Pop icon Beyoncé released a music video for her new song “Formation” on Feb. 6. The video thrust Beyoncé into the limelight for the past week, but not for the usual reasons. Beyoncé’s music is known for its immense commercial success and generally apolitical content. With the release of “Formation,” however, she is sending a clear message of black power and proclaiming support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The response to this video has been overwhelmingly divided. One of the most impactful media responses came from “Saturday Night Live.” The Saturday Feb. 13 show featured the sketch “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.” The sketch features a society of white people who hear “Formation” for the first time. Their world turns to chaos and dystopia upon realizing that Beyoncé is, in fact, a black woman with political views. One news reporter says, “It was the day white people lost their Beyoncé.”
The “SNL” sketch was extremely clever and succinctly summed up the issue that so many people have taken with the video. People simply do not want to accept that Beyoncé is a black woman with every right to be outraged. Beyoncé’s music has always been relatively uncontroversial. Her political messages were primarily geared toward the fact that she is a woman and a feminist—some listeners seem to be having a hard time acknowledging her position as a woman of color.
Beyoncé is undoubtedly one of the greatest pop culture icons of this generation. She is constantly praised for being openly sexual and her feminist anthem “***Flawless” had huge commercial success. The moment Beyoncé stopped catering to the whitewashed mainstream, however, she was criticized for being antagonistic and “attacking” white people.
Nearly every aspect of the media is geared toward catering to a white, middle class audience. The sketch exemplifies this, as one confused listener asks “Maybe this song isn’t for us?” to which a woman replies, “But usually everything is!”
Many white people looked at Beyoncé as a relatable celebrity—as long as she didn’t acknowledge her race. The moment she embraced a part of her identity that white people cannot relate to, she was attacked for being alienating and aggressive. Black celebrities—especially black women—are discouraged from acknowledging their blackness.
One of the most irritating things about the negative response to this video is that the video is hardly radical in its claims. The “SNL” sketch shows how outraged people are for Beyoncé simply stating that she is, in fact, black and proud to be so.
It is astounding that Beyoncé is being criticized for expressing black pride and anti-violence. “SNL’s” sketch definitely hit the nail on the head in representing the constant silencing of black voices by white people.