The Formation of Identity

As you scroll through your social media outlets, you are bound to see her mentioned at least once. Her latest album broke several records including having 12 tracks on the Billboard Hot 100. Queen B is back and bigger than ever. Not only has she returned with catchy new hits but Bey is also bringing light to a powerful message which is often ignored in mass media. After the release of Formation, the internet blew up. But why? In a world of white feminism, Beyoncé’s song stood out with its’ tribute to black girl magic. The keywords essay that came to mind when I listened to Formation and watched its’ video is identity. I also thought of The Bluest Eye but saw it as serving as a contrast to Formation in terms of looking at identity. It also shows the harmful effects of an absence of diversity in media similar to what we encountered in the short film A Girl Like Me.

The keywords essay, Identity, discusses a couple important aspects to the formation of one’s identity. Two parts that I picked out when looking at Formation and The Bluest Eye were the concepts of the looking glass self and the presence of characters or people who look like one’s self in media. The idea of the looking glass self discusses the importance of society in forming one’s identity. This means that one sees themselves as how they believe society views them. In The Bluest Eye, we saw this in Pecola and her desire for blue eyes, believing that is what would make her beautiful. When she is teased by the other children, this is also reflected in how she views herself and her racial identity. Another aspect of identity is the presence of one’s self in media. This was apparent in The Bluest Eye through Ms. Breedlove when she attends the movies and only sees white women and associates them with beauty. Pecola sees images of Shirley Temple and does the same thing. In the short film A Girl Like Me, we see the same trend appearing as whiteness is linked to beauty through the constant stream of straight haired, white, skinny women in our media. Beyoncé projects her massage through her lyrics ”I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros/I like my negro nose with Jackson five nostrils”. In her video, she dances beside other black women and children. So why is this important? Why is this song and video so ground breaking? Beyoncé is stating that black is beautiful in every way. This truly doesn’t seem like a message that should be so revolutionary but with the invisibility of black women in media, it is. The keywords essays on identity discusses how it can be harmful for children to not see people who look like themselves in media. We often see this in the formation of concepts of beauty. While Beyoncé’s song does not solve the issue of white dominated media in America, I believe it sends a powerful message which is overwhelmingly ignored.


3 thoughts on “The Formation of Identity”

  1. You bring up an interesting contrast between Beyonce’s formation video and Pecola. I think for so long black was not considered beautiful and now that it is, many people would prefer for black women to remain oppressed. If Pecola were living in this time, I believe she would have found a lot of confidence through listening to Beyonce’s music. It is very important that everyone feels and thinks of themselves as beautiful. I feel that Beyonce is a voice for those women who are voiceless. She teaches not only black women but all women how to be confident and enjoy who they are. I think it is really sad how people can judge her for embracing her culture, heritage, history, and racial identity. She would have helped Pecola a lot when it came to being bullied and wanting to be like shirley temple by being a role model.

  2. Thanks for sharing your insight, Caroline, you make a lot of good points! Reading your post I realized something that I hadn’t before; that being, Beyonce has become a voice and figurehead for intersectional feminism. She has become a very important figure, using her career and well-established popularity to now begin to really drive into the spotlight very real social issues but beyond the often white-washed feminist issues that hit the mainstream media and every Facebook and Tumblr page. It is important to note Beyonce’s relative privilege, but it is very admirable how she chooses to use it to lift up the voiceless who may often fall through the cracks. Her specific lyrics that turn characteristics that would formally be considered shameful or problematic into signs of beauty (“I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros/I like my negro nose with Jackson five nostrils”) is a clear example of how Beyonce is attempting to break up the established media systems that time and time again perpetuate the same standards that can be very damaging to people of color growing up with this as their only image of beauty. Beyonce’s work is important in hopefully leaping forward the fight which Toni Morrison highlighted over 20 years ago.

  3. WOW WOW WOW. What a crazy video! That was extremely bold of Beyonce to create and perform. It truly does hit on some key racist terms and ideas presented in both the 20th and 21st century. In response to your question so why is this important? Why is this song and video so ground breaking? I think its important for two reasons, first, it mentions all of the unspoken characteristics and assumptions of black individuals (hair, food, dress, relationships). There is no “beating around the bush” in her lyrics. Second- the lyrics of this song does a good job representing pre-girlhood expectations of “blackness” and post-girlhood expectations of “blackness”.

    Lastly, your comment- The keywords essays on identity discusses how it can be harmful for children to not see people who look like themselves in media.- I wonder how people who are black look at the other black dancers in this video. Do they see it as “racey”? Is it a positive or negative representation of black culture?

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