This week was a media maelstrom of jaw dropping, pearl clutching moments. A hash-tagging frenzy of #LuciferInTheFLesh and #BeckyWithTheGoodHair followed former Congressman Boehner who spoke of his personal experience with Ted Cruz and Beyoncé Knowles Carter after the debut of her visual album, Lemonade respectively. Why was public reaction as if they were both talking about a real person? Boehner was speaking in a candid interview and Beyoncé was performing.
John Boehner labeled Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and went on to say “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life, ” in an interview with David Kennedy onstage at Stanford University this week a few days ahead of the GOP convention in Burlingame California were Cruz was scheduled to appear.
Beyoncé Knowles Carter released her visual album, Lemonade, on Sunday which contained a performance of the song Sorry that included the lyrics, “He only wants me when I’m not there. He better call Becky with the good hair.”
The Beyoncé centered #BeckyWithTheGoodHair is the public fueled media speculation about who Becky is and what transpired in the Carter’s marriage. So why there is the assumption this is a true story other than a continuation of speculation about a very private woman who is a public figure? Beyoncé is a brilliant business woman; a master at innovative marketing and a powerful storyteller. But story tellers and performers may or may not reflect real life. I recall an interview by Terry Gross with Michael C Hall when he was stared in Six Feet Under. In the series, Hall played a gay mortician.
Terry Gross: Here’s a question you may not want to answer, because you play a gay character, people may wonder if you are gay or straight. How do you fell about playing a gay character in the series?
Michael C Hall: Well you know my first impulse is to say it doesn’t matter. Why does it matter? Umm, I’m not gay. No one ever asks me if I’m a mortician.
A performance well done makes you believe. Michael C Hall’s portrayal of David Fisher was well done. Beyoncé, Lemonade, performance was well done. As artists, I appreciate the mastery they have of their craft where they take you on an emotional journey through the power of their performances. What they do can be so evocative, we believe it to be true. Hall shared no one asked if he were a mortician and I would think when he later played the Serial killer, Dexter, no one asked if he was a mass murderer.. This goes to show that people resonate with what is relatable and what is relatable evokes strong emotions. In Game of Thrones fan, Ramsey Bolton is a cruel sadistic character and I personally cringe when I even think about him and when I see or read about him, my skin has the actual sensation of some parasite painfully burrowing into my flesh.
When emotions are evoked, the distinction between speaking candidly and performance blur. Mr. Boehner was talking about an actual person, whilst Mrs. Carter was performing and not talking about an actual person. Unless I missed it, there was no interview or public statement in which she said, this song is autobiographical. Therefore, the frenzy around the “other woman” is a debate about the Easter Bunny; it’s not real. Musicians are story tellers and it is a mistake to take every song as autobiographical. Bruce Springsteen in Born in the USA sings of going to Viet Nam to fight, but it’s a song, Springsteen was never in Viet Nam but wanted to express the negative effects of the Viet Nam war. Springsteen wrote it as a tribute to his friends who fought in Viet Nam. At the time the song was released many people thought he had. It doesn’t diminish the song, the emotion or the sentiment, but the song is not autobiographical. We can all get a laugh if we work form the premise every song is autobiographical or factual. Did the police start to go look for Joe of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe, because you know in the song, Joe shot someone. Did Stephen King’s wife flee in the middle of the night after he wrote The Shining? No.
Stephen King said he takes everyday situations and writes about the worse possible scenario. What if? For a moment can we consider Beyoncé was inspired and wrote based upon what if? With John Boehner, there was a statement, #LuciferInTheFlesh, an answer to a question. With Beyoncé, there was a lyric, #BeckyWithTheGoodHair. While both drew strong emotions, the reality is, we know who Boehner described and we know it is a real person based on a real situation. Beyoncé sang a lyric, it was a performance, real, not real or inspired, we don’t know. Let’s imagine the “what if.” What if, we laugh, praise, applaud show disdain or disinterest in Boehner for his statements. What if, we laugh, praise, applaud show disdain or disinterest in Beyoncé for her performance and stop the speculations about what it all means in her personal life and search for #BeckyWithTheGoodHair as if she is #LuciferInTheFlesh.