Those of us who aren’t big football fans (and even some of us who are) looked forward to seeing Beyoncé perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show. She had premiered a brand new video in the days leading up to the big event, a controversial number named “Formation”, wherein Beyoncé stood atop a drowning cop car and spoke about what it meant to her to black in America.
She doubled down on the sentiment, executing a pitch perfect Super Bowl halftime performance that was meant to stoke the flames of the controversy even further. There is still some dispute as to whether the outfits of her and her dancers were meant to invoke the Black Panthers or Michael Jackson and it is suspected that she meant for this to be left open to interpretation.
For Americans of all races and creeds, this was seen as a watershed moment, a time for celebrities that stop hiding behind the veil of political correctness and tell us how they really feel. The “Formation” video received tens of millions of views, her Super Bowl performance was almost universally lauded and all seemed to be well in the world of Sasha Fierce.
In the days and weeks following the performance and video, she began to receive a slight amount of backlash from a variety of police forces around the nation, who promised to boycott her products and refuse to offer protection at her concerts. While most simply shrugged off these empty threats, the wheels of the Beyoncé PR machine were beginning to turn behind the scenes.
These machinations culminated in Beyoncé walking back her previous stance during an interview with Elle magazine, as she would claim that “Formation” was not anti police and that she had a lot of respect for police officers. While the Beyhive saw no issue with this flip flopping and will support their fearless leader no matter what happens, those who are able to view Beyoncé through a more objective lens saw a clear issue with her statements.
It was great to see such a high profile celebrity take a stand against police brutality and to see her waffle publicly is a bit of a letdown. The idea that the video and performance were not an “attack on cops” is one thing, but to hide behind the idea that she was somehow misunderstood artistically seems somewhat disingenuous.
The smart money says that Beyoncé was blissfully unaware of the firestorm that would be created by the shocking imagery of her video and performance and did not understand that police officers would feel disrespected by her actions. Hopefully, she takes a more measured approach in the future, so that she is not left to apologize for her own artistic expression at a later date.