Re: Guest Post - Formation

1

I like Beyoncé and I saw her live when she came by. People go insane about her on twitter though.

thought she was ok at the superbowl. hard to get into a song that was only out for a day.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:09 AM
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Just as with Janet Jacksons nipple, I watched it in real time, but the whole thing was completely lost on me. I saw a bunch of people dancing around to goofy pop music. I thought the outfits were nice, but didn't make a Black Panther connection. I did wonder why Coldplay was headlining and not Bey.

Only later did I find out there was some controversy, which I totally missed. Clearly I need to watch SuperBowl Halftime Shows more closely, but I don't actually want to.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:10 AM
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Beyoncé and Bruno Mars already headlined previous SuperBowl Halftime Shows.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:13 AM
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3 When does Peaches get her turn?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:25 AM
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Beyoncé and Bruno Mars already headlined previous SuperBowl Halftime Shows.

I'm feeling zero shame for not knowing that.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:27 AM
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5: This is truly the Age of Trump. Everyone is shameless.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:42 AM
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3: Still doesn't explain Coldplay headlining.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:51 AM
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I don't understand why Coldplay is the canonical "they suck" band now. They don't seem remarkable in any way. I would literally forget they existed if people didn't bring them up as the suckiest.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:59 AM
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8: Yeah, whatever happened to Nickelback? There was a bottom rung we could rely on.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:02 AM
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8: It's because they were chosen to play the SuperBowl halftime show.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:04 AM
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I don't really understand Coldplay hate either. The two songs I know by them I like. Do they have some large back catalog of crap that I am unaware of?

Nickleback is objectively terrible. There's a group I can get behind the hate on.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:10 AM
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Right? Back when everybody hated Nickelback, the world made sense. It doesn't anymore.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:14 AM
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I don't understand why Coldplay is the canonical "they suck" band now. They don't seem remarkable in any way. I would literally forget they existed if people didn't bring them up as the suckiest.

This is why. They're not quite as white and drippy as Belle & Sebastian, but it's even worse, because they don't even manage to be so inoffensive and insipid that it would mark them out as being outstandingly insipid. Even negative traits are something. They're the Band Without Qualities.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:22 AM
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I don't understand why Coldplay is the canonical "they suck" band now.

You're not allowed to enjoy anything mainstream just for fun anymore. See also, beer.

Beyonce's private gig for Gaddafi is just a bit too recent in my memory for me to be buying this act as social justice warrior.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:28 AM
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OP link 3 is interesting re Creole identity in Lousiana:

'...brown-skinned son was often told to step out of [Creole] family photographs so as to not "throw the picture off."

That from research done in 2004.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:29 AM
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To the OP: Just to make clear, I don't think Beyonce is obligated to strive for radical change, and I think that's a difficult ask from a pop musician. But I think it's interesting to read about the ways in which people think it falls short as well as the ways in which people appreciate it.

... buying this act as social justice warrior.

FWIW, I don't know that she's claiming to be a SJW, but to the extent that claim is made I think it's based on the combination of the recent $1.5M donation to help BLM as well as the video. That is more than just rhetorical support.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:43 AM
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This was the Beyoncé link I found most interesting.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 9:53 AM
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The San Francisco BLMers and some of Beyonce's dancers did make a solid play for "worst poster boy yet" with Mario Woods who was of course shot for "merely walking along the sidewalk". (solid work there ThinkProgress) Conveniently left out was that Woods was a documented gang member who'd spent most of his adult life in prison for things like weapons charges, armed robbery, stolen vehicle, etc and had literally just stabbed a stranger on the street. The victim seems a bit nonplussed by all the focus on the guy who stabbed him. Tough titties, stabee! The city council decided that a PD with morale was for The Man and declared a day of remembrance for Woods.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:07 AM
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Just in case we all have to update our positions, I'm still in favor of not shooting documented gang members with criminal histories.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:14 AM
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Also not stabbing people, sure. That would be cool with me.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:15 AM
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After seeing 950,000 people simultaneously make snide remarks on every available form of social media about how Coldplay is bad and boring while Beyonce is the greatest person ever, I am officially part of the backlash. It was already odd enough to see hundreds of think pieces written about this sort of thing nowadays, when 20 years ago it was just Camille Paglia. Out! Not giving it any thought. Sorry!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:23 AM
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Anyway, I think it's a catchy song and an interesting video. I do think there's unintentional(?) colorism involved and think that's something Beyonce's probably wrestling with as she's raising a child who's darker than she is with a different hair experience from hers. I don't expect to get my political insights from Beyonce but it's been really interesting to see how she positions herself when she doesn't have to claim feminism, doesn't have to be blatantly black, but chooses to anyway.

(And "I like my baby['s] hair with baby hair and afros" just makes me sigh happily inside. When you're used to eating crumbs, a crumb can be a big deal.)


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:27 AM
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hundreds of think pieces written about this sort of thing nowadays, when 20 years ago it was just Camille Paglia.

Paglia made a triumphant return to Salon this week with a piece that was nominally about the primaries but was really a bizarre rant about how much she (Paglia) hates Gloria Steinem.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 10:39 AM
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17: Goddamn is that harsh.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:03 AM
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That guy in 17 is ridiculous. Self describing as "mixed class"? Come on. Although I did get a laugh out of the education stuff like "Lesson Plan - Vogue and Abolition: Understanding the Prison Industrial Complex Through the Ballroom Scene".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:21 AM
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19: I'll make the appropriate database entry.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:25 AM
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I don't get why "mixed-class" is obviously ridiculous. I had a friend in Chicago whose father worked in a fancy men's clothing store and whose step-mother was a vice president at a publishing company. His mother lived in a "very bad" neighborhood on the south side. He went back and forth between those two households. He dressed like a Kennedy and had a slew of friends* who were Gangster Disciples.

*I met some of those friends, once. It was very awkward. I asked him, "Do they hate me because I'm white or because I'm a woman?**" And he thought about it for a minute and said, "Both."

**I said this to him as a joke, but it was certainly an obvious vibe coming off them.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:33 AM
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17 is harsh, but also interesting.

However, this would be more convincing if it used examples within the last 40 years.

There is a long history of Black celebrities advocating for Black movements. Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne are folks we think of first as athletes and movie stars, yet who used their celebrity to publicly defy the state and advocate for Black communities, at times at great personal risk, and to the detriment of their careers. Do not compare them to Beyoncé basking in the publicity of a halftime show.

What does he think about Janelle Monae's, "Hell You Talmbout" for example? I don't think that's to the detriment of her career -- I think it fits within the rest of what she's done, but I would still call it explicit advocacy for black communities.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:34 AM
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"After seeing 950,000 people simultaneously make snide remarks on every available form of social media about how Coldplay is bad and boring ..."

Their parents like Coldplay. QED. Nothing wrong with Coldplay but even when they were hot (ha-ha) there were complaints about them being boring, mainstream, soul-less.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:38 AM
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Did somebody diss Belle & Sebastian? They are in no way white and insipid ienough!!! Sarah (label) smiles. Orchids! Field Mice! Heavenly! Northern Picture Library! Wratten is God! Now that's the music of violent revolution.

Beyonce = neoliberalism = identity as prosumption. Simulacrum as produced consumer image. That is all.

Haven't seen any Beyonce.

It was Rihanna did the classic socialist peace anthem "Bitch Better Have My Money." Saw that one.

Sanders gonna get curbstomped 1st of March, I say. Connects to above


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:41 AM
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Do they have some large back catalog of crap that I am unaware of?

Yes.

TBH, I'm a white woman so feel free to discount my opinion, but colorism is what has always stood out to me with Beyonce, and was the first thing that popped out at me with the video. The image of a very light skinned black woman with long blonde hair surrounded by darker skinned props rubbed me the wrong way on some level. Also, I support the right of anyone to modify their looks however they see fit, but Beyonce's long blond hair has always made me vaguely uncomfortable in light of black (or "ethnic" more generally) hair politics.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:42 AM
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Loved 17 to death, of course.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:48 AM
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I don't get why "mixed-class" is obviously ridiculous.

It's just me being annoyed by people's self descriptions. We get it, home slice. You're not just brown and queer, you're from the streets.

Eh, ignore me. I think I'm getting grumpier with age.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:49 AM
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the artists that play at halftime may have to pay the nfl

http://www.axs.com/rihanna-katy-perry-and-coldplay-have-to-pay-to-play-at-the-2015-super--20082

my bet is that pepsi or somebody pays the fees but who knows


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:52 AM
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And what's a fucking Coldplay and Oasis? Too busy with Radiohead and Trembling Blue Stars to ever check them out.

Bye.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:52 AM
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19-20: I'm with Thorn on the not shooting and not stabbing thing. And Beyonce is a great talent. But hashtag Einstein ought to be trending. The gravity waves discovery points out how amazing he and his physics posse were 100 years ago. Certainly more amazing than Coldplay.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:56 AM
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27

This is something I struggle to articulate. I wouldn't call myself mixed-class, but I was raised both by my professional-class parents in a nice house in a MC-ish gentrifying neighborhood,* and by my working class grandparents in a nice house in a poor, majority African American neighborhood, and I went to school & church in the worst neighborhood in the city. My parents were committed to not raising us solely as middle class, so I did have a childhood that encompasses more working class experiences, like unsupervised wandering the streets in neighborhoods some white people wouldn't even drive through or playing with broken glass in apartment complex parking lots, and stuff like that. Probably the thing that shaped me most as a kid was I was always the rich & privileged white girl in the group, "rich & privileged" being defined as things like 1) having a parent with a job, or 2) not sharing a bed with all your siblings, or 3) not having to take your drunk mom home as she wandered the streets making a fool of herself. Having this cross-class perspective was really helpful when I went off to college and encountered actual rich people, and also UMC kids who complained about being "poor" in comparison.

*Now it's bourgie as all hell, thanks to an influx of Marin county yuppies.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 11:58 AM
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The hot takes that surround pop music now are a little too much for me. Probably inevitable because of the democratization of criticism, but still.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:00 PM
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I think I'm getting grumpier with age.

God knows, I am.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:01 PM
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37

I'm not sympathetic though, of wealthy people who try to downplay their wealth by noting they were poor once. Or of people who try to pretend they're not UMC/MC. I identify as UMC because I am, even if I have an upbringing outside the norm for my generation.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:01 PM
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36: Hashtag Einstein is trending! Even Britney Spears is a fan. More amazing than Coldplay? That may be going too far!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:03 PM
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what's a fucking Coldplay and Oasis?

It's a champagne supernova in the sky full of stars.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:08 PM
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Science has taken thousands of scientists and 0.6 billion dollars to confirm what Einstein predicted 100 years ago. That is the opposite of amazing. That is just depressing.

At least Coldplay didn't play 'Alexander's Ragtime Band" or "Danny Boy"


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:11 PM
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17: Goddamn is that harsh.

4. Straight, cis people saying "slay" falls on my ear in exactly the same way as white people saying "trill" and "fleek."

Just yesterday on fb I said "I slay me" after making a (very, very funny) joke. Alas!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:16 PM
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44: Giiirl, you know that's totally a different usage and you're fine. But I can't say you're foine.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:17 PM
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you're fine. But I can't say you're foine.

This is another one of those Carol/Carole distinctions, isn't it?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:23 PM
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That book turns out to be really good btw, who knew?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:24 PM
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I won't be impressed until I see evidence of gravity at a Superbowl Halftime Show.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:24 PM
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46: No?

47: I did and thought it was a truth universally acknowledged but maybe only in a small universe. Punchy is listening to the audiobook and I asked her how Carol/Carole gets rendered and she didn't respond maybe because she's moved on to Margaret Atwood or because that's what happens in late-night text conversations. Fickle!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:27 PM
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46: No?

<whisper>I didn't really think so</whisper>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:30 PM
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50: I know, but it seemed to work better to reply to both comments than to deservedly scorn the first. A mistake I won't make again! Or at least not this time.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:32 PM
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I thought based on the fact of its pseudonymous publication and (AIUI) marketing at the time as a tale of forbidden love that it would be a more lurid than it is (which is not lurid at all).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:32 PM
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51: All is forgiven. Go thou and sin some more. But also what is "foine"?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:33 PM
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53: So fine in a good-looking sense that the one vowel just isn't enough to convey it.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:34 PM
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Not only had I never seen the usage, my immediate reaction to 'foine' was that it was stage Irish.

"Sure and beghorra it's a foine soft day it is."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:38 PM
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Begorrah, that is. My stage Irish spelling is poor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:39 PM
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What about "toight"? Stage Irish or normal slang you hear frequently?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:41 PM
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53: So fine in a good-looking sense that the one vowel just isn't enough to convey it.

In that case, Thorn, I give you my assurance that I am, indeed, foine, though I respect, of course, your unwillingness to say so barring given that the last time you saw me was a while ago.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:43 PM
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I know you fine, but how you doin'?


Posted by: The Gories | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:47 PM
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No no no, neb, obviously I'm not weighing in on your looks at all in either direction and it's merely that I'm white and practicing appropriate verbal hygiene.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:47 PM
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Ahhhhhhhh. So you "can't say" it not because you don't know what is expressed but rather because that form of expression is barred. Now I understand. Thank you for working with me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:50 PM
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obviously I'm not weighing in on your looks at all in either direction

This was not obvious.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 12:53 PM
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Fine! I won't make jokes that are only funny to me anymore! I've learned my lesson.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:01 PM
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Nooice!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:08 PM
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Well, I understood Thorn's joke immediately.

On the other hand, I have no idea what book you two were talking about.

Moreover, my usually hidden 3rd hand has no idea on the prohibited usage of "slay".


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:08 PM
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63: No! I laughed! But that's also because all of my sixth grade friends and I used to describe hot guys as "foine" so I immediately understood.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:09 PM
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I'm not really anti-Coldplay* but had mostly forgotten about them until the Super Bowl.

* I even have paid for Coldplay songs, but in the iTunes DRM era, and haven't listened to them for almost a decade at this point.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:09 PM
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I encourage you to make jokes that are only funny to you! Go thou and sin some more (see, this is probably only funny to me but I've done it twice now).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:16 PM
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65.2: The Price of Salt, peep. And I don't think you're at much risk of inappropriately accusing anyone of slaying. (Also I confess to metanegging nosflow because I was sure he could take it. Sorry, urple.)

68.2 was extremely funny to me both times. This is my day!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:16 PM
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I don't really get 68, but I like to dismiss my classes by telling them, "Go forth and multiply!" and think myself hilarious.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:17 PM
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68: In high school if someone bumped into me and said, "Excuse me," I would respond "You are forgiven. Go forth and sin no more." I was mocking my own Jesus Christ complex.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:27 PM
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I hope 63 was not in response to 62.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:36 PM
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It was but it wasn't sincere because I was actually joking with myself as I wrote it by saying "Fine!" again.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 1:37 PM
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Jackson Five Nostrils sounds like a particularly recognisable East End gangster (c.f. Billy One-Hand, Nine-Fingers Tom, One-Legged Louie etc. )


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 2:31 PM
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Looping way back, I've been bothered by 31's The image of a very light skinned black woman with long blonde hair surrounded by darker skinned props rubbed me the wrong way on some level.

I too said I think there's troubling-looking colorist imagery at play, but it seems very weird and basically denying agency to the backup dancers/singers (assuming that's a fair way to refer to the people who are mouthing the background vocals) to call them props. I do have a lot of thoughts about the implications of the hairstyle choices and so on but it's more that the non-Beyonces are being used as foils than anything I'd consider props that gets to me.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 2:37 PM
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About "Formation" itself: the video and show were both fun and fascinating mash-ups black narratives, issues and identities and I'm glad they exist and started some form of conversation. Both video and performance were about as "political" as anything Madonna ever did in her more provocative moments -- in fact IMO Bey is really the true heir to Madonna's pop-culture crown -- which isn't a bad thing but I would be wary of overrating them as a "political" moment (except in that they reliably elicited deeply stupid reactions from huge racists, and thereby acted as a useful and revealing provocation of same).

17: By the time I got to the deeply stupid cheap shot about the supposed use of Katrina as a "sexy backdrop" I was kind of feeling like this is not a serious person. The constant j'accuse brandishing of "cis" is a bit problematic, and the attempt to plant flags on "slay" as exclusively LGBT slang strikes me as bizarre.

(Also? When an artist like Beyonce brings Big Freedia onto a track, and a trans-activist person supposedly in that artist's corner is most concerned with kvetching about how they didn't get enough play, that person is sounding pretty full of shit to me.)

31: I dislike the phenomenon of people talking about Beyonce's "colorism" in ways that hint they could only really be satisfied if she would simply stop appearing in anything at all as the star of her own career and product. Light-skinned Black women aren't some massively privileged colonizing population; they do in fact get to exist, take center stage and speak in their own voice as an integral part of the Black experience. It would have been "colorism" for Beyonce to exclude anyone who did not look like herself from "Formation" or to include them but cast them in traditionally racist roles and stereotypes; when we talk about colorism, it's these patterns of exclusion or sub-replication of racist tropes that are the primary subject matter. Beyonce did neither of those things but you're still here smack-talking her about using dark-skinned girls as "props" -- and with all due respect, that seems tendentious and unfair. Or more bluntly: fuck a bunch of that noise.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 5:26 PM
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74: Spiny Norman


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 5:32 PM
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I am largely ignorant of the whole thing but I read it's a song about being a black southern woman? It would amuse me if it led to people in certain areas of the country having to take a minute with the implications of their pat,self-serving provincialism.

I don't know, it just felt like that was what I would say in this thread.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 7:51 PM
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I mean, the thing about it is that AFAICT the song itself is mostly just a standard brag track about being Queen Bey and being awesome. It's the video imagery, and that used in the half-time show, where all the political and identity stuff really comes in.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-12-16 8:39 PM
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17: By the time I got to the deeply stupid cheap shot about the supposed use of Katrina as a "sexy backdrop" I was kind of feeling like this is not a serious person....

What immediately struck me was the tone of world-weary resignation (enlivened by a sense of affront at having been asked, nay obliged, apparently, to offer a critique) that the author affects in order to engage in an energetic, and really quite vehement, repudiation of every damn aspect of Beyoncé's video. I read it as an interesting critique that is probably also massively unfair (but I don't enough about the various points of contention to go beyond, 'Well, this seems unduly harsh'...).


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 12:00 AM
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76

Beyonce did neither of those things but you're still here smack-talking her about using dark-skinned girls as "props" -- and with all due respect, that seems tendentious and unfair. Or more bluntly: fuck a bunch of that noise

No, fuck your noise. I rewatched the video to see if I was overreacting, and I'm sorry, choosing long blonde hair while your back up dancers all have afros is conscious artistic decision, and it's one that makes me uncomfortable. Beyonce didn't pick her skin color, but she did choose to make herself look as white as possible and her back up dancers much blacker than her, and even if it's not a conscious act of racism, it makes me uncomfortable by drawing on super racist tropes.

75

Props was poor word choice, and I apologize if it implies that the back up dancers have no agency. But at the same time, I'm uncomfortable with this idea that "agency" gets to hand wave away conversations around oppression. When only super light skinned black women get to be real cross over pop stars, it seems very partial to imply that dark skinned black dancers "choosing" to be back up dancers is simply their choice. It's hard to talk about without coming off wrong. Like, I'm uncomfortable that lots of young women "choose" Brazilians or that 80% of women who color their hair "choose" to bleach it blonde, even if it's absolutely none of my business if any particular woman makes those choices.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 1:38 PM
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81 was me, obviously.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 1:40 PM
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Like, I guess where I'm coming from philosophically is that I believe, in a racist society, the default is that we're all reinforcing racism and picking up conscious and subconscious racist messaging. We can actively fight against it, but we're all human and we can't do it all the time or even often know how we're being racist. Calling people out on when you notice this doesn't mean you're implying they're a bad person, it's more an act of asking people to be mindful of how racist our society is.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 1:49 PM
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Final comment! What I'm trying to say is, saying that video makes me uncomfortable by reinforcing colorism (and visually recreating a racist trope of the lighter skinned woman surrounded by darker skinned women) doesn't mean I think that Beyonce is racist, or a self-hating black person, or isn't engaging in anti-racist activism. I think the two can be mutually compatible. Racism isn't binary or zero sum, and I can simultaneously be uncomfortable* and have it still be considered a piece of activism.**

*Which, I doubt Beyonce would give a fuck about! I'm the uncoolest 30-something white woman ever.
**I personally vacillate between thinking it is doing something powerful by reminding people of Katrina and thinking it's kind of a trite use of Katrina in a music video.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:00 PM
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but she did choose to make herself look as white as possible

And I, in turn, am made uncomfortable by your assumption that a black woman with dyed blonde hair is trying to look as "white" as possible.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:03 PM
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(and by "racist" in the previous comment, I mean in the conventional sense of the term.*)

*There's a discussion on whether black people can be racist, given the definition of racism = prejudice + power. I know some people who prefer the term 'prejudiced' for POCs, and reserve the term "racist" for white people, since it's the race which holds structural power.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:03 PM
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TELL ME MORE


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:06 PM
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81: No, fuck your noise.

Heh. It would be improper of me to suggest that I'm getting out the popcorn on this one.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:07 PM
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Beyoncé has light skin and a lot of talent. Those aren't linked traits but they're both true. I do think, for instance, Janelle Monae's Yoga video sends a different vibe about inclusivity. But hair politics and skin politics are complicated and I'm not okay with judging people's choices just from what you can see on the surface. Beyoncé may well have an easier time wearing weave with her active schedule than she would with natural hair (or natural-looking weave, which it looks like most/all of what keeps getting described as "Afros" in the video actually is) and that's not entirely separate from the politics around hair. But no, I'm not really okay with blaming women of color for the whole system of racism and colorist we have going. That Beyoncé is doing something unusually sophisticated for a huge pop star still seems noteworthy.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:10 PM
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I just don't think "lighter-skinned woman surrounded by darker-skinned women" is a racist trope I'm really familiar with abc I don't know where you're going with that.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:12 PM
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81: Well, fuggity-fuck your fucking noise about my fucking of your... fucking... noise. No backsies.

The blond dye-job has been part of Bey's look for ages, it's not an "artistic decision" specific to Formation. The Black Panther outfits and her own echoing of Michael Jackson's look obviously were specific decisions but trying to render them as "colorism" is basically an attempt to claim that it's either "colorism" to celebrate the radical uniform of Sixties Black Nationalism, or (worse) that it's "colorism" to do so while being light-skinned and at center stage. Either usage renders the word analytically meaningless; and the latter is a bullshit attempt to police the participation and appearance of the wrong kind of Black woman in their own stories to boot. No. Just no. Not okay.

(If Bey had brought them out in those outfits to do mocking coon stereotypes that would have been colorism. But inclusion and celebration are not colorism. When people are criticizing colorism, these are specifically the kinds of things they keep asking Black artists and producers to do more of, for good reason. Which is why the bulk of the Black community responded quite positively to "Formation.")

Of course if you want to talk about how Bey probably inhabits a different space of social privilege from her darker-skinned backup dancers, and the larger market-related reasons she's the main act and they're not, that's a conversation worth having (I mean, not if people are going to pretend that "light-skinned privilege" is necessarily similar to "white privilege," but it definitely has certain parallels). But as the "colorism" critique goes? On the evidence of the work in "Formation," Bey knows (as I would expect her to know) far more about colorism and what it is and isn't than you do, and took steps in that production to specifically and very explicitly cut against it, and basically what you're responding with is that She's the Real Racist for doing this.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:18 PM
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89

I can see that. For me, the music video as a performance piece makes me less able to see it as simply a single woman's choice. Nothing about that video has not been thought out and doesn't require intense planning and work, and for that reason I think it's ok to critique it in a way it isn't ok to critique a single woman's personal choices. Again, I apologize about the terminology, I should have said natural weave instead of Afro. I know none of the women are wearing their hair natural, and that natural hair is in lots of ways harder to deal with (I hope you didn't think I was suggesting she wear her hair natural). And Beyonce may simply like blonde hair because it looks good with her coloring. If it were a red carpet photo of her, then I think any one person's choices on self-presentation are off limits. But in something that is art, especially politically charged art, which this, no choices are neutral or not thought about or simply "personal." Again, this is just my own take, which really means not a lot, but I stand by my own feelings of discomfort.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:20 PM
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85 has it so right.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:22 PM
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in something that is art, especially politically charged art, which this, no choices are neutral or not thought about or simply "personal."

And indeed, Beyonce's choice to unapologetically place herself -- as she personally chooses to look -- in the larger context of Black identity and narratives is as political as it is "personal." And since she obviously has a right to a place in those narratives and to her own voice within them, trying to play that decision off as "colorism" is political. And in a grodie sort of way.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:25 PM
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90

It's super common in fashion magazines, for a white or whiter person to be surrounded by darker skinned women or men. For example, Here's an article about black men being used as props.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:26 PM
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92: I don't actually know that NONE of the hair is natural either, which is sort of the point. I can't tell from the quick shots we get and I do think I'm better than your average white persob at noticing the difference. I do think hairstyling is essential to the video, but even Beyoncé has some brunette looks and so talking about blondness isn't the whole story there. How do natural wigs/weave differ from natural hair and from the bright colors the women in the wig store have?

I have discomfit with some of the depictions (the more somber girls with Blue Ivy, the woman on the couch in the plantation-ish scenes) but is having a while formation of women with the same look and hairstyle the and as that?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:28 PM
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95: Right, but gender matters and the only black woman depicted is not noticeably darker than the man she's photographed with, unless I'm missing something.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:30 PM
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95: If the use of imagery in "Formation" was remotely comparable to the stuff being mentioned in that article -- it isn't -- then trust me, the biggest outcry would've come from the Black community.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:31 PM
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God, I shouldn't type on my phone. I give up.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:35 PM
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91

Look. I don't think Beyonce is being colorist in some sort of malicious, conscious way, but she is recreating racist, colorist tropes in a way that may very well have been designed as satire or a play on the trope (I thought about it that way the first time I watched it), but the next few times I was less sure. That's why it made me uncomfortable. (Note! This is my own reaction. You can disagree without it being all personal).

Of course if you want to talk about how Bey probably inhabits a different space of social privilege from her darker-skinned backup dancers, and the larger market-related reasons she's the main act and they're not, that's a conversation worth having (I mean, not if people are going to pretend that "light-skinned privilege" is necessarily similar to "white privilege," but it definitely has certain parallels).

That's what I thought I was alluding to with my mention of discomfort.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:36 PM
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99: comments where the only thing wrong is typos are a rare treat in some threads.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:37 PM
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Note! This is my own reaction

Why are you sharing it, though


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:40 PM
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Sharing is caring, Sifu.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:41 PM
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97, 98

The lighter woman surrounded by darker woman trope is actually far more common than the lighter woman with black men trope, I mainly posted that one because it was the first one that came up on the site search. Though Beyonce does have a scene where she's surrounded by darker men, so I don't think this article is irrelevant.

Look, I don't think Beyonce was mindlessly recreating some racist Vogue editors' shoot. But she *did* pull on that imagery, and I am not sure it worked as satire. I have mixed feelings, which is why I get uncomfortable.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:42 PM
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It basically is personal. Like most black families who are biologically related, my family includes a range of hair types and skin tones and talk about colorism and keepin' it real or whatever has actual consequences and is part of an ongoing conversation that goes on all the time.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:44 PM
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Why are you sharing it, though

I'm curious to hear about other people's reactions to Beyoncé's new single.

Silly me. I thought I was a person.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:44 PM
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100: "she is recreating racist, colorist tropes in a way that may very well have been designed as satire or a play on the trope (I thought about it that way the first time I watched it), but the next few times I was less sure."

Well, but this is what I don't see her doing. Colorist tropes would consist of mockery and denigration of their subjects. Like if she'd brought a bunch of black guys out in slave collars to dance adoringly around her while she rapped about being Queen Bey, that would be a colorist or racist trope comparable to the sort of thing in that Racialicious article you see in 95.

"Formation" doesn't contain any of that. We don't get to say it's "colorist" simply because Beyonce happens to be on stage with some darker-skinned people or that they are automatically "props" for "racist tropes" because she happens to be lighter-skinned than they are. That's not how it works. (If she'd excluded all the darker-skinned people and had color-specific casting calls, which are actually not uncommon? That would have been colorist. Including them, particularly in an unabashedly celebratory way, is an anti-colorist act.)

To some extent of course backup dancers are inherently "props," as they're basically used as a backdrop to the main act, but that's as close as I can see the "props" critique coming to validity.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:46 PM
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105

I get that. It's most likely my intense reactions come from my own childhood, where being a light skinned black woman was at the top of the social hierarchy, and lighter-skinned girls used to tease darker-skinned girls by calling them "darkie" and "blackie." We did have conversations about colorism in class, but they mostly got glossed over with a more general "all black skin is beautiful" message, which made the ways in which lighter skinned girls bullied darker skinned girls go under the radar.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:51 PM
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||
NMM to Nino?
|>


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:52 PM
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109: Whoa.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:54 PM
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107

But it can be more subtle than that. Like, we call out racism in TV shows and movies where POCs are only supporting characters, even if they're not minstrels or gross stereotypes. It's true that, for any one show, it's not necessarily an issue (this show is about white people! they exist, should they not have TV shows?), but when it's a pattern, then I don't think it's wrong to note it when you see it. And the "well should she have no darker women?" is a bit of a deflection. It's not unlike, "well what, should she not have a black neighbor?"

And again, it's not simply that Beyonce has darker skinned women men and women. She is very consciously playing up the difference through things like hairstyles. This doesn't run through the whole video, but there are three scenes--inside the plantation on the couch, outside the plantation surrounded by men, and dancing with all the women with natural hair weaves while she has butt length blonde braids--that made me uncomfortable.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 2:57 PM
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I mean, not to celebrate someone's death, but this might literally save the world given the recent injunction on Obama's energy plan.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:01 PM
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What's the longest it's ever taken to confirm a new Justice?

Because my guess is that, if it's shorter than 12 months, this Congress will probably break that record.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:02 PM
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Castock, I'm ignoring you because I think you're entimely right and what the fuck could I add?

111: To me (and I'm not going to rewatch now when I should be getting in the shower myself, but I thought she mostly had a blowout look some people think may be heroes hair with the Formation dancers) braids read differently from straight weave. Seeing Beyoncé in micros is noteworthy and sending deliberate style and class and possible regional messages. She's got her hair looking a lit of the the kids my kids go to school with and that's awesome for all these little black girls of many hues in Kentucky, which I care about!

For me and for my family, natural hair is important because being able to show growth proves I'm a competent parent (though the locs, which aren't normal here, probably obscure that to some degree) but as the girls get older they may choose more than just the hair chalk Nia got into a week ago and that's fine. I want them to do it knowingly just like Nia at 9 understands what people think of her locs. They know they don't have a lot of celebrity mirrors and I don't expect them to, but as I said before we take what we can.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:06 PM
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109

???? Have any non tabloidy sources picked this up?


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:06 PM
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For me and for my family, natural hair is important because being able to show growth proves I'm a competent parent

Is this for yourself or to other black parents, or is this something you have to show to caseworkers for the custody arrangement? I'm just curious.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:09 PM
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Yes. San Antonio newspaper and Governor of Texas. And just on my TV right now.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:10 PM
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111: Yeah, but look, "there should be broader representation of dark-skinned artists in pop music" and "Beyonce is reproducing colorist and racist tropes in 'Formation'" are entirely different arguments. If the only "colorist and racist trope" she's really reproducing is that she happens to be onstage as the main act and "Formation" is about her voice and perspective instead of someone else's, then as a critique of her use of tropes this is utterly meaningless and more than a little dishonest.

(And no, mentioning that inclusion is the opposite of colorism is not a "deflection." The fact of inclusion is one of the big things that drew such a reaction to "Formation" as playing with and speaking to the Black experience as a whole. Colorism subsists in the sub-reproduction of actually racist and white supremacist tropes and/or in the exclusion of dark bodies from representation, especially from poistive representation. To be trying to accuse someone who is doing the opposite of those things of replicating "colorist and racist tropes" does not work. It's incoherent. Words mean things.)

If you have a problem with the fact that Queen Bey has benefited from colorist privilege as a music star (which she probably has) then great. But that is a larger issue which has to do with real-world dynamics of the music industry, and with only a tangential relationship to her artistic praxis in "Formation." This gets into the larger question of "Formation" as actual politics in which I'm sure there's a lively conversation to be had about to what extent someone like Queen Bey really supports or benefits the careers of those who don't have the same gradation of color privilege she does. That's all well and good -- but it is not relevant to the question of what tropes are or are not in "Formation."


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:14 PM
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117: And Gov. Abbot goes full political on announcing the death.

"Justice Antonin Scalia was a man of God, a patriot, and an unwavering defender of the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution. His fierce loyalty to the Constitution set an unmatched example, not just for judges and lawyers, but for all Americans. We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:18 PM
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Oops, I guess there are now various actually relevant threads. Quick work FPPers.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:20 PM
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Last word to Buttercup because I've gotta run: I started off by saying I dislike the phenomenon of people talking about Beyonce's "colorism" in ways that hint they could only really be satisfied if she would simply stop appearing in anything at all as the star of her own career and product.

I'm circling back to that because this is what your critique of "Formation" seems to boil down to: that Bey is inherently "reproducing" racism simply by being centre stage at all and by having her own voice and career. This is the least helpful possible way to criticize racism of any kind; if the critique is about getting everyone a fair place at the table, that's one thing, but when it veers into it's inherently racist for you to exist and have any form of voice or success I'm off the bus, basically. I wouldn't say that to or about any white artist and I don't find it okay to say it to or about Bey.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:21 PM
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Last word to Buttercup because I've gotta run: I started off by saying I dislike the phenomenon of people talking about Beyonce's "colorism" in ways that hint they could only really be satisfied if she would simply stop appearing in anything at all as the star of her own career and product.

I'm circling back to that because this is what your critique of "Formation" seems to boil down to: that Bey is inherently "reproducing" racism simply by being centre stage at all and by having her own voice and career. This is the least helpful possible way to criticize racism of any kind; if the critique is about getting everyone a fair place at the table, that's one thing, but when it veers into it's inherently racist for you to exist and have any form of voice or success I'm off the bus, basically. I wouldn't say that to or about any white artist and I don't find it okay to say it to or about Bey.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:21 PM
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Last word to Buttercup because I've gotta run: I started off by saying I dislike the phenomenon of people talking about Beyonce's "colorism" in ways that hint they could only really be satisfied if she would simply stop appearing in anything at all as the star of her own career and product.

I'm circling back to that because this is what your critique of "Formation" seems to boil down to: that Bey is inherently "reproducing" racism simply by being centre stage at all and by having her own voice and career. This is the least helpful possible way to criticize racism of any kind; if the critique is about getting everyone a fair place at the table, that's one thing, but when it veers into it's inherently racist for you to exist and have any form of voice or success I'm off the bus, basically. I wouldn't say that to or about any white artist and I don't find it okay to say it to or about Bey.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:21 PM
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Yikes, sorry for the triple post.


Posted by: LC | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:22 PM
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Don't be. It's your triple post that killed Scalia.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:25 PM
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Let's all remember not to gloat or celebrate over the death of another human being tomorrow.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:28 PM
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121 et al

That's a straw version of my point, but whatever. I agree there are two separate issues. The way in which famous black celebrities are overwhelmingly light skinned women is a problem, and not one that is on any particular woman.

OTOH, style choices and casting for her music video are on Beyonce, and that's what I have problems with at certain points in the video. If you think I'm totally missing her satire, please explain it to me, I'm happy to be wrong. As it is, I'm not sure what point she's making, and the imagery makes me uncomfortable.

Colorism subsists in the sub-reproduction of actually racist and white supremacist tropes

FFS! There IS a racist trope of white women in fashion and entertainment being surrounded by backup dancers of color!! Gwen Stefani got raked through the coals for this. If you haven't seen or heard about this, I am not responsible for your ignorance. It's a big issue that gets called out by feminists of color on the internet. I imagine Beyonce is conscious of this and trying to do something with it rather than simply reproduce it, but i'm not sure if it works, which is why I'm uncomfortable with it.

But anyways, don't take my word for it.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 3:52 PM
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There IS a racist trope of white women in fashion and entertainment being surrounded by backup dancers of color!! Gwen Stefani got raked through the coals for this.

Yes, Buttercup, I know. I am simply disagreeing that Beyonce can be coded as a "white woman" surrounding herself with people of a completely different culture and background for exoticism points. (I'm not much impressed by "The Frisky's" version of the overall point either; again it seems ultimately to boil down to "this light-skinned chick has no business being front and center and unapologetically herself in her own video, because Privilege." Which to me is a massive misunderstanding of how to talk about race and privilege.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 5:37 PM
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Well okay, let me qualify that a bit. I do think this bit from the Frisky is a legitimate point:

In "Formation" Beyonce sings, "I see it I want it/ I stunt yellow-bone it." The term "yellow-bone" is a reference to her honey-colored complexion, which has been the subject of much debate. L'Oreal was hit with a major backlash, after it featured the singing diva in an ad with skin far lighter than her fans were accustomed to. This led to resurfaced rumors that the singer was bleaching her skin. These rumors cropped up when an unsubstantiated claim that Beyonce's manager and father, Matthew Knowles, persuaded her to use skin lightening products to stand out from other members of the Destiny's Child group she was then a part of. Then there was the the image used promote her fourth album that showed Beyonce sporting blonde hair, red lipstick and far whiter skin than normal, prompting swift accusations of skin lightening.

However, she looks even lighter in "Formation." In one scene, she's seen hanging out of the window of a car, adorned in a white fur, as her long braids toss about carelessly in the wind. Her skin is so light that it seems almost intentional. But what, precisely, would be the purpose of this artistic choice in a video meant to celebrate blackness? In truth, the singer is celebrating her own blackness- yellow- boned, blonde weave and all, which would be fine if that celebration didn't have major history.

When we consider some many of the scenes in the video have a colonial/slavery era motif -- the lace, plantation-style home, vintage era rugs and furniture -- the implications of this "yellow bone" celebration is quite problematic.

In the context of the lyrics of the song specifically bragging up being light-skinned -- and the accusations of artificial skin-lightening, which I was unaware of and would sadden me if true but would not surprise me -- that does put a potentially uncomfortable spin on some of the "colonial"-era imagery in the video. We can have some comity there.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-13-16 5:46 PM
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128/129

I'm drunk commenting, but I was at a workshop that reminded me both of this conversation and my discomfort at my own role in how this conversation went, which is the difficulty/impossibility of inhabiting a certain critical space without seeming to be voicing the opposite position of the that which one is critiquing. In the context of the workshop it was grappling with writing about Indian slum life in a way which was neither downplaying nor overplaying both the realities of human misery but also human agency, and I feel like this is where the conversation on my part got/gets stuck, especially in the blog comment format. On the whole, I think we probably agree more than we disagree, and I have a lot to say on this issue which is complex and ill-formed and isn't very amenable to blog comments.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-16-16 5:45 PM
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Funnily enough, I've been giving this some thought too, and I think for my part it does serve to be wary of overreacting to critiques of colorism (which one always tells oneself that one isn't doing, but I think it's a pitfall nevertheless).

Anyway it was an interesting and worthwhile exchange, so thanks. I think it did wind up clarifying for me, in the end, more specifically what the challenges of imagery in "Formation" might be. (It actually seems to me to be similar to the problems with a lot of "steampunk" imagery and fiction, where racial hierarchies that were central to certain historical issues are brushed over -- in this particular case while the lyrics of the song are actually still embodying colorism that has been operative for a long time.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 02-16-16 6:11 PM
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131

Thanks, and I'm glad this exchange was more than just annoying for you. Your comments and Thorn's have also got me thinking about things too on all sorts of meandering but important levels (and worrying that I'd been offensive in ways I didn't mean to be). I can see what you're talking about, and respect your opinion a lot.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 02-16-16 6:19 PM
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