Breaking Down Beyoncé’s Iconic Brand

From desecrating art to hanging with the First Lady on her birthday, King B has everyone talking. But is anyone really holding her accountable for her actions?

No doubt about it. In the R&B and Pop music world, 2013 was the year of Beyoncé. From singing/lip-synching the national anthem at the 2013 inauguration of President Obama and delivering a Super Bowl performance so fierce that all the lights went out in the stadium, to releasing her HBO documentary “Life Is But a Dream,” to a record-breaking viewership, dazzling fans worldwide with her “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” and dropping her visual album “Beyoncé” online in the middle of the night to the delight of her fans in December, Beyonce did that. In fact, her influence has grown so much that the superstar is sparking conversations/controversies in other worlds.

Most recently, Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian advocacy group, took notice of Beyoncé. The AFA chastised her for posting an Instagram photo in which she positions herself in front of Jesus in Andy Warhol’s “Last Supper” mural–pictured above. In a statement to The Christian Post, Wildmon said, “Is nothing sacred anymore? This is clearly an act of disrespect towards Jesus Christ, whom Beyoncé covers up with her pose. This had to be done intentionally.”

Instagram users had various reactions. According to a Washington Times article, one user said, “Looks like the Last Supper, instead of Jesus its Beyoncé. Ummm epic fail boo. Jesus Christ is my savior, not you. Besides that, I love Beyoncé, but you will never be God.” Still other users said, “Praise Beyoncé” and donned her “Beysus.”

This controversy is on the heels of an apology Mrs. Carter issued to the families of the seven astronauts who perished in the space shuttle Challenger explosion on Jan. 28, 1986. In a song entitled “XO” a single off her new album, Beyonce used audio heard just before the explosion. At the beginning of the song, the words, “Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction,” spoken by then NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt. Shuttle commander Dick Scobee’s widow June Scobee Rodgers was reportedly “disappointed” with the audio’s use in the song. NASA is also displeased. Billboard reported NASA’s statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “The Challenger accident is an important part of our history, a tragic reminder that space exploration is risky and should never be trivialized.”

In a statement reported by ABC News, Beyoncé said, “My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song ‘XO’ was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you.” She was right to apologize to the families lost in the shuttle explosion, as the audio seems melodramatic juxtaposed to the whimsy expressed in the song and the video—the song being about the euphoric feeling of love and the video showing Beyonce and a large entourage traipsing around Brooklyn’s historic amusement park Coney Island. While her heart went out and apologies were issued to those affected by the Challenger disaster, Beyonce issued no apologies to those affected by her actions in Christian community–a community that she claims to be a part of. She referenced Jesus in her HBO documentary “Life Is But a Dream” and thanks Jesus for her blessings, but then she covers Him in a photo and posts it for all her followers to see with no remorse? I’m not judging, but I’m just sayin’.

Feminists have also been in an uproar about Beyoncé’s latest album. Some say she’s the face of modern feminism or the premier feminist for millennials. In her TIME magazine article “Flawless: 5 Lessons in Modern Feminism From Beyoncé,” Eliana Docketerman wrote, “Beyoncé has managed to become the biggest female pop star in the world while cultivating her marriage, her role as a mother, and her sexuality. And in doing so, she’s ushering in a new wave of feminism.”

But Beyoncé’s brand of feminism also has its detractors. Julia Sonenshein, contributing editor at theGloss.com who wrote the article Why White Feminists Are Mad At Beyoncé, told theGrio.com that, “White feminists tend to critique Beyoncé first and foremost for the way she uses her sexuality as a tool. White feminists also tend to criticize her attitude towards wealth and materialism, along with her bravado and confidence. While there is certainly room for criticism, and major figures like Beyoncé should be criticized, these particular conversations tend to approach any analysis from a very white point of view, and don’t consider how the themes of sexuality, wealth, and confidence differ across communities.” Although, getting nearly naked at every opportunity is so Josephine Baker...

And top it all off, Mrs. Carter, who is also known as King B, seems to be a good friend of Mrs. Obama, who has provoked the ire of feminists all by herself. In the Politico Magazine article, “Leaning Out: How Michelle Obama Became a Feminist Nightmare,” Michelle Cottle criticized our First Lady for neglecting to address more pressing issues in order to champion gardening, soothe wounded soldiers and read to children.

With Michelle’s Obama 50th party around the corner, Washington Post writer Krissah Thompson speculates that Beyoncé will be in the house. In her article, “Michelle Obama and Beyoncé: Friends and feminists?” Thompson said, “The public statements and choices made by Michelle Obama and Beyoncé represent a specific feminist strain of thinking on women, work and family, students of feminism say, that could rightly be called Beyoncéism.” Some may criticize the First Lady’s admiration of Beyoncé, and I get that. But in a strange way, I think it’s kind of cool that a First Lady would be friends with a (sometimes) controversial superstar. I can’t see former First Lady Laura Bush getting down with Lady Gaga.

As a pop culture enthusiast, there is no doubt that Beyoncé should be lauded for her unstoppable work ethic. I think she offers good if not controversial music.. I even admire her unique brand of feminism. Her life provides a positive image of a successful career, a marriage and motherhood to counteract the increasing acceptance of the baby mama/baby daddy culture. Her example may even have some value for women in the black church who still struggle for equality in leadership.

But as the Instagram user noted, Beyoncé nor King B is my savior and should not be made an idol, and sometimes I believe her fan base falls prey to that temptation. (I’m readying myself for the Beyhive as I type.) Her Instagram photo makes me question her motives, but maybe her motives are as simple as keeping her name in the media. As someone once said, “all publicity is good publicity.” However, I hope Beyoncé, if she truly professes a belief in Jesus Christ, does not make such publicity, which is ill-advised at best and sacrilegious at worst, a habit.

 

About the author, Jacqueline J. Holness

Jacqueline J. Holness is a preacher’s kid, a preacher’s grandkid, and a preacher’s niece who blogs at afterthealtarcall.com. She is also the author of After the Altar Call: The Sisters’ Guide to Developing a Personal Relationship With God.
  1. 2 Kings 17:41
    Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols.

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