black and brown women are beautiful just the way they are.
Beyoncé says a lot in just four minutes and fifty-two seconds, but I think one word can sum up her message: slay. If you’ve seen the video, you understand why I chose it. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this and go watch it and you’ll see that she says ‘slay’ about ten billion times.
Consider Beyoncé for a few quick seconds. She is an amazing singer, dancer and entrepreneur. She makes walking look sexy. She almost fell during the Super Bowl and barely anyone noticed. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that. She is married to another successful artist and was able to get away with naming her daughter Blue Ivy. If anyone is entitled to claiming the word slay, it’s Beyoncé.
The song is a loud and proud testament to her success.
“Drop him off at the mall, let him buy some J’s.”
“If he hit it right, I might take him on a flight on my chopper.”
“When he fuck me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster.”
You might not have thought Red Lobster was that good, but apparently it is. Beyoncé has no reserve when it comes to showing that she has slayed. As she says, she is the “black Bill Gates in the making.”
So why are people so upset by this song? I think SNL’s most recent skit nails it. NEWS FLASH: Beyoncé is black.
I don’t think that people are upset about her skin color, but instead her choice to use her position to make such a powerful statement on race. From “Single Ladies” to “Love on Top,” her music has been fairly neutral, perfect for high school proms and sleepovers.
Try playing “Formation” at your next school function and see how that goes. People are uncomfortable with Beyoncé describing her “Jackson Five nostrils” because that’s not racially neutral. She is black and is saying something about it.
Before you join the Beyoncé Boycott, let’s be honest here. People (white people) are still going to listen to Beyoncé. Although some people might be upset with this one song, it won’t come close to affecting her career. If this was the first song she came out with, things might be different, but it’s not. The truth is Beyoncé is an empire of sexy music, sexy dancing and even sexier hair flips and that won’t change.
If you support her stance in the video, then it’s a great tool for motivation and support. If you don’t, you just won’t listen to it, simple as that. She will continue on with her successful life, banking on people of all colors to still enjoy her work.
“Best revenge is your paper.” If that is the case, Beyoncé has truly cashed in the best revenge.