“The Day Beyoncé Turned Black” is a mock movie trailer created by comedy television show Saturday Night Live (SNL), which shows the fictional aftermath of a world in which pop-superstar Beyoncé is “revealed” to be Black because of the (real) release of her 2016 song “Formation.” In the satirical trailer, the world is turned upside down because White people finally realize that Beyoncé is Black through the “Formation” song and music video, which unapologetically celebrates Blackness and African Americanness, makes pointed commentary on African-American social issues and struggles, and celebrates Southern Blackness, Black power, and Black femininity.
The SNL clip uses comedy to make fun of the shock people felt about the “Formation” song lyrics and video, using their responses to point out privileges, contradictions, and complexities regarding U.S. race relations as well as the issues that manifest at the intersections of race, class, and gender. For example, a White woman screams, “We have to go, we have to leave America, Beyoncéis Black!” to her friend, without recognizing that her friend is also Black. Her friend points out that she and many others in America are Black. In response, the White woman points to a nearby man in a coat with a thick gold chain, and says, “Well, I knowhe’sBlack.” This exchange highlights the “colorblind” way Saturday Night Live is portraying White America – as treating Black or African-American people who obtain certain standards of dress, beauty, or popularity as “acceptable” and “non-Black” while discriminating or being unwilling to accept Black or African-American people when they forefront Blackness, point out racial injustices, or portray non-mainstream notions of Blackness.
In the video, a man asks, “How can they be Black? They’re women.” What does this exchange say about how we typically represent, talk about, and understand gender and race? Do we usually represent or talk about these aspects of identity separately or together? Can one aspect of identity be representative of a person? How do combinations of gender and race, along with other aspects of identity, such as class, religion, or ability, influence how we see and act around each other?
Upon hearing “Formation,” a White man states, “Maybe this song isn’t for us.” A lady screams in response, “But usually everything is!” What does this exchange say about White privilege and the ways it manifests as a system of privileges?
At the start of this mock movie trailer, news reporters repeat, “Beyoncé is Black.” How do the different ways media portrays a celebrity change people’s perception of them? What does this say about the way media portrays Black celebrities?