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On April 23rd 2016 Beyonce released a visual album named Lemonade, which was directed by Beyonce Knowles, Kahlil Joseph, Melina Matsoukas, Dikayl Rimmasch, Mark Romanek, Todd Tourso, and Jonas Akerlund. Through each song presented on this album, Beyonce strived to illustrate black women moving from segregation to strength in unity; expressed through 11 chapters titled, intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption. Through displaying strong women who are marginalized and restricted of civil rights, Beyonce successfully creates an interest in the overall encompassing theme of her album which is the ideas and goals surrounding Black Lives Matter and black feminist thought, more specifically expressed through her music video titled “Freedom”. Beyonce took advantage of her exceptionally large platform and used it to express her creativity surrounding music and additionally, as a podium to speak to an issue that she believes must be conquered.
In regards to the production and representation of the music video “Freedom”, Beyonce alongside Kendrick Lamar, speak to issues surrounding systemic racism and injustices faced by black lives. Through the use of their lyrics and the women presented in the video, they encourage their viewers to take action and take control of their futures. In the final moments of the music video, Jay Z’s grandmother, Hattie White, is shown making a speech and stating that through all of the obstacles she encountered in her life, she always found her “inner strength” to seek positive outcomes. This speech encouraged Beyonce to use lemons as a symbol to represent a healing process; she used something as broad and dull as a lemon to create a more interesting item which was lemonade. In addition to including this speech that spoke to the metaphor represented through lemonade, Beyonce also chose to show women holding photos of young black men and women who lost their lives to police brutality in hopes of further portraying the strive for an end to the oppression black lives face. With this visual, Beyonce was successful at speaking to the large audience she captures and took the opportunity to not only perform a powerful song, but also exemplify an issue that is personal to her and one that her viewers can take away from. This was carried out through the use of intertexuality; displayed through Jay Z’s grandmother’s speech and Malcolm X’s speech on black lives.
It was only until recently that the politics surrounding feminism has been thoroughly brought into attention in media today. With increasing amounts of police brutality being shown to the media, it is difficult to not speak to the issues being passionately expressed. Although the severity of the issue may not be experienced firsthand by someone as popular as Beyonce, it is more useful to use the platform she has to speak to this issues as it is easier given that her works are displayed on podiums that capture large audiences, as oppose to someone that is a casual citizen of a town but may have experienced police brutality firsthand. This further supports the claim that Beyonce is successful at creating an interest in an issue that would otherwise be difficult to speak to by someone who does not carry such a large platform.
Furthermore, given that film and television in the past has been dominated by white patriarchal entities, the sense of a oppositional black gaze present in the media through platforms such as popular artist’s music videos challenges this notion, and allows for a different outlook on a topic expressed. Recently there has been a large increase in the attention brought toward the topic of oppression faced by black individuals, and this can be credited because of the fact that with an understanding of race and racism, women have the ability to successfully create an oppositional gaze. In addition, one of the reasons why black feminist thought has been brought into the discourse surrounding feminism is because of the severe degree of oppression and isolation still faced by these victims and with the platforms created by successful artists such as Beyonce, post-feminism is brought about. I feel that it was necessary for criticisms and disagreements to be present regarding feminism in order for strong and creative individuals such as Beyonce to act on these issues. “Freedom” creatively speaks to these issues and allows for discourse regarding black lives to be expressed.
On the whole, Beyonce was successful at creating a positive impact and interest in the discourse surrounding black feminist thought and the goals and interests within Black Lives Matter, more specifically through her music video titled “Freedom” because she took advantage of the large platform she created to speak to an issue that she was passionate about and used resources such as the mothers of victims and influential speakers; and with the large audience present, discourse regarding feminism and black lives is challenged effectively.
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