Beyonce appears in two popular new videos; one is to encourage girls to be assertive
The other is a suggestive music video partly about having sex in the back seat of a limo
LZ Granderson says Beyonce's music appeals to grown-ups, but is it appropriate for girls?
He says it would be better if she didn't mix messages for those who look up to her
Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson writes a weekly column for CNN.com. A senior writer for ESPN and lecturer at Northwestern University, the former Hechinger Institute fellow has had his commentary recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs.
There are two Web clips featuring Beyonce that have been getting a lot of attention.
Clip No. 1 features a host of celebrities and community leaders, including Bey, involved with a movement trying to ban the use of the word “bossy” in reference to young girls. The reason being that “bossy” is often used in a derogatory way to describe girls who display leadership traits, thus discouraging them from asserting themselves.
“I’m not bossy, I’m the boss,” the superstar says.
Clip No. 2 features Beyonce wearing a bedazzled thong and not much else, as she sings about ejaculate landing on her dress after performing oral sex in the back of a limo.
“I just want to be the girl you like,” she pleads to her husband, Jay-Z, in the “Partition” video, the second single from her latest release, “Beyonce.”
The first single, “Drunk in Love”, included a line from her husband that made light of a domestic violence scene documented in the Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
Beyonce the artist is above reproach. With 17 wins, she has only one less Grammy than Aretha Franklin. She has more than 13 million Twitter followers despite only tweeting eight times. And she famously crashed iTunes by releasing a full CD without any promotion.
However, Beyonce the role model is questionable as hell.
I’m all for handcuffs, hot wax, stripper poles, whips – whatever it is two consenting adults want to do in the privacy of their bedroom to keep the relationship fresh. But increasingly, Beyonce has chosen not to keep such things private.
The lyrics to “Partition” pale in comparison with some of the more graphic phrases heard on her latest CD, and many parents complained that having her sexually charged performance open this year’s Grammys was inappropriate given the time of night.
I was not one of those parents, mind you.
But then again, I have a 17-year-old son, not an 11-year-old daughter.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was mocked recently for his pseudointerview with Russell Simmons, in which instead of talking about Simmons’ new book on meditation – which the hip-hop star came on the show to do – he ranted about “Partition.”
“Teenage girls look up to Beyonce, particularly girls of color,” O’Reilly said. “Why on Earth would this woman do that?”
And by “that,” he means sing about having sex in the back of a limo.
“I believe an entertainer like Beyonce, and a mogul like you, have an obligation to protect children. Not put out exploitative garbage that you know harm impressionable children,” he said.
Now as a fan of many genres of music, I know O’Reilly could replace Bey’s name with any number of popular artists and the question would still be applicable.
For example, country artists sing about getting drunk and having sex in the back of pickups quite often. And in 2011, the National Center for Health Statistics reported teenage birth rates for 15- to-19-year-olds were highest in states such as Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Kentucky, where country music is most popular.
So O’Reilly singling out the music of Beyonce can certainly be seen as either unfair or even a not-so-subtle attack on the White House, given Beyonce’s ties to the administration.
But O’Reilly’s motives aside, Beyonce does position herself as a role model for young girls.
Like the “Bossy” video encouraging young girls to be leaders.
Or the “Move Your Body” video released in conjunction with Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign directed at kids.
I doubt the first lady would be happy to see Sasha or Malia dancing to “Partition” the way Beyonce does in her music video. Not because dancing seductively or expressing sexuality through song is inherently wrong. But doing so at 15 and 12 – while singing “I just want to be the girl you like” – isn’t ideal. Currently, Vevo is heavily promoting the video, and the song jumped from No. 97 to No. 23 on Billboard in one week.
Of course the President and first lady are excellent parents who will guide their daughters down the appropriate path.
Unfortunately, too many daughters, too many children have TVs for baby sitters.
That isn’t Beyonce’s cross to bear. Nor is it a cross O’Reilly should attempt to leave on her doorstep.
But it is a cross any artist who brands herself or himself as a role model for young impressionable minds needs to be aware of. Beyonce makes grown-folks music, and I love it. But if she truly wants to be kid-friendly, she should consider leaving the foreplay in the bedroom because trying to have it both ways makes parenting for some harder than it should be.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.