Here’s a little story to kick off this article. Prior to writing it, I was walking through a department store and came across a T-shirt that read “Don’t Worry, Be Yoncé.” I came close to purchasing it, but as I pulled the shirt from its rack, a woman walked by and scoffed, “I would never want to be Yoncé.”
If you read the title of this piece and thought, “What’s not to love about Beyoncé?” you’re not alone. If you read the title and thought, “Oh, her again? Crucifixion? Someone bring her a violin,” you’re not alone either. Beyoncé is a polarizing figure that endures a fair share of flack for reasons that eclipse her everyday being. But why?
Awareness of Beyoncé falls on either end of the spectrum, with both ends being quite severe. On one end is an entire religion dedicated to Beyoncé, bookended by the ever-so-loyal BeyHive, who recently charged at Kid Rock for making remarks on how flabbergasted he was that Beyoncé was as famous as she is. They attacked his Instagram with bee emojis, flanked by vile comments from Kid Rock supporters writing, “I hope Beyoncé dies in a plane crash” and “I hope Beyoncé gets AIDS.” The BeyHive attacked, yet the object of their affection was the casualty. And that’s where we meet the other end of the spectrum — those like Kid Rock who can’t comprehend her success to the point where it leads to blind fury. Other people just straddle the line of indifference. But Beyoncé didn’t arrive as “Beysus.” This was years in the making.
2008 was a pivotal year for Beyoncé, one that marked her transition from icon to demigod. Her third solo studio album, I Am…Sasha Fierce, presented a dichotomy of the demure Beyoncé versus the hair-down-let-you-have-it Sasha Fierce. Her prior trajectory involved heavy doses of girl power and “I won’t take your s**t” tunes — both as a solo artist and the leader of Destiny’s Child — but Sasha Fierce was different. Sasha Fierce suggested a superhero status, a caped crusader, someone omnipotent and lacking in human function. Only form. She came with a built-in wind fan, and it seemed to blow whenever she stood still and peered out into the distance. Beyoncé was supercharged, and all it took was an alter ego.
That same year she married Jay Z. The two epitomized the quintessential power couple, as both were at the respective heights of their careers at the time. (Jay Z was still riding off the fumes of American Gangster and piecing together The Blueprint 3.) Their pairing was divine. However, it marked the gradual polarization of the two, primarily Mrs. Carter.
In 2009, Kanye West sprung to his feet at the MTV VMAs to snatch the microphone from a milquetoast Taylor Swift’s hand as she beat Beyoncé out for Best Female Video. “Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time,” West declared emphatically, sealing it with his now famous shrug.
And so the superlatives began.
Beyoncé inherited a modicum of Kanye West’s criticism, despite her attempt to diffuse the situation, suggesting she didn’t “do enough” to restrain a grown man. Around the same time the Illuminati became the rumor du jour for any successful rapper, leaving Bey grandfathered into the organization by way of her husband. In 2011, she announced her pregnancy with Blue Ivy Carter, chased with theories that she wasn’t carrying her own child. When Blue Ivy was born (from Beyoncé), people criticized that she didn’t look enough like Beyoncé, but that was bumped by backlash that Beyoncé’s skin was lightened via Photoshop for her Cover Girl ad campaign. All of this was apparently Beyoncé’s fault.
2013 rolled around, and Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem at a freezing outdoor Inaugural Ceremony, met with criticism that she can’t really sing. (She shut them up with a live rendition at a later press conference.) Her Super Bowl performance a month later was followed by a mini-documentary by Christian conservatives highlighting the performance and marking minutes where she was “possessed by Satan.” The photos from the Super Bowl surfaced, and some action shots were unflattering. They were turned into memes that stated, “Beyoncé wanted this photo removed from the Internet. Let’s share it everywhere.” By the close of 2013, her eponymous album arrived, with the track “Flawless,” including a video where a famed speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was recited as Bey stood in front of the word FEMINIST. Think pieces were generated expressing that Beyoncé was by no means a feminist, her new album was hypersexualized and submissive, and her marriage to Jay Z was on its way out. The infamous “Elevator-Gate of 2014” fanned those flames.
Throughout last year she was challenged for “not really singing,” as she adopted trappish undertones to newer cuts (prior to 2014 she was charged with “over singing”). By the 2015 Grammy’s, Kanye West once again assumed his position as leader of the BeyHive to express that Beck was lacking in artistry and that Beyoncé should have won Album of the Year. The result was a meme listing all of Beyoncé’s writers on her album, side-by-side with Beck’s sole writing credit on his. No one exposed the liner notes from Kanye’s projects, despite the artistry comment being his.
Any high profile human being endures several degrees of public scrutiny, both on and offline. They live under a microscope, with their actions and remarks being held as quotables that echo throughout time. But what’s unique about the hatred toward Beyoncé is that oftentimes it has nothing to do with her, rather people’s perception of her. The idle worship, the fan loyalty, the pedestals — none of this is really any of Beyoncé’s doing. She’s just appreciative of her BeyHive. She doesn’t own their actions, Kanye West included.
And perhaps that’s the most magical aspect of Beyoncé. Her bionics are fueled by acting aggressively human and not by acting like the goddess her followers make her to be. She posts random pics on Instagram, rarely speaks on anything publicly, and makes confidence-building songs. Oh, and for the most part, she’s always smiling.
Is that why they’re so mad at her?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: James Devaney/GC Images)