I love Beyonce as an entertainer. I actually equate her with Michael Jackson. I think her voice is flawless and as a business woman I think she is in a unique place where she can continually leverage her brand. I understand in this extent how she is a massive major role model to so many and yet for others remain something of an enigma. While she will never grab me musically in the way her soul contemporaries Jill Scott, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu do, she is definitely the most commercially viable queen of soul. Like any icon it is important to recognise that she is now public property for bloggers, writers and social commentators to voice opinion on. I have been intrigued more than ever though by two things that will be part of her legacy and that is the discourse around feminism she has engendered and the fanatic community who will support her every move and not deal delightfully with any detraction.
The recent release of her self titled album is a masterstroke of capitalism. Much hype and emotionally marketed words have been dedicated to this. Seemingly with no promotion (side eye). Leveraging through social media. Global record breaker as one of the fastest selling albums of all time. More astute entrepreneurs know this is no accident but a cleverly calculated campaign to the point where even Apple had to bend its rule to accommodate both her and her label Columbia records, with both parties being massive beneficiaries along with Beyonce in this demonstration of 360 marketing. She becomes heralded in many areas as the poster child for feminism and in some corners, of womanism.
This intrigues me. As a father of two daughters I am always intrigued as to how they will embrace womanhood. We spend time philosophising and having our views of the world challenged. Outside of their mother, aunts and godparents I am always intrigued as to what role models they will look to for their own inspiration. Personally I have problems with Beyonce. I find it difficult to marry up the singer who will be free to talk about her own empowerment, express her sexual freedom and yet can flip her mantra on feminism by allowing her husband to allude to domestic violence and the meme of “bitches bowing down” because of her success.
Try to address this contradiction in a blog, tweet or other social media and you are likely to get blown apart from those who think she is beyond criticism. We are asked to focus on the fact she is the first black woman to have done so much of what she has done. To stop hating. To focus only on the positive and not address questions or issues that arise for us. This is a problem with fans (or stans to use the Eminem nomenclature)
It is so easy to place people on a pedestal. I alluded to this in a previous post on The Problem with Heroes. An ideal vision has been created in a person’s mind of how excellent someone is and how much they want to be in their sphere, or like them that they either forget that they are human just like us or will fight to the death to protect the notion of their vision. Probably why so many of today’s entertainers up on child sexual charges seemed to get away with it. I digress.
This fanaticism is not restricted to celebrities brought to us by entertainment but also those who will challenge certain points of view. Take an author like Richard Dawkins. A brilliant scientist but also a very outspoken, some would say, cantankerous voice in opposition of organised religion. Whilst it is eye opening to witness the skill with which he can verbalise his arguments or indeed deconstruct those who oppose him, try writing a piece which challenges him. He has long been challenged about his assumed role to speak out on behalf of Muslim women as oppressed and will bristle, or his army of fans will, when challenged as demonstrated here.
We could add Belibers, Obama diehards and other fanbases of people in the spotlight who would fight to the death, verbally (and probably physically if given the chance) to defend their idol.
The thing is these individuals don’t need defending. In most cases they are equally capable of responding in kind to those who take them on. The comedian Ricky Gervais and singer James Blunt have created somewhat of a legendary status on Twitter with their ability to be able to pick apart and respond to those who wish to heap ad hominem attacks upon them. That said, this also brings with it again an army of fans wishing to curse, unpick social media profiles and be generally caustic to any one who challenges their idol. This is life, but is also somewhat problematic in so much that you cannot speak the mind for another. Of course debates are good and often emotional, but trying to speak on behalf of or even defending to the death someone who you admire is futile. In fact I think it is a complete waste of energy. It is also quite scary when people do go into one on behalf of their idol and I suppose on the upside it is a great benchmark of the kind of person you don’t want to meet face to face and share a drink with.
Whilst fanatics are a surefire way of ensuring those in the public eye have a membership to support their commercial output, they are probably best avoided when it comes to having a balanced discussion around the person(s) to whom they dedicate a large portion of their energy and life to keeping on that pedestal. Please duly note this.