If you paid attention, which frankly I had not, President Obama's inauguration included Beyoncé singing the American national anthem. Reportedly, Beyoncé "may have lip-synched her performance of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' over a recording that shed made earlier." Or maybe not. As things stand, nobody is really sure, but for some reason, everyone seems to care. The New Yorker's Sasha Weiss explains why.
This scandal may seem trivial (or, as one baffled Twitterer put it ZOMG BEYONCE LIP SYNC SCANDAL!!! 48 million people on food stamps), but the sheer number of people interested in discussing itthe story has been reported by nearly every major American news outletis telling. Why should it make so many people so angry to know that Beyoncé convincingly tossed her hair and widened her eyes and shimmied her head to the sound of her very own voice? If anything, her zeal for perfection does her credit and befits the grandeur of the occasion. Not to mention the fact that Beyoncé is as skilled at lip-synching as she is at everything else: its all part of her carefully trained, cultivated artistry.
Beyoncés performance makes us nervous when juxtaposed with the earnest idealism of the inauguration. It is an event that Americans rightfully take pride in: a peaceful transfer of power; a chance to re-affirm the values of openness, freedom of speech, and egalitarianism that define us; a democratic ceremony symbolically attended by all citizens. Beyoncés fakery, it seems, implies some larger fakery at the heart of the whole enterprise. But, of course, the ceremony is itself a performancehow else can we explain that it is through the recitation of scripted words in a ritual call-and-response that the President assumes his position of power? We dont want to be reminded that were watching mere mortals who might trip on their way to the podium, stutter through the oaths of office, shiver in the cold, or worse, err in judgment and lead the country on the wrong path. These are the people we are entrusting to enact Americas timeless values? Too bad. Beyoncé reminded us.
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