I’m writing this post in response to a few Beyoncé parodies that I’ve seen on YouTube. Essentially these parodies make fun of Beyoncé’s growing influence all over the world. The most notorious one was featured on Saturday Night Live starring Andrew Garfield where they seemed to mock the way that audiences obsessed over Beyoncé and oftentimes went along with her influence out of fear of being ostracized or judged.
Sharan Shetty of Slate magazine states that the “The Beygency” is a “thriller in which Garfield’s character off-handedly remarks that he’s ‘not a huge fan of that one Drunk in Love song.’ A high-octane manhunt for the Beyoncé hater follows.”
I just saw another parody today where someone photo shopped Beyoncé’s face onto Godzilla’s body as if she was some destructive force. The clip blended Beyoncé’s face with destructive imagery from the actual Godzilla movie, where buildings collapse, electricity goes out, and death occurs. The clip even features Beyoncé singing at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration, standing in front of important politicians, conjuring up the idea that Beyoncé has made her way to the most important office in the U.S…and that’s supposed to be scary.
Don’t get me wrong—parodies can be hilarious. In fact, the SNL skit literally made me laugh out loud and I sent it to all of my friends who were Beyoncé lovers. It was expertly made; however, I do realize that this growing trend of teasing Beyoncé’s influence can become slightly problematic. YouTube parodies have the power to make smart social commentaries on cultural norms and phenomena. Think about all of the video parodies for “Blurred Lines” where women took to YouTube to express how upset they were at women’s representations in the Robin Thicke music video.
However, the Beyoncé parodies are not necessarily teasing Beyoncé herself, but her influence…and I think that’s a little different. It fact, it feels as if the people who are making these parodies honestly don’t know why she has such a following , and therefore, chalk it up to her being part of some conspiracy.
Beyoncé YouTube parodies, although funny, reflect a larger cultural anxiety about her influence. I’m sure you won’t find people teasing the Beatles’ influence or Tom Petty’s influence, or another white group’s influence on culture, but because Beyoncé is an influential BLACK WOMAN, people are attempting to discipline her, or explain away the millions of fans she has. Evidently we need a REASON to understand why she’s so popular to calm the white supremacist/sexist nerves that run through so many of our bodies.
Because Beyoncé offers something FOR black women [for the first time we matter as audience members!], it appears as though a lot of mainstream/white/non-poc are confused about her influence. Many white feminists call her anti-feminist and ride the shoulders of bell hooks to make themselves look like they’re NOT racist, or people make fun of her influence because they don’t get it. People need an EXPLANATION.
Because Beyonce doesn’t necessarily cater to them, people resort to teasing her influence as if her fame was born from a conspiracy, rather than attributing her success to being a talented black woman. In our culture, we’re more comfortable attributing Beyonce’s power and success to the Illuminati, rather than ever believing that a black woman could be a creative force.
I mean, white rock stars and musicians have always dominated the music industry in the U.S. [in part due to appropriation of other musical forms] and you don’t see too many people teasing them. I don’t see any real mainstream viral parodies about the Rolling Stones or The Kinks. Ironically, although Beyoncé is mainstream, she doesn’t necessarily cater her music or image to the cliché assumed white male audience. She speaks TO women, namely black women.
People are now trying to delegitimize her in any way that they can so that they can discredit her power and restore the “we’re so obsessed with white men and women” model. They do this by disguising their attempts as humor. Beyoncé-as-leader doesn’t make sense to many, which essentially means that they don’t think she’s worthy of having this much power.
Now that Beyoncé calls herself a feminist, mainstream media is attempting to ruin her in any way they can. Think about the elevator tapes that recently leaked with Solange Knowles attacking Jay-Z, conveniently making its rounds on television right after bell hooks called her an antifeminist terrorist.
Beyoncé as a sex symbol for men makes sense to most…it offers something for capitalism and men. Beyoncé as feminist icon doesn’t. She is a threat. Her overt love and interest in feminism and gender equality is threatening. Perhaps that’s why she’s embraced by so many women, particularly black women. She is our Beatles. She is our David Bowie. [It’s sad and problematic that I even have to compare her to white celebrity men because they are perceived as the ideal, acceptable, natural leaders].
We have to be comfortable allowing talented Black women to be leaders who people want to emulate. She threatens the white canon of musical literature. She forces her way in, and we embrace her…and now we’re being disciplined for accepting her. I mean, these parodies are insidiously and effectively attempting to turn her influence and celebrity-status into a joke.
Liking Beyoncé doesn’t mean I’m in a cult, or part of the beygency. No one labeled me as anything when I wore Beatles shirts or described my love for them on Facebook. My obsession with THOSE white men made sense. No one needed an explanation. However, my love for Beyoncé is confusing for many in a climate where women entertainers are supposed to just shut up and dance, and where feminism is something hijacked by academics and white women.
Let me repeat this: Beyoncé is a threat. She is political. She is trying to make a statement, and now she’s become the subject of comedy videos. There’s a push from the mainstream to silence her.
These YouTube parodies are attempting to disenfranchise Beyoncé as well as those of us who love her. These parodies are meant to tease US…her black women fans. At a time when we should be celebrating her and celebrating the fact that black women are FINALLY being catered to as an audience, this whole phenomenon is being framed as an arbitrary joke.
Beyoncé’s fame isn’t arbitrary. She’s not part of the Illuminati. I know it might surprise some folks that she made her OWN fame, that people WILLINGLY like her…not because we’re part of a conspiracy, but because in the same way you like the Beatles, or Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, we like Beyoncé.In the same way you celebrate Gloria Steinem, or Susan B. Anthony, or Jessica Valenti, we celebrate Beyoncé.
We celebrate her and enjoy her! Her power isn’t arbitrary. Her influence isn’t conspiratorial. Her fans are not just going along because we’re afraid of being excluded. We genuinely like her. We genuinely connect with her. It feels like parodies, which were once useful to highlight problematic elements in our culture, are now being used to garner support for Beyoncé’s illegitimacy and I think that’s problematic.