Beyoncé's deeply political and unapologetically Black new album, Lemonade, shocked the world over the weekend and it's predictably sparking outpourings of love and thinkpieces. But it's also predictably prompted some backlash and criticism, most notably in the form of a new column in the U.K.'s Daily Mail from Piers Morgan, who found fault in Beyoncé's inclusion of the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in Lemonade's visuals, writing that she was using "a good cause like a fashion accessory" amongst other things.
But I felt very uneasy watching these women being used in this way to sell an album. It smacks of shameless exploitation.
But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé.
The less inflammatory, agitating one.
The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse.
Morgan has been playing the media game for far too long to attack Beyoncé without providing himself some cover to hide behind, so he's embedded a valid point somewhere in his piece. Entertainers, and I'll include the media in the that category, need to make sure they're not crossing the line between reporting on tragedy and exploiting it, something we just witnessed after Prince's passing prompted a barrage of Buzzfeed slideshows and empty articles. Beyoncé didn't cross that line on Lemonade, not even close, but there's a real discussion to be had here somewhere.
Unfortunately, that potentially real discussion is buried underneath a mountain of bullshit and hypocrisy. Of course, Piers Morgan himself would never use grieving mothers to get attention for himself and drive ratings, right? Sure, he's obviously using these same grieving mothers to score media points against Beyoncé in his column, but we all have our small faults. The type of morally-righteous person who would write an article like this has certainly never, say, repeatedly exploited grieving mothers in an effort to drive ratings to his now-cancelled CNN show.
Well...except for that one time he brought on Michael Jackson's mother for a 40 minute "extraordinary look at Michael Jackson's private life."
And because he's such a thorough journalist, it just wouldn't have been right to end the exploitation of grief at Jackson's mother. No, he clearly needed to also separately interview Jackson's father and all of his brothers, who must have been easy guests to book considering that he had interviewed Jermaine Jackson about Michael's drug use before.
The Jacksons are high-profile public figures though, who could pass up a ratings bonanza like that? The good news is that Piers has certainly never sunk into lowly sensationalism and interviewed Casey Anthony, the mother charged with murdering her own infant daughter: That would be exploiting not just a mother's grief, but the death of a child.
Again though, Casey Anthony was a high-profile case, maybe he felt like he had a public duty to report on it. Maybe. At the very least he can hold onto a shred of dignity knowing that he's never interviewed the mother of a toddler who was murdered, shot to death in his stroller. Can you even imagine the level of blatant exploitation that would be?
I'd say that I preferred the old Piers Morgan, the one who didn't exploit the death of children and the grieving of family members to drive ratings, write falsely controversial articles and fill his already massively enriched pockets, but I'm not sure if that Piers Morgan ever existed.
The real shame here isn't just that we now have to spend our time defending Beyoncé's political statements against someone with the integrity of a used car salesman, the shame is that its once again diverted attention away from what truly matters; real human pain and suffering and anger and love.
Forget Piers Morgan, forget the media. The voices that deserve to be heard are these mothers. That's where our focus should be, and that's who deserves the last word here.