Olena Chofay Spring 2016 Gender Studies Option 1: Blog Feature Article May 5th, 2016 Final Project
Beyoncé’s song, Formation had many diverse reactions from the public caused by the Black Feminist Take on the Institutional Racism and other references made in the song. The song was very powerful when first released as a video and had even more influence when performed during the super bowl. It was released on February 6th, 2016 and was written by Rae Sremmurd, Jordan Frost, Asheton Hogan, Mike Will Made It and others. It created many reactions from audience and from celebrities as well. The super bowl half time show has prompted a number of discussions both pro-and anti – Beyoncé.
The song formation focuses on themes of racial indifference and police corruption. “Black lives matter” is the theme of this song. When the video clip first begins we see Beyoncé on a cop car that is drowning, and mentioning “What happened in the New Orleans?”. This is a huge reference to the Hurricane Katrina and how it was handled. As we know, hurricane Katrina was category five hurricane and affected places such as Bahamas, South Florida, Cuba, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and most of eastern North America. However, the city of Orleans was affected the most. 80% of the land and houses were destroyed, with over 1000s of people that died directly due to levee failure. Many people believe that this happened due to the government not using the money properly and cutting the budget on something that seemed unimportant. The people that lived in the city didn’t know that the storm would be so severe and they were not prepared due to the government and the lack of communication. Everyone thought they were safe. Two years after the hurricane the city was still covered in water and destruction. People were told to leave and resettle somewhere else because their whole lives in that city were ruined. Can you imagine going through that? A lot of people died, a lot escaped but as time went on this place turned into even more collapse. When the poorer people were trying to cross the bridges and leave the city, the police started shooting back to “keep everything in control”. People were told to leave, but when they did listen, they were told to go back to the ruins. Most of the lower class was stuck in the football stadium without sources of food or water. Around 80-90% of the city was evacuated but a lot of people remained, and those who did remain were cut off from everything and of course they were the lower class because the more money you have the easier you have access to things. This event was a huge catastrophe and showed how unprepared the country is in case of emergency due to the government’s delayed actions. A lot of African Americans died during this hurricane and this also symbolized how racist the country is as a whole.
The fact how the police car was drowning was a huge deal. First, it shows how the police power and corruption has been decreasing and symbolized how it is soon going to sink. Also, “What happened in the New Orleans?” was a statement that made everyone remember that the police corruption wasn’t new, it happened in 2005 during the hurricane. In the end, the police raised their hands up in the air symbolizing how they will be defeated. Also, in the video clip there was a wall which said “stop shooting us” which refers to all of the Black shootings that happened in United States, including kids.
Beyoncé’s song also took us back to slavery period. We were shown a few times during the video “the black hat” which symbolized the slavery era and also was part of the fancy, black outfit that white owners of the plantations used to wear. It’s almost the reverse psychology, many would say that it means that the African Americans will be taking control over the white people and that it is their time now. However, only males wore black outfits, women had to wear the white corsets to show their elegance and innocence while males took care of all of the business.
Another topic that was brought up in Formation is the topic of women. According to critics, Beyoncé was dressed and acting provocatively and that’s not okay. This goes to a huge topic of the female and how she should act all lady like. As young girls, we were taught to cook, clean, be polite, to stand or sit a certain way when in public. Think back to your childhood, did you hear those phrases, “Girls don’t fight or curse”, “wearing a dress is cute and girly”, “you should be respectful”, “ you will be successful in life if you know how to cook, clean, handle kids and work”, “ that job is for guys because its manly”, “ don’t do a sport, join dancing its more girly”. Now in the society women are looked and judged by what she wears, have you ever seen a photo online of heels and skirts that the girl can wear and depending on length and height what the girl will be called? It’s okay for guys to wear whatever they want, but when it comes to girls you can’t do that. If a guy has a lot of girlfriends, he’s all popular but if the girl does you will hear many words for her. In my opinion, Beyoncé was trying to get us to think of the society and how we are taught to do things a certain way. She is trying to get us to understand that everyone is different and shouldn’t be judged by the stereotypes. The phrase “Let’s get in formation” sounded many times throughout the song and was interpreted by many as a feministic movement since all of the dancers are also women. In other words, girls get up and fight for your rights and future movement could have been described by that scene.
Beyoncé responded to the comments and reactions saying that she never intended to disrespect the police officers and she actually respects and admires them and the families for sacrificing themselves to keep everyone safe. She says she was misunderstood as an artist. She also made it clear that despite that she is against policy brutality and injustice and how those things are separate things. Despite the critics of some, the celebrities mostly supported her and actually tweeted part of the lyrics. Some of the examples include: “I get so reckless when I wear my givenchy dress” by Demi Lovato, “Cheddar Bey Biscuits” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” by Red Lobster, “ I like my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils” by Uzo Aduba and “ Beyoncé just made me so proud of my nose” by Lil Chano from 79th.
Beyoncé’s performance during the super bowl half – time show caused many reactions. Many people were trying to boycott Beyoncé due to her black lives matter movement, meanwhile extra dour dates were added because of the overwhelming demand. During the show, the dancers were dressed in Black Panther inspired costumes and one dancer held up a “Justice 4 Marino Woods” sign. Also, the team formed the X on the stage while dancing indicating the civil rights activist Malcolm X. Some people indicate their love and respect for Beyoncé for pointing out the problems. Many others are just not happy about the “black power movement” by women trying to silent them. This brings the racial differences up and nobody wants to hear that. Many do not want to celebrate the #MagicBlackGirl Movement. According to Professor Noliwe Rooks, Director of Graduate Studies at Cornell University’s African Studies and Research Center, says that Beyoncé’s performance put a spotlight on the weakness of racial tensions that are happening in United States. He says that her song got the praise all over the internet from the Black women around the country, and the rage and boycotts mostly by whites. In other words, he concluded saying that all this means is that race is still a hard and dividing line in United States. On other note, Minister Patrick D. Hampton, who created the Boycott Beyoncé page, told the new that he believes the focus should be on the challenges at risk youths face in the streets. He states “ I am tired of BlackLivesMatter. I am tired of the New Black Panthers, I am tired of seeing black women on TV twerking. I am tired of the racial division. “He believes that these are the main issues that are contributing to violence. He also speaks about a young kid being killed by gang members that were black and not by police officers. Many also talk about the racial harmony that never existed in the nation, and how the use of internet provides more space to discuss the issues of racism but at the same time be more prejudice. Hampton said that he would also like to see celebrities address “ thug brutality” on social media. In other words, the Super Bowl was supposed to be a time to escape all of the problems in the nation and unite as one, however the complete opposite was the result of this.
I ran across an article that came out on May 9th, taking about the protest by the police outside Beyoncé’s Houston concert. A police group called the Coalition for Police and Sheriffs held a small protest claiming that the imagery used in the music video in her song and her performance during the Super Bowl are anti-law enforcement. Those who attended the concert disagreed with this.
So what do you think of Beyoncé’s new song, Formation and her performance during the Super Bowl? Is it the truth that we do not want to accept or it is something that will divide the country more?
- http://www.beyonce.com/formation/# (clean version)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMAISeUGcyY ( Super bowl Performance)
- http://www.metrolyrics.com/formation-lyrics-beyonce.html (lyrics)
- “Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ Is A Visual Anthem.”All Things Considered 8 Feb. 2016. Academic OneFile. Web. 9 May 2016. <http://go.galegroup.com.rlib.pace.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=nysl_me_pace&id=GALE|A444339937&v=2.1&it=r&sid=ebsco&userGroup=nysl_me_pace&authCount=1>
- “Student Question — What Do You Think of Beyoncé’s Formation?’ and Her Performance at the Super Bowl?”The Learning Network: Teaching & Learning With The New York Times 10 Feb. 2016. General OneFile. Web. 9 May 2016.http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/what-did-you-think-of-beyoncs-formation-and-her-performance-of-it-at-the-super-bowl/
- Kogut, Michael. : “Making The Case: Did The Government’s Response to Hurricane Katrina Violate The Equal Protection Clause” [Notes] St. Mary’s Law Review on Minority Issues 2 (2008) 127.HeinOnline. Web 9 May 2016<ttp://www.heinonline.org.rlib.pace.edu/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/schom11&div=10&?&collection=journals>