On the eve of her Super Bowl 50 half time show performance, Beyoncé released “Formation,” a video full of references to Black Lives Matter tropes and propaganda, including “Hand Up! Don’t Shoot!” (You can view it here. The earlier version of this post had an unofficial version: I apologize for the error.) Then in her portion of the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, the pop star gave the sold-out stadium and world-wide audience a live version of the video, including backup dancers wearing Black Panther berets who formed an X, apparently alluding to black Muslim activist Malcolm X, and raised their fists in the “black power” salute. African-Americans activists wrote that they saw the performance as a tribute to the 50th Anniversary, not of the Super Bowl, but to the Black Panthers.
The halftime show was part of a marketing plan messaging across multiple platforms, from social media to mainstream media. Once the show was seen in the context of the more explicit video, a controversy emerged, just as Beyoncé ‘s marketing geniuses hoped it would. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was among the vocal critics, calling the show “outrageous” said telling Fox News,”This is football, it’s not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.” Protests are planned at NFL headquarters.
What’s going on here?
1. Stipulated: Beyoncé’s sole intentions are to sell, make money, and get buzz. If she has a genuine political motive, and I doubt it, it is secondary to the good ol’ profit-making motive that has made her a mega-millionaire. She and her husband Jay-Z have been linking their brand to Black Lives Matter because they see profit in it, that’s all. Is it crass and ethically inert? Sure it is…just like the music business and the rest of show business. Is it particular disgusting, at a time of dangerous racial division in this country heightened by liars, crooks, complicit activists and cynical politicians, to try to make money by glamorizing it? Yes indeed, but the Julie Principle needs to be applied here. Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, and if you are paying any attention to people like Beyoncé, you can’t be shocked or overly angry at them when they show that their motives are purely non-ethical at all times. Yes, Beyoncé’s conduct was culturally irresponsible and unethical. “This is my shocked face:”
2. That said, hijacking the Super Bowl halftime show to make a race-baiting, divisive, anti-police demonstration out of what is supposed to be a unifying, fun, family-friendly cultural event, by extolling the racist Black Lives Matter, the criminal and racist Black Panthers, and destructive lies like “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” is indeed outrageous. The stunt deserves every bit of criticism it has recieved and more. Continue reading