Here is the thesis and intro ya'll. Peace to Birk and Jess for helping
me organize the beginning, I swear that's the hardest part, because the
rest of the framework flows from there.
In writing this I was reminded that its not enough to have something
to say. Its not enough to have read the books to be informed. It's only
enough when I can frame and deploy a convincing argument.
If you have any questions, leave them below, and I will try and work them
into the paper.
Beyonce Incorporated: R&B, Thugs and Whiteness
Since the 1998 crossover breakthrough of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce Knowles has
been a star on the rise. Since then she has released numerous albums, both with
Destiny’s Child and as a solo artist, she has starred in or served as a supporting
actor in several major motion pictures, and has married a multiplatnuim selling rap
artist. In short, Beyonce is everywhere, including the bank. In fiscal year
2007-2008, Beyonce reportedly earned an estimated $87 million dollars.
Given that black wealth is incredible rare in the United States (Oliver & Shapiro, 2006),
the reasons for Beyonce’s incredible success are worth exploring.
In exploring the reasons for Ms.Knowles’ success, I am primarily concerned with
the intersection of popular culture and the day to day lived experience of African
Americans. Often times we listen to music without considering the fact that it isn’t
neutral and that it also has an affect on the ways in which we go about our lives.
Beyonce Knowles is an accomplished, talented and attractive, singer, actor,
entertainer and fashion designer.
She is also is fast becoming an entertainment empire in and of herself. While she
“grew up in a four-bedroom home in Houston's upscale third ward with her father,
owner, and sister, Solange Knowles, sings.”According to Forbes magazine,
Ms. Knowles has “sold upwards of 118 million records, won ten Grammys,
starred in seven films and headlined three solo tours” (Rose, 2009). Her endorsement
deals are extremely lucrative. She has had them with “Tommy Hillfiger L'Oréal,
Giorgio Armani Diamonds perfume, Samantha Thavasa handbags” and in the last
year, “she's added deals with Crystal Geyser and Nintendo DS to her résumé” (Rose, 2009).
Further more, the blue chip corporation, General Mills just underwrote her most recent
tour, I AM (Rose, 2009). Rose goes on to note that “Beyoncé constantly works and
reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour--even after her
hundredth appearance--taking notes on how to improve. "I'm never satisfied," she
says, adding with a nervous laugh, "I'm sure sometimes it's not easy working for me."
Then, seriously: "I've never met anyone that works harder than me in my industry”
(Rose, 2009). Indeed, given the fact that she employs four hundred people and
arguably many more through touring and merchandising, she, in many ways is a
According to Marxist theory on cultural hegemony, “the class, which is the dominant
material force in society, is at the same time its dominant intellectual force”(Strinati, 131).
Beyonce Knowles earned an estimated 87 million dollars in fiscal year 2007-2008 not
only because she is talented and attractive but also because her most popular work
serves the interests of the white ruling class elites, such as the presidents of Fortune
500 corporations and Madison avenue advertising firms, wall street investment bankers,
television and record executives. She serves the interests of the ruling class by
normalizing and never questioning the impact that white supremacist patriarchal
capitalism has on black heterosexual relationships. Lyrics such as “pay my auto
bill, pay my telephone bill”, thug worship such as “ if his status ain’t hood, I ain’t
messing with him, he better be street if he looking at me” and “them hustlas keep
on talking, they like the way I’m walking” reify the stereotype of the black, male,
sexy thug. These lyrics also deploy the patriarchal notion that African American men
are only worth what they can contribute financially. Furthermore such lyrics are
problematic because they place the economic issues facing black heterosexual couples
squarely on the shoulders of individuals while obscuring the structural forces acting on
the lives of such couples such as a historically segregated educational system, a
segregated housing system, a discriminatory bank lending system, an oppressive
police system, historically discriminatory judicial system, the war on drugs, the war
on poverty and a largely self serving non-profit industrial complex.
I am making this argument because I am concerned with the package that her
message comes in, the content of message that is deployed and the impact that
this has on the masses of society, as popular culture is where most people learn
about society by deploying lyrics that focus on black women asking black men
for money for utility bills, that celebrate black men as the mythic thug, Beyonce
Knowles both reifies the stereotype of rugged, violent, black men who work in the
underground economy. This is important because applying white hegemonic market
ideology is harmful to Black heterosexual relationships, given the fact that historically,
Black workers tend to be some of the lowest played workers in the
economy (Oliver and Shapiro).