Amy Schumer, one of the best stand-up and sketch comedians of our era, has been heralded as a feminist leader of comedy. And when you earn a title like that, the water you walk in becomes murkier, and the pressure of your work much higher. I’m a huge fan of her shows, and the necessary commentary she often brings to the film and television industry regarding women. But her recent parody of Beyonce’s “Formation” is worthy of truly nothing less than some major side eye.
In case you live under a rock and have not seen or heard “Formation,” it is a song made to empower black women. It is highly political, and super-duper not meant for white people to take creative liberties on.
Schumer’s parody of the video is hardly a parody. It is her, her sister, Goldie Hawn, Joan Cusack, Wanda Sykes, and a bunch of other random people singing along to it in various locations doing similar dances matched with similar cinematography. It’s not funny, and it doesn’t even look like it’s trying to be. It looks just like a lip dub made by middle schoolers at a sleepover. And it proves no point and puts the song in no new light or context, making it not even a parody to begin with. It’s literally just Amy and some of her friends, mostly white, dancing to the song.
Before we even get into the real problems here, we have to ask Amy: Why did you even bother making this? You know it is going to stir the pot. There is no way you went into this without thinking of the potential repercussions. You didn’t really make it clever or poignant like your work usually is. It was just a rip-off music video, which is really off-brand for you. It had no comedic value, and only pushes the existing idea that you’re not a “good” feminist.
And, did we really need some kind of white take on “Formation”? That’s what Taylor Swift is for. And Katy Perry. And Lady Gaga. And pretty much every other Top 40 female pop artist. White girls have all those ladies, so why take from a community whose voice is not represented nearly as much? I, like you, am a white girl. So I can’t speak with personal experience on this matter. But I, and you too (I think), try not to stay in the dark on these kinds of issues.
And this song is CLEARLY about empowering and giving a voice to black women. It’s simply not for you to tinker with. Now, we all love Beyonce. It’s really hard not to. So if you had to do a lip dub of her work, why not pick a less political song from Lemonade? You could have taken “Hold Up,” or “Sorry,” maybe even “Six Inch.” And it would have had the same effect, seeing as the video was truly just a lip dub. But you had to take one of the most powerful and specific songs and essentially appropriate it to the use of white girls dancing, which just seems so not you.
So what I’m trying to say is, Amy, you are better than this and you damn well know that you are. Besides the fact that this clearly was a bad move for your reputation, it was simply a bad move as far as your influence on society goes. People look up to you and love you, myself often included. But You! Can’t! Do! This! Because then people will take the meaning of this truly powerful music video and simplify it, and that’s not fair to art, and it’s not fair to Beyonce. And at the end of the day we should exclusively be worried about Beyonce.