Before you go any further, ask yourself: were you about to say something negative about Beyoncé?
Something mildly insulting or critical? Maybe something you thought would be considered inoffensive, like you just don’t see what all the surprise-album-drop fuss is about? Or you found her (so underwhelming) HBO “documentary” to be so underwhelming? Do you prefer Etta James’s “At Last” to Beyoncé’s Inauguration cover? Well you can just stop right there, before it’s too late. You’re not allowed to say anything bad about Beyoncé. No one is. You know that, don’t you?
This is a rule, a truth so universally acknowledged that Saturday Night Live parodied it with a fake movie trailer, “The Beygency,” about what happens to a man who dares to speak a not-entirely-worshipful way about Beyoncé.
How did we get here? What is it about Beyoncé, and a very small, elite club of other celebrities, that make them socially unacceptable to dislike?
Usually the marketplace of popular things allows you to make a judgment call. You get to decide what’s good and what’s bad, what’s worthwhile and what’s a waste of your time. But once someone, or something, is elevated to this tier of impeachability, you’re screwed: if you don’t like the star, but we as a culture have collectively agreed there is nothing wrong with this star—say, if the star is ***Flawless—then there must be something wrong with you. This is why it’s embarrassing to admit if you don’t like Ernest Hemingway or The Godfather movies or The Wire; it’s your taste, not the Agreed Upon To Be Excellent Thing, that is found wanting.
Other famouses in this category include: Amy Poehler (“everyone loves Amy Poehler” –everyone you know), Jennifer Lawrence (unless you’re some jerk who wants to mansplain drinking to women while instructing men to consume gin and craft beer and rare whiskey and homemade cocktails and so on, THANKS FOR THE CONCERN, ESQUIRE-DAD), Bruce Springsteen (lest the wrath of every New Jersey native rain down upon you), Meryl Streep (hard to argue that one), Connie Britton (I, too, never want to hear anyone speak ill of Tami Taylor; it is this undying loyalty that makes it hard for me to accept how totally mediocre Nashville is). Beyonce, with her regal bearing and monarchical language and imagery (“Queen B,” “Bow down, bitches”) is perhaps the most extreme example: to not bow down is tantamount to treason.
Really, it takes courage to dislike a popular thing—not to be contrary just for the sake of it, but to genuinely hold an unpopular opinion and refuse to cave to the (Bey)hive mind that demands you do otherwise. It’s gustier to risk the condescension masquerading as disbelief that will follow your admission—be it the show you just didn’t get, the celebrity whose fame baffles you, the song that’s like a whistle you can’t hear—than it is to hide in the safety of popular opinions.
Except for when it comes Beyoncé, obviously. What kind of treasonous, tasteless monster is doesn’t dance when “Crazy in Love” comes on?