Here’s The Worst Take You’ll Read About ‘Lemonade,’ Courtesy Of (Who Else?) Piers Morgan
On Saturday, Beyoncé released “Lemonade,” an hour long television event that elevated the narratives of betrayal, love and devotion to high art. Every inch of the spectacle was infused with Southern black womanhood and featured some of the more arresting visuals that 2016 has ever seen. Lives were changed — most notably Rachael Ray’s but also Rachel Roy’s, if we’re being honest — and fans, casual observers and your standard media looky-loos all rose to the occasion, proffering thoughts, takes, lemon emoji and strings of nonsensical syllables of support on Twitter, in group texts and in public.
Canny consumers of the great firehose of opinions that is the internet in 2016 braced themselves for the Take-storm. And, the masses delivered. Most have been measured and thoughtful, the kind of writing you want to read after being so thoroughly amazed by the singular, crystal-clear vision of an artist coming into herself. And, some of them were bad. Really bad. It says something slightly positive about the state of the modern commentariat that the takes have been decent until now. We should be grateful that it took two days for noted windbag Piers Morgan to issue his steaming hot opinion on something that didn’t need it.
“Jay-Z’s not the only one who needs to be nervous about Beyonce, the born-again-black woman with a political mission,” blares the Daily Mail headline. What follows is a perturbing take on Beyoncé’s choice to include the mother of Mike Brown, Lesley McSpadden and the mother of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton, holding pictures of their sons. He writes:
“I have huge personal sympathy for both women and there is no doubt that African-Americans have been treated appallingly by certain rogue elements within the country’s police forces. But I felt very uneasy watching these women being used in this way to sell an album. It smacks of shameless exploitation.”
Pointing to an interview he conducted with Beyonce in 2011, Morgan mentions that when interviewing her about her performance at Barack Obama’s 2008 inaguration, she had this to say:
“I don’t think people think about my race. I think they look at me as an entertainer and a musician and I’m very happy about that because that’s how I look at people. It’s not about color and race, and I’m happy that’s changing.”
Instead of understanding the concept of evolution as it relates to celebrities and how just like real people, the way they think and feel and interact with the world changes with time, Morgan castigated Beyoncé for becoming a “militant activist,” someone who “wants to be seen as a black woman political activist first and foremost, entertainer and musician second.” Assuming that any of us know anything about Beyoncé other than the teensy dribbles of information she’s told us over the years is a fool’s errand, and Morgan seems to have walked right into this trap. Assuming that the way she’s presented for her entire career is reflective of the way she actually feels all the time strips her of her agency as a regular person who thinks, feels and has opinions.
Not surprisingly, America’s pre-eminent Woke Bae, Matt McGorry, had something to say. Even though his performative ally-hood gives me the creeps, I am sad to say that this feels fine, at least to me.
Morgan ends his Very Bad Take™ with this tepid stab at insight.
But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé.
The less inflammatory, agitating one.
The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse.
The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily.
The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same.
The notion that celebrities exist as monolithic entities, thinking and feeling and saying the same things in perpetuity throughout their career is false. Celebrities, like human beings, change! That’s because they’re real people, not robots created for our singular pleasure. Morgan’s assertion that Beyoncé’s use of “the race card” takes away from the importance of the work is the proof in the spoiled pudding that he didn’t get it and probably never will.
When a bad take makes itself known, hundred of other good ones rush in to tamp it down. Here’s some of the best we’ve seen thus far.
“Being the vision and vessel for these grand ideas (an hour-long visual album takes a village) is a heavy weight, but Beyoncé had to do it. This is her gorgeous controlled force to make up for her chosen silence, for her exercising the Oprah clause in interviews and eventually forsaking public speaking altogether. She knows silence is as much a tactic as a necessity. And when it breaks, it’s something magical. Why not talk to us in a safe space then, of her own creation. The space is vast and others can hear us and sing along. But the language is specific. “Blindly in love, I fucks with you” and all that. And the spirituality is thoroughly black.” – “Lemonade’ Is Beyoncé’s Body and Blood” by Clover Hope, Jezebel
“It’s clear that Formation was a carefully curated preview for the imagery presented in Lemonade. Beyoncé studies the contrasts and bridges them. Black girls know a thing or two about making lemonade after life hands you a lemon. Beyoncé shares the recipe passed down to her by her mother, who learned it from her mother’s mother. Lemonade, that cool, refreshing drink, a staple to cool the body crushed under the thick, humid heat of the southern countryside. Lemons can heal the body and the mind.” - “Beyoncé’s Lemonade is #blackgirlmagic at its Most Potent” by Syretta McFadden, The Guardian
“The eleven rubrics that separate each song in Lemonade: intuition denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, reformation, forgiveness, resurrection, hope, and redemption can account for so many more corners of life than just relationships. They can speak to jobs, family, and self-scrutiny. They touch on all of our ups and downs in life — our lemons — that we will ourselves to squeeze into lemonade.” — “Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the Undeniable Power of a Black Woman’s Vulnerability” by Dee Lockett, Ashley Weatherford and Lindsey Peoples, The Cut
“For years I used Beyoncé as a talisman to compensate for my fears. When I felt inadequate I summoned my inner-Beyoncé and channeled her fierceness. She told me I could survive, run the world—slay. I know the social and emotional violence that result from idealizing, black women as irrepressibly strong and uniquely independent, while expecting them to suppress their own needs to care for others. I did not do it consciously, but I wanted to set her aside and believe at least one black woman was not handed lemons, but lemonade, already chilled and sweetened.” – Alondra Nelson, professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, from “A Call and Response with Melissa Harris-Perry: The Pain and the Power of ‘Lemonade'” by Melissa-Harris Perry, Elle
For those of you looking to educate yourself further on the multitudinous themes, references and imagery in “Lemonade”, Nichole Perkins put together a phenomenal reading list over at Fusion.