Beyoncé Knowles has won 16 Grammy Awards, sold 88 million albums and has spent 36 weeks on top of the charts, but it wasn’t until the lights went out after her incendiary Super Bowl halftime show that the Houston native transitioned from pop icon to political target.
“BEYONCE BOOTY BLACKOUT?” screamed the Drudge Report, the conservative news aggravator. The NFL clarified the next day that the blackout wasn’t the singer’s fault, but by that time Beyoncé had blown up. Not only had her digital-album sales shot up 230 percent, but Beyoncé was a hit on the conservatives’ complain-a-thon. The only thing they’re not blaming on Beyoncé these days is video games.
Some of the criticism was, to be fair, absolutely crazy. Elect A New Congress claimed vindication for its heretofore-unknown boycott of Beyoncé’s halftime show because (stay with me here) she flashed the triangular symbol of the Illuminati.
“Sycophants are trying to pass this off as Beyoncé giving the sign of her husband’s promotion company, Roc A Fella records. But you’ve got to be awfully thick between the ears to miss the allusion to ‘Rockefeller,’ …long affiliated with the Illuminati and their New World Order,” said Elect a New Congress founder William Fawell. “I’m left wondering how hard they have to hit people over the head with their anti-America theology that celebrates a godless centralized government and economy entrenched in a tyrannical state before people start getting the message.”
Most of the criticism was entirely predictable. Rush Limbaugh had warmed up the conservative choir before the Super Bowl when he criticized the “breathless” treatment Beyoncé received from CNN when she sang the National Anthem for the press corps.
“Beyoncé, Obama, CNN treats them the same. And of course Obama is the Celebrity of the United States,” blathered Rush before his rant devolved into a racist self-parody.
Most of the finger wagging was over Beyoncé’s confidently sexual performance. Kathryn Jena Lopez wrote a piece entitled “Put a Dress On” for National Review Online that asked, “Why can’t we have a national entertainment moment that does not include a mother gyrating in a black teddy?”
And Rachel Campos-Duffy, formerly a cast member of The Real World: San Francisco and now the head of the Libre Initiative and wife of rightwing Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy, went on Mike Huckabee’s radio show to complain about Beyoncé’s performance. “It looked like a stripper show,” said Campos-Duffy. “I half expected a pole to pop out of the platform there.”
But that wasn’t what got her angry. “What made me mad is that the First Lady tweeted about it,” said Campos-Duffy.
“@Beyonce was phenomenal! I am so proud of her!” tweeted Mrs. Obama, who knows a little something about public scrutiny of bared limbs and facial expressions. And certainly the Obamas’ embrace tags Bey as an ally, but there are a lot of celebrities who campaign for Obama.
It’s possible that what riles up the right about Beyoncé is what makes her so obviously a Texan. We’re talking about a political movement that opposes easy access to birth control, a rape exception to abortion, equal pay for women, and the Violence Against Women Act. Is it any surprise, then, that conservatives would be threatened by a strong, powerful woman who rocks what the good Lord gave her? In Texas, that’s just Tuesday for most women.
The only roots that aren’t showing on Beyoncé are on her head. Let’s go down the list: Born in Houston. Big hair. Nose job and rumors of the same on her chest. She wore a Christian Dior fur coat and 80-carat emerald earrings to Obama’s “down-scaled” inauguration. Married the richest, most successful man in her field but doesn’t let that stop her from flaunting her joie de vivre. She even still says “y’all”.
Need more evidence she’s a Texan? That black teddy she wore onstage was made from so many animals it pissed off PETA. And was her outfit really more revealing than a ballerina’s leotard or more titillating than what America sees on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys have a home game? Can I get an amen?
Conservatives might not be ready for Bey’s jelly, but her brand of Bootylicious isn’t anything we haven’t seen—and celebrated—in Texas before. If conservatives are going to tut-tut one of our most successful Texans for acting like a Texan, then we must rise to her defense. As pop singer (and Dallas native) Erykah Badu tweeted, “That’s Texas baby. Beyonce blew the power out.”