The Mass Media Machine: Moving Towards Homo Evolutis
As arguably one of the biggest sensations of popular music to date, Beyonce is a juggernaut taking the world and music industry by storm. The performer has transcended racial lines to make universal music that sells out concert tours spanning the globe. In fact, Beyonce is often self-depicted as a robot because of her remarkable speed for producing and performing music. With the entertainment industry and mass media being the most readable indicator of the social temperament, Beyonce is a manifestation of the realization of an American machine. Her music videos, Ego, Single Ladies, and Video Phone illustrate in greater detail her recognition of becoming an entertainment icon and what it means to maintain such a title while simultaneously being the significant other of the hip-hop mogul, Jay-Z. Despite her larger than life stature, Beyonce is only a small facet of a much greater concept: music as an instrument of influence in persuading the masses into accepting a homogeneous future.
She's A Super Freak
In her music video Ego, Beyonce succeeds in getting multiple points across all in the span of three minutes. The video ostensibly discusses her ego and offers an explanation for her new found diva attitude. But reviewed more holistically, her song and video is alluding to her status as the wife of Jay-Z. In a sense, the music video is more about Jay-Z than anything else. In the chapter, "Get Your Freak On," Patricia Collins discusses the concept of a commodified black culture in mass media, explaining that "Because of its authority to shape perceptions of the world, global mass media circulates images of Black femininity and Black masculinity and, in doing so, ideologies of race, gender, sexuality, and class" (Collins 122). With this being the case, the mass appeal of a video where Beyonce deconstructs her body for the appraisal of her husband aids in the "white normality [becoming] constructed on the backs of Black deviance, with an imagined Black hyper-heterosexual deviance at the heart of the enterprise" (Collins 120). For example, in the song Beyonce says:
"Damn I know I'm killing you with them legs/
Better yet them thighs/Matter a fact it's my smile/
or maybe my eyes/ Boy you a site to see/
kind of something like me."
By praising herself and her husband on a purely physical level, she has bounded her limitations of greatness to physicality and performance. She also becomes linked to Jay-Z using her mass appeal as an advertisement for her husband, the owner of her sexuality. The double entendre of the song's chorus, "It's too big, it's too wide/It's too strong, it won't fit/It's too much, it's too tough/ He talk like this 'cause he can back it up" is giving Jay-Z accolades on his physical endowment. The racial message being put forth for both Beyonce and Jay-Z is that Black hyper-sexuality is the most prevalent pinnacle of success for African-Americans; Jay-Z is idolized for marrying one of the most lusted after woman in the world.
It can be argued that figures like Jay-Z reclaim their power by manipulating Western fascination with their blackness while simultaneously mobilizing African-Americans for their own enslavement to their sexual objectification. In a system that strives to keep the white man at the top of the hierarchy, Beyonce helps to perpetuate black deviance in mass media and keeps the average African-American from aspiring to break free of the luxuries of materialism and commodification.
The Birth of the Machine
The universal appeal of Beyonce and other music stars gives way for the mobilization of the Mass Media American machine. In other words, the individuals who control the music industry have the potential to mobilize the masses for working to install an empire built on Western philosophies. The ability of music to mobilize is evidenced in Beyonce's "Single Ladies" video. The superficial premise of the video is to seek sisterly solidarity as an alternative to the unbalanced relationship. However, the lighting in the video used to reflect this message signifies that seeking sisterly solidarity means embracing your dark side. Along side the lighting of the music video, Beyonce's infamous mechanical hand, something she now wears in almost all of her music videos, simulates a human ability to impose a robotic theology. With a robotic base beat and gracious flare for systematic dance moves, the all-white background for the video suggests the illusion that fun can be found in confinement and nothingness. When Beyonce calls for all her single ladies, she's calling for women to come and find condolence in being in a group. Juxtaposed with the mechanical beat, it implies that women should conform and work under the philosophies of the music industry.
Sarah Bardo discusses in her article,“Material Girl: The Effacements of Postmodern Culture," the bridge between popular culture and the transformation of the human body: " In a culture in which organ transplants, life-extension machinery, microsurgery, and artificial organs have entered everyday medicine, we seem on the verge of practical realization of the seventeenth-century imagination of body as machine." Single Ladies premiered Beyonce's robotic hand and her darker hyper-sexual alter ego, "Sasha Fierce." Sasha Fierce is the icon that promotes the fundamental ideals of a culture where women are a complete facet of the government they live in, valueless because they consist of interchangeable parts. In a sense, they are spiritually dead. Mass media, over all, is the largest perpetuator of bringing to life the idea that perfection imagined is something worthy and almost necessary of recognition.Our generation is witnessing the birth of a universal machine.
Robotic-ism and Homo Evolutis
With videos like her recent single, "Video Phone," Beyonce fantasizes the future, becoming an embodiment of the ideal for the future. She channels pop culture icon, Betty Page in the video, predicting the grim realities of the future ideal and, even further the prediction by Chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, Juan Enriquez, for the next stages of evolution of our species: Homo Evolutis.
"Enriquez says that humanity is on the verge of becoming a new and utterly unique species, which he dubs Homo Evolutis. What makes this species so unique is that it "takes direct and deliberate control over the evolution of the species." Calling it the "ultimate reboot," he points to the conflux of DNA manipulation and therapy, tissue generation, and robotics as making this great leap possible" (Fisher).
Bordo, in her article, takes the machine body argument one step further by explaining what mass media is bridging the masses to, stating "they reproduce on the same conditions that postmodern bodies practice: a construction of life as plastic possibility and weightless choice, undetermined by history, social location, or even individual biography (Bordo 339). Lady Gaga's feature only emphasizes the crossing of racial boundaries, as she is an Italian-American star who has crossed over into many facets of mass media.
It seems that our generation is moving into a progression of altering the physiological composition of our anatomy. The "Video Phone" music video depicts men in business suits with camera lenses for heads being able to see satisfaction in technology both fiscally and sexually. The video also depicts shirt-less black men with sacks over their heads falling slave to the rhythm of the libido. This presents an interesting socio-economic question for the dynamics of the future: Who bears the burdens of a homogenous identity? It can be argued that popular African-American and other minority international icons have already conformed to the superficial standards of Western influence. An ideal that favors Western appeal eliminates attraction to minorities until they become surreal. It seems that Beyonce and other minority icons bare the burden of representing false images of their races and promoting the desire for something fabricated. In this sense, our generation is moving towards a new species both mentally and physically.
To conclude, as an age that heavily relies on mass media and technology for the realization of our environment, it is important to take time consider what the images flashing around us mean. Popular culture is the biggest indicator of what is relevant and every generation has shown this correlation. I am just as guilty as the next person in falling victim to being consumed with mass media. With materialism as rampant as it is, we've reached a point where technology and the homogeneous machine is almost inevitable. This duality of our nature to want to know as much as we can know does not need to be used as the loss of our humanity. Rather, we should seek to find the balance between maintaining what is already perfection and taking time to appreciate the beauty of new perfections in the making.