Beyonce and the formation of political entertainment
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
In amongst the host of celebrity tweets about Sunday’s SuperBowl came a surprising one from Donald Trump: “So far the SuperBowl is very boring – not nearly as exciting as politics!” Unintentionally, Trump may have been right.
Beyonce’s politically charged performance decorated with references to Malcolm X, The Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement has emerged as the third most watched broadcast in U.S televised history and has been shared multiple times on social media. Subverting tradition, Beyonce’s half time performance defied the conventional light-hearted entertainment that’s usually offered. In turn, she brought ‘exciting’ politics to the mainstream and cemented herself as a figure deeply concerned with civil rights.
Beyonce’s branding as a vocal figure for African American rights and issues could not have been timed better. On average, the Superbowl tends to attract 109 million viewers, with numbers increasing every year. This year was no different, with figures exceeding 111.9 million in the U.S alone. With advertisers willing to pay up to U.S $5 million for a 30 second advert, exposure is paramount and the potential to sell is enormous.
Socially, Beyonce’s political messages were unashamedly poignant. Across the U.S, February is celebrated as Black History Month, during which the importance of African American figures, issues and events are celebrated and taught. Moreover, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of The Black Panther movement originating. The weekend of the Superbowl would have also marked the birthday of the late Sandra Bland, a woman who the Black Lives Matter movement protested justice for. The stage, it would appear, was set for Beyonce to pay homage to previous leading black advocates and make the most political statement of her twenty year career.
Beyonce’s performance contained a lineage of images relatable to the civil rights movement and popular black artists. Clad in black berets and with raised fists, Beyonce’s entourage of women nodded their heads to the Black Panther movement of the sixties and to the 1968 Olympic black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos. With Beyonce wearing an outfit that mirrors Michael Jackson’s Superbowl outfit, the whole performance is unapologetically provocative and comes to stand as a powerful affirmation of black femininity and pride.
Continuing her pro-feminist ‘girls run the world’ ethos, Beyonce’s performance and PR has reminded the public that she is an influential, contemporary figure with substance. The Superbowl has given Beyonce a global exposure and a chance to further her brand. It also doesn’t hurt that her tour was announced minutes after or that her new single was released the night prior to her performance. With her new single, Formation, already being tweeted about as the new Black Lives Matter anthem and her worldwide tour selling out, Beyonce proves that politics can be engaging, profitable and even exciting when harnessed correctly.