Beyoncé's Formation video, Super Bowl gig spark uproar
Critics blast video, performance as anti-police; supporters defend singer's statement
On Sunday night, the pop star quickly drew raves across social media for her powerful, politically charged Super Bowl gig, where she joined headliner Coldplay and fellow guest act Bruno Mars for a high-energy halftime show.
The New York-based singer, known for her ability to command an audience, stole the spotlight with a dramatic performance of her new track Formation, which features lyrics celebrating black culture.
Dressed in a black, military-inspired costume, Knowles delivered a set that clearly referenced the Black Panthers and included the black power salute. Her small army of female dancers at one point formed an X-shape behind her and were clad in afro hairstyles and berets reminiscent of Black Panthers aesthetic.
Unnamed organizers have created a page on the Eventbrite website for an "Anti-Beyoncé Protest Rally," calling on similarly minded individuals to gather outside the National Football League's Manhattan headquarters on Feb. 16.
"Are you offended as an American that Beyoncé pulled her race-baiting stunt at the Superbowl [sic]? Do you agree that it was a slap in the face to law enforcement? Do you agree that the Black Panthers was/is a hate group which should not be glorified?
In the meantime, a rival event billed as an "Anti-Anti-Beyoncé Protest" is calling on supporters to gather at the site at the same time, dressed "in your Formation video/Super Bowl performance-inspired gear" for a counter-protest.
Taken as a whole, her weekend statement has drawn criticism, including from conservative politicians and pundits who accuse the singer of being anti-police.
"This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was outrageous that she used [the Super Bowl] as a platform to attack police officers, who are the people who protect her and protect us," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told a CBS outlet.
"Beyoncé may be a gifted entertainer but no one should really care what she thinks about any serious issue confronting our nation," King wrote in his statement.
Toronto municipal politicians have even chimed in, with Jim Karygiannis, a city councillor, proposing that perhaps the federal government should investigate and consider banning Beyoncé from entering Canada — referencing a 2009 decision to bar pro-Palestinian British MP George Galloway — following Sunday's Super Bowl performance. She is slated to perform in Canada later this spring.
These statements fuelled the fire and inspired a fresh wave of commentary.
"We tend to criticize celebrities for talking about politics, for taking a stand on serious issues...But in our pop culture-crazed, message-driven world, there's no denying celebrity voices can influence the lives of many. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars are part of a refreshing generation of famous voices who are showing that fame can and should be used to push for social justice," former ESPN VP and ESPN Magazine founding editor Roxanne Jones wrote in a CNN opinion piece.
In a piece published in the New York Daily News, senior justice writer Shaun King asked: "Who is King to say no one" should care about Beyoncé's opinion on about serious issues?
"The fact that King so grossly devalued and dehumanized her is not only why this movement exists, it's a pretty good summary of why Congress has historically low approval ratings. You don't get to determine who any of us care about or listen to. Ever."
Race was brought in because Beyoncé was brought in. Brace yourself, because you might want to sit down for this, but Beyoncé is black.- Jessica Williams, The Daily Show
Comedian and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah correspondent Jessica Williams also offered a blistering retort on the late-night satirical news show, addressing critics who questioned why race became an issue at the Super Bowl halftime show.
"Race was brought in because Beyoncé was brought in. Brace yourself, because you might want to sit down for this, but Beyoncé is black," Williams declared.
She also questioned a clip where Giuliani stated that Super Bowl halftime performers are expected to deliver "wholesome entertainment" for Middle America.
"What are they, so delicate and unaware, and maybe so white, that Beyoncé is too much for them? ... You know what's right in the middle of America? Ferguson, Missouri."
Rudy Giuliani thinks <a href="https://twitter.com/Beyonce">@Beyonce</a> at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SB50?src=hash">#SB50</a> wasn't “decent” or “wholesome” enough for Middle America. <a href="https://twitter.com/msjwilly">@msjwilly</a> responds:<a href="https://t.co/1IwlnZYKAx">https://t.co/1IwlnZYKAx</a>—@TheDailyShow
"But you're right. You know what? The fans deserve wholesome entertainment: like watching 300-pound men give each other concussions while a crowd cheers like extras in the movie Gladiator. So what is wrong with Beyoncé, everyone? Were you not entertained?"
For her part, Knowles said she felt "proud" of Sunday's performance and that it "felt great" to sing her new song before such a large audience.
The singer told Entertainment Tonight that she wants the single to have a positive impact on her fans' lives.
"I wanted people to feel proud … and have love for themselves," she told ET post-Super Bowl.