Beyoncé’s Formation

  • Created by: ellah
  • Created on: 31-10-23 23:47

AS Component 1:
Investigeting the Media
A Level Component 1: Media
Products, Industries and Audiences
Focus area:
Media language
Media contexts


  • Formation, lead single for the album Lemonade, was released the day before Beyoncé performed at the Super Bowl final in February 2016. The Formation music video, directed by Melina Matsoukas, was released with the song.
  • This music video has won numerous awards including a Clio Award for Innovation and Creative Excellence in a Music Video at the 2016 awards, and has been nominated in the music video category at the 59th Grammy Awards.
  • The video is set against the backdrop of the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the associated racial tension in America, and also draws historical parallels with references to racism and slavery.

PART 1: STARTING POINTS - Media language
Historical context
Explore the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina to place the video into this context. The racial tensions following the floods (easily accessible through Kanye West's comments about President George Bush at the time) offer the chance to consider the way in which Beyoncé is inviting audiences to interpret historical circumstances.

Consider how the combination of elements of media language influences meaning and intertextuality:

  • The music video offers a wealth of (sometimes conflicting/contradictory) messages and possible meanings. Many of the references in the video require an awareness of issues and events (such as the flooding in New Orleans and racial tension in America).
  • The video also requires a high level of media literacy to recognise and understand intertextual references, such as footage taken from a documentary about bounce called That B.E.A.T. and references to news footage of police brutality, such as the lone dancing boy.
    Consider the ways in which factors in the music video contrast and conflict, and whether this creates a confused meaning in audiences or offers a coherent message.
    » The use of costume is interesting. Antebellum dresses which seem to reference slavery contrast heavily with stereotypical
    "pop" signifiers such as tight fitting/revealing costume in some of the dance sections.
    » Similarly Beyonce's performance shifts from moments of aggression such as obscene gestures with her fingers to more culturally recognisable dance routines that seem less loaded with political or social messages.
  • This contrasting use of signs leads to possible readings/meaning of the video:
    » Is it exploring issues of the Black experience in America? Is it a personal exploration of Beyonce's life? Is it attempting to discuss issues of gender and equality? Is it possible for the video to be all of these things?

Consider the dynamic and…


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