With almost 200 million views on YouTube, Beyoncés Run the World has become a viral video hit, as well as a powerful vector of ideology and hegemony. This mass media text is an excellent example of underlying societal power. With prevalent underlying themes of post-feminism and heteronormativity, Beyoncé’s hit embodies mass media’s hegemonic grip on popular culture.
When the song was released, many hailed it as a powerful assertion of female empowerment. And with the main line a declaration that girls run the world, it would appear that the beliefs expressed are a step forward for women everywhere. However, upon closer inspection, it is apparent that the song is rich in post-feminist thinking. The song speaks of the power of women, but according to the song, the way in which women hold power in society is through their sexual appeal. This can explicitly seen in the music video of the song, which features scantily clad women provocatively dancing as a crowd of men stare in awe. The lyrics mirror this. For instance, the line “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power, with our love we can devour. You’ll do anything for me” is a clear implication that the way women hold power is with their bodies. In this way, the song is an example of perceived power playing into the idea of perceived sexual equality better known as post-feminism. Not only does this text, exemplify post-feminist ideals, but it also plays into society’s unseen heteronormative and patriarchal.
It is not hard to see the upholding of heteronormativity, the invisible ideology which normalizes heterosexuality and marginalizes queerness, in Run the World. The music video illustrates a world in which men are perplexed by women, and women alone. Along with women solely addressing men in the videos, the lyrics also depict a heteronormative scene. Lines like “Boy I know you love it” and “strong enough to bear children” maintain the status quo of male and female relations as normative. Furthermore, heteronormativity can be seen in the illustration of conventionally feminine and masculine dancers in the music video. Of course the portrayal of only conventionally attractive people in the music video comes as no surprise when the lyrics speaks of sexual attractiveness as the key to female power.
Beyoncé’s song may take a stand for women in society, but in the ways that it does this, it merely reaffirms hegemonic ideals. The post-femininity expressed shows a belief in equality, while under the surface, the sexual objectifying tells a different story. Coupled with the heteronormativity and exclusion of marginalized groups in the expression of power help to paint a picture of the subtle, yet powerful role of hegemony in society. Run the World is also a prime example of how hegemony adjusts to fit cultural evolution. The post-feminism beliefs in the song reflect this in the fact that the power of women has been recognized at this time, but the power given to women is only that of a sexual nature.
The consequences of this, and other media texts like it, is that those in power are able to maintain control of underlying ideologies with the cooperation of those they oppress. In this way, media texts function to serve those who control society, allowing them dictate what we think and believe. This is dangerous because it means that the few people in power have a great deal of influence over the masses. While this is not inherently bad, there is potential for that power to be used in a way that is far from good for the people. As a society, we need to realize this and be more conscientious in own beliefs and what we experience through the media.
A-Z Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beyonceknowles/girlswhoruntheworld.html
Feminist Theory: http://0-fty.sagepub.com.bianca.penlib.du.edu/content/7/2/255.full.pdf+html
Gender and Education Association: http://www.genderandeducation.com/issues/what-is-heteronormativity/
Media and Society
Post-Colonial Studies- Emory: http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/hegemony-in-gramsci/