An Analysis of Beyonce's Music Video "Formation"

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Words: 1054 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Nov 22, 2018

Words: 1054|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Nov 22, 2018

Beyoncé is a black female singer and artist well known for promoting female and cultural empowerment, as well as discussing subtle racial issues and personal issues. If we look into Lemonade, her most recent album, we can find many references to female empowerment, such as in “Sorry” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. However, what we’ll be discussing today is her song “Formation”, which she performed live at the Super Bowl. Since its release, it has sparked interests amongst many social groups. The difference between “Formation” and the rest of

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Beyoncé’s song is that formation is almost anything but subtle when it comes to racial issues. Two reoccurring themes in Beyoncé’s “Formation” seems to be promoting the continuation of black culture and remembering the past crimes that have occurred, such as the environmental racism of Hurricane Katrina.

Beyoncé’s “Formation” begins with her standing over a car in a seemingly flooded area in part of New Orleans. She does this to pay homage to the events that occurred during hurricane Katrina. She develops on this throughout the song by making the car sink further and further, showing that although years may have passed, the issue isn’t getting any better (Hill). There is also a scene in which the text “Stop Shooting US” is written on a wall. This can refer to many different instances of recent police brutality such as the issue in Ferguson or the issue with Trayvon Martin (Hill). There are many other scenes as well, such as the one in which she has a small child in front of a line of police officers. The child puts both hands up and the police officers follow suit in surrender. The hoodie the child is wearing is said to be seen as “threatening” even though the child seems young and weak (Hill). However, given that the officers also surrendered to him, this peaceful resolution between an African-American and the police can be seen as the victory that the black lives matter movement is looking for. This could be referring to many number of cases of police brutality such as George Zimmerman vs Trayvon

Martin or Michael Slager vs Walter Scott. If Slager hadn’t used excessive force on Scott, by shooting him in the back and killing him, the outcome would have been different. However, because of his actions, he faced a conviction with the possibility of life in prison (Juley). The Black Lives Matter movement was quick to protest against this police brutality, as were they with the Ferguson case and the Michael Brown case (Juley). Their persistence in advocation has led to a recognition of the problem present, but followers of the movement must be weary not to confuse police brutality with help from law enforcement (Juley).

In regards to the hurricane Katrina, there are many sources which claims that it could be predicted, although some claim that it was unpredictable. Those same sources that claim it could be predicted also claim that its area of impact was predictable due to the location of the dams and other waterways. Interestingly enough, it seems that those areas were predominantly inhabited by African Americans. Assuming those sources stating the predictability were true, then the disaster that affected many African Americans could have been prevented. During the evacuation, two thirds of those without a car were African-American. The flooded neighborhoods, by the areas that were predictable, were nearly 80% communities of color (Allen). It could be seen that the neglected and impacted areas were predominantly African American. Those areas had lower costs of living and promote lower classes to inhabit said areas, who tend to be minorities.

The problem is that the reason why those areas were so cheap is because of the dangers in that area. Instead of paying costs to prevent those disasters, the areas were simply made cheaper to live to scrape out whatever profit that they could. Even now, the areas that were heavily impacted by New Orleans are struggling. Even though Louisiana was funded $10 by the federal government for reparation, they only completed 731 out of 13,000 reconstruction projects while Mississippi closed 80% of its projects and Alabama closed almost 100% (Singer). With such funding, even at an estimated high cost of repair, one would assume that more than 6% of their projects would be closed. Their defense, however, is that closure is not necessarily indicative of recovery, rather if one were to look at reconstruction of physical infrastructure, their recovery would be around 80%. Assuming this is true, it would seem as if they are lacking in their legal and official documentation, which is also worrying.

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Beyoncé’s “Formation” also embraces and promotes black culture and the past. In one of her lines, she states “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” A lot of young African American females seem to be getting hate and being bullied because of their afros and others are being attacked because of their big noses (Bolanos). Because of the bullying, a lot of younger girls tend to go for straight or other whitewashed hair to avoid any stigma. Going back to an aforementioned occurrence, Beyoncé is seen atop of a police car at the beginning video. The car scene, interestingly enough, can have multiple different meanings. There’s the meaning stated before. There is also a line that plays at the beginning states “What happened after New Orleans.” It wasn’t Beyoncé’s voice, however. It was the voice of Messy Mya, who was shot down and murdered. His murderer confessed, was put in a psych ward, and got out a year and a half later with no other consequence, claiming he had nothing to do with the murder (Bolanos). Beyoncé and her dancers donned the Black Panther gear as a homage to the Black Panther group. Beyoncé also wore an outfit similar to that of Michael Jackson in his homage (Bolanos). Speaking of Michael Jackson, the line that was referring to the “… Jackson Five nostrils” was about the stereotype regarding big noses of African Americans. Michael Jackson, potentially in his shame or perhaps to conform to societal norms, got a nose job to reduce his nose size. Once again, this can be seen as accepting yourself and loving yourself as an African American.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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An Analysis of Beyonce’s Music Video “Formation”. (2018, November 05). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“An Analysis of Beyonce’s Music Video “Formation”.” GradesFixer, 05 Nov. 2018,
An Analysis of Beyonce’s Music Video “Formation”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
An Analysis of Beyonce’s Music Video “Formation” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Nov 05 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:
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