“Social commentary is the act of using rhetorical means to provide commentary on issues in a society. This is often done with the idea of implementing or promoting change by informing the general populace about a given problem and appealing to people’s sense of justice.“ Credit to Dictionary.Net.
I keep waiting for Beyoncé and her half-time show to go away and slope off into the sunset but she can’t because “heads are exploding” everywhere. I hate that description. Social media trolls, left and right, need to find better descriptors…as do I. The fact is the vast fabric of social media won’t allow her fade away.
I don’t dislike Beyoncé…or her hubby Jay Z. I don’t know them well enough to dislike them. I don’t buy their music simply because “it’s not my cup of tea.” It has nothing to do with boycotts. Their music simply justifies my belief that very little good music has been produced since the Eighties. Give me BB King, Taj Mahal or Jimmy Buffett any day but that is nothing more than personal preference and the fact they go well with Jack Daniels and a cigar. I know Beyoncé less than I understood the half-time show. I didn’t understand the show at all because the poor audio combining with my near deaf right ear made it impossible. I also would suggest that I might not have understood it due to my age and race. Visually, that part I got…the forms not the uniforms. The next day, after heads began to explode, I decided to educate myself by cueing up her video so I could run back any portions I might have missed in real time. It was a mistake for sure because of the thoughts that began to percolate in my head. My thinking probably is better characterized as fermenting rather than percolating.
One of the thoughts fermenting in my head was that many artists have used their particular mediums to make social comments since…since…since Homer penned “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Martin Luther’s “Ninety-five Theses”, along with a printing press, helped to bring about the Reformation and was considered radical at the time. Many writings led to our own American Revolution along with one in France. There were a couple of monarch’s that didn’t agree with those “liberal” social commentaries including one whose head didn’t explode but ended up in a basket. During my own lifetime many famous people have provided commentary on issues to promote change. In the arena of sports, Cassius Clay burned his draft card in protest of the Viet Nam War and racism. That was before he became Muhammad Ali. John Carlos and Tommie Smith, fists raised in the Black Power salute at the Olympics, were branded, along with Ali, as being un-American for speaking out against racial injustice. War protest songs like Buffy St. Marie’s “Universal Soldier” or “For What It’s Worth” sung by Buffalo Springfield were not well received by the “Establishment.” Songs of the Civil Rights Movement like “The Times They Are a Changin’” by Bob Dylan and Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” supported one “radical” position and made the status quo very uncomfortable. That was the point wasn’t it? MAKE SOMEONE UNCOMFORTABLE! Even the Academy Awards were used when American Indian activist, Sacheen Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar when Brando staged his own boycott in 1973. With many other examples it is my opinion that Beyoncé is simply joining a larger group of social commentators using song or dance to make her point.
During the years of my youth, as the social, civil and political struggles played out on my black and white television set I remember the heads of my father’s generation exploded to…we just didn’t get to see it play out at the push of a finger or click of a mouse nor did everyone have a computer to make their feelings clearly known. Terms or statements like “thugs,” “has been bitch with thunder thighs” and “trash” have replace terms and statements like “uppity Negro” or “don’t know their place” but the intent seems to be similar. For some reason my parents made few, if any, comments and seemed to be more concerned with whether or not I was wearing socks with my Weejuns than activities playing out in Oakland, California.
Questions, so many questions. Was her show appropriate for the Super Bowl? Where else are you going to have a “gazillion” people to promote a cause to? Could she have dressed differently? Sure but it’s really not my place to be a fashion NAZI. Was it anti-cop? Maybe. It certainly was anti-BAD COP! If that is bad I guess I am bad because I stand with everyone who is, against bad cops including, I hope, the majority of cops who are, in fact, GOOD COPS. Are the Black Panthers or Malcomb X anti-white? I don’t believe promoting your own race or ethnic group is anti-another race or ethnic group. The hardest point to admit for some of us is that there were and are valid reasons for what both the Black Panthers and Malcomb X were promoting, using rhetoric similar to modern secessionist and militia members operating today. Before you say it, the Black Panthers’ original ten points said nothing about killing whites or the police, they proposed using the Second Amendment to protect their race. It is also not against the Constitution to say you are a socialist or a Marxist. Seems like I’ve seen something written recently about both of those points…and others. Were cops assassinated, yes and I despise that fact along with the Black Panthers who were assassinated by the FBI. Actually I abhor all violence in any form, for any reason.
Lastly, and my cynical petticoats are getting soiled, both Beyoncé and Jay Z are smart business people. You can call for a boycott if you want but something tells me their bank accounts are going to increase rather than decrease. Seems like the members of The Beatles did okay even after my brother and two cousins burned all their records when the group announced that “they were bigger than Jesus.” I see the Dixie Chicks have made a comeback. What did they do?
So ends my social commentary and I hope your head doesn’t explode as you read this.