Beyonce Formation


Product Context

Formation is the lead single for the album 'Lemonade'

Was released the day before Beyonce performed at the Super Bowl final in Feburary 2016

Music video (MV) was directed by Melina Matsoukas 

MV has won numerous awards including:

  • Clio award for innovation and creative excellence in a MV at 2016 awards
  • Nominated in the MV category at 59th Grammy awards

Video is set against the backdrop of the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina & associated racial tension in America - also references racism and slavery

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Historical Context

Racial Tensions:

  • Kanye West criticised President Bush in 2005 stating he "doesnt care about black people"
  • African Americans were being locked out of the city and being deprived of their fundamental rights - jobs were taken by latino immigrants which left many African Americans struggling

Before Hurricane Katrina:

  • Poor schools
  • Inadequate health care 
  • Low wages 
  • high unemployment 
  • Substandard housing

^This was all the norm for a vast number of people especially the poor black community, After the storm, these problems intensified & crime & violence rose due to people feeling poorly treated

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Historical Context (2)

Hurricane Katrina statistics:

  • Overall at least 1,245 people died in hurricane and subsequent floods
  • Category 5 hurricane - winds up to 175 mph
  • Had an estimate of $125 billion in damage

People shot within America- statistics

  • Black people were 26% (265) of those killed despite being only 13% of population
  • 30% of black victims were unarmed in 2015 compared to 21% of white victims
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Representations of gender

Bell Hooks - Feminism is a struggle to end sexist/patriarchal opression

It could be argued that the MV is part of that struggle and that she has made a political commitment to feminism or that Beyonce is potentially adopting feminism as a lifestyle choice to sell music 

Her clothing codes e.g short/tight revealing outfits could imply that this video is reinforcing the objectification of women as well as some sexulised lyrics however, she may also be trying to represent herself as a strong, confident and powerful woman by wearing what she wants etc 

Slow motion shot showing Beyonce leaning out of a car - accompanied by male voiceover "Ohh yeahh baby I like that" - catcalling

^This could suggest that the video is reinforcing the objectification & sexulaisation of women - Laura Mulvey (Male Gaze) - Formation constrcuts many elements of contemporary femininity including exploration of the suxulaisation of women and female empowerment

Idea of a 'sisterhood' and that women are stronger together - 'Ok ladies now lets get in formation'- dance, move as one

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Representations of ethnicity & equality

Many references to slavery and struggle for equal rights:

  • Beyonce is subverting historical contexts by representing black women in a position of power by wearing Antebellum dresses worn by wealthy white women during slave trade era
  • Shot of Martin Luther King -  A clear reference to the struggle for equality
  • Intertextual references e.g footage taken from documentary about bounce - 'That B.E.A.T'
  • Reference to news footage - police brutality - lone dancing boy infront of riot police
  • Shot of 'Stop shooting us'- Reference to police brutality

Ariel shots of Beyonce and group of women dancing in car park is heavily filtered- combination of angle and filter implies footage was recorded on a cctv camera

^possible reference to how black individuals are often singled out by authorities - seen as 'suspicious figures' due to exaggeration of African American criminals in media

Contains wide range of natural African American hairstyles- should embrace - "I like my baby hair & afros, I like my n*gro nose with jackson five nostrils"

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Jean Baudrillard  - Postmodernism 

  • Music video has an example of hyperreality throughout
  • Based on set
  • everyone is choreographed 
  • Beyonce sitting on submerged police car recreating Hurricane Katrina - isnt real as Hurricane was over 10 years ago

Postmodernism argues - modern media texts include "style over substance" - often through the video Beyonce's political and racial messages are often oversahdowed by her outfits

Roland Barthes - Semiotics - concept of signerfier/signified

  • Use of Antebellum era dresses, Beyonce and women pose in them 

Bell Hooks - Feminist theory - Idea that race as well as class determine the extent to which individuals are exploited, feminism struggle to end oppression

Paul Gilroy - Post colonial theory - challenges notion of racial hierarchies, sense of otherness - binary oppositions , 'black v white' - young black boy dancing against riot police

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