Beyoncé premiered her new album, “Lemonade,” Saturday through HBO in an hour-long visual album format and made it available exclusively on Tidal, the streaming service she owns shares in, until Monday morning. “Lemonade” quickly captured the attention of the world.
In “Lemonade,” Beyoncé alludes to a possible affair between her husband, rapper Jay Z, and another woman, whom Beyoncé refers to in the song “Sorry” as “Becky with the good hair.” Beyoncé made an immersive artistic experience for the viewer that discussed cultural identity through lenses of race, sexuality and femininity while telling a story of a wronged woman coming to terms with her situation.
With the star power of Beyoncé, the provocative art that is “Lemonade” was seen by a large audience and provoked discussions in person and in the media. In a much less cognitive movement, “Lemonade” also provoked an online attack on fashion designer Rachel Roy and celebrity chef Rachael Ray.
Beyoncé fans theorized on who exactly “Becky with the good hair” was. Tabloid rumors and unconfirmed reports linked Jay Z and Roy together in a scandalous affair. Roy denied this “affair” in an interview with People. Yet the lack of concrete evidence did not stop Beyoncé fans from attacking Roy on social media.
Roy, after “Lemonade” premiered, posted a now-deleted picture on Instagram, captioned with “Good hair don’t care.” Fans, collectively known as the “Beyhive,” took notice and started spamming Roy’s photos and other social network accounts with comments — some pointless and meant to annoy, others incredibly threatening.
This mob swarmed without provocation or leadership in what some believed was an effort to help Beyoncé, but in reality, this was mainly an opportunity to tear down a woman and ignore the raw artistry of “Lemonade.”
Beyond the lack of confirmation about Roy and Jay Z’s affair, there is no confirmation that “Lemonade” is even about an actual affair. As with any piece of art, Beyoncé could have taken any sort of inspiration to make her album. Overlooking the debate between meaning and instead attacking a woman for her personal life is not only cruel, but it invalidates Beyoncé’s hard work. Especially if “Lemonade” came out of a place of pain from infidelity, partaking in rumors about Beyoncé’s personal life overlooks the more important discussions she attempts to start with her art: potential discussions on race and culture, trust and infidelity or gender and sexuality.
On the other hand, the backlash Roy continues to face presents a new opportunity for discussion, albeit a discussion had time and time again. In the online world, the mob is free from the constraint of physical space — a mob can be a group of people miles away from each other, in the safety of their own beds. In some ways, the concept of a group of people spread throughout the world coming together to hate a woman based off of unconfirmed reports and vague lyrics is horrifying.
Online hate is not only scary, it’s also messy. Celebrity chef Rachael Ray has faced an onslaught of comments mainly because her last name is one vowel away from the fashion designer Roy. Despite many online sources clarifying the difference, Ray has received comments similar to Roy. After the commenters’ mistakes were publicized, many, especially those criticizing Roy, came in to defend Ray from the comments.
This situation is confusing because it makes little sense. What drives these people to criticize celebrities for unconfirmed rumors? And how do they comment so quickly that they do not even check to make sure they are criticizing the right person?
This situation is not new — online hate comments have been present for far too long. When so many criticize this practice, how can so many comments appear suddenly, almost overnight, on a woman’s Instagram, forcing Roy to make her photos private for a time?
Regardless of any potential affair, the hate Roy received was ruthless and further proves that comment sections online can be dangerous places. This lesson is not new to anyone, but time and time again, thousands bombard those in the spotlight with hateful comments and threats while the rest of us acknowledge and move on from the situation. In no way should hate-mongering and mob mentality become a part of our culture, online or offline, even if it is in the name of Beyoncé.