Is Swarm Based on A True Story?
Spoilers for Prime Video's Swarm ahead.
Content warning: This article contains mention of murder that some readers may find upsetting. Read discretion is advised.
There's a new hit series on Prime Video that has social media buzzing. In Swarm, Donald Glover and Janine Nabers deliver a frightening examination of stan culture through a suspenseful tale about an obsessed fan and the extreme lengths she is willing to go to, all in the name of her favorite pop star. The series has been the topic of much discussion on social media thanks to surprise appearances from Billie Eilish, Paris Jackson, and Chlöe Bailey, and the jaw-dropping performances of the show's star Dominique Fishback. Swarm is also causing a frenzy because of its not-so-subtle nods to R&B icon Beyoncé and her fans, who are affectionately referred to as the BeyHive.
While each of the series' seven episodes begins with a disclaimer that reads: "This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or events is intentional," Swarm is definitely NOT based on a true story. While Beyoncé is never directly mentioned by name, several Easter eggs prove she served as inspo for the megastar in the series, Ni'Jah. Read ahead for all of the references to Beyoncé included in Swarm.
The series' opening scene delivers so many references to Beyoncé beginning with the title card. The series flashes back to "Houston, Texas. April 2016." Beyonce is a native of Houston, Texas, and she dropped her surprise album, Lemonade. on April 23, 2016. Throughout the introductory episode, there are images of Ni'Jah wearing a feathered ensemble similar to the one Beyoncé wore in her HOMECOMING documentary.
Destiny's Child and "APES**T" Music Video
Dre, Ni'Jah's biggest fan and the murderous star of the series, collected souvenir tickets from a concert by a group called Glamour's Child, and of course, Beyoncé was a member of the group Destiny's Child. One of the most telling signs connecting Ni'Jah to the Renaissance songstress is a poster with Nijah and her husband, Caché, recreating Beyonce and Jay-Z's infamous suit looks from their "APES**T" music video.
Beyoncé's love for Popeyes
When Dre went into her local bodega, there was a clip of her text message with her sister and bestie Marissa that showed Ni'Jah posing with food from a fast food chain named Frenchys. Similarly, Beyoncé revealed that she received a lifetime supply card from Popeyes during a 2003 interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Beyoncé's Official Website and Lemonade Album
Later on in the episode, Dre visited Ni'Jah's official website, which was created similarly to Beyonce's minimalistic site. Then, the series revealed that Caché cheated on Ni'Jah and inspired her surprise album Festival. This references rumors that Beyoncé's 2016 album Lemonade was in response to Jay-Z's alleged infidelity.
Beyoncé's The Gift and Renaissance
As Dre tunes into a video for Festival, viewers can note a similarity to Beyoncé's The Gift, an album she made to coincide with the release of the 2019-live action film The Lion King. Ni'Jah even rode a horse that appeared to reference one used in Beyoncé's Renaissance album cover and nicknamed Reneigh by the Hive on Twitter.
Beyoncé's "Saddest Song" and Twins Sir and Rumi Carter
After leaving Houston following Marissa's death, Dre began working at a strip club. When another dancer suggested Dre choose different songs to get a better response from clubgoers, Dre tells her that the song she had chosen was Ni'Jah's "most profound song," and the dancer replied that it was about a dead baby. In 2013, Beyoncé revealed that she record "Heartbeat," which she said was "the saddest song [she's] ever written," after suffering a miscarriage. Ni'Jah would later go on to have twins, just like Beyoncé did when she welcomed her son Sir and daughter Rumi in June 2017.
The Elevator Fight
With more dead bodies behind her, Dre traveled to Los Angeles to confront a conservative content creator who is known for bashing Ni'jah on Twitter named Alice Duley in episode three. Alice called out Ni'jah for not intervening in an argument between her sister and Caché in an elevator. This reference was a call back to the leaked 2014 video that shows Beyoncé's sister Solange Knowles hitting Jay-Z while in an elevator at The Standard hotel in New York City.
Caché announced the First Last Tour to go along with his new album, which featured a font that's similar to Jay-Z's 4:44 album, which was reportedly his response to Beyoncé's Lemonade.
Who Bit Beyoncé?
In 2018, Tiffany Haddish revealed to GQ that Beyoncé had been bitten by an actress at a party, unknowingly spawning the "who bit Beyoncé" craze on social media. Episode three is Swarm's attempt to recreate the same frenzy. Dre somehow made her way backstage during the final show of Caché's tour and meets Ni'jah for the first time.
Overwhelmed because she finally got the chance to meet her idol, Dre went into a trance and bit Ni'jah when she thought she was eating horse d'oeuvres. Frightened after committing such an unexpected offense, Dre ran, and two partygoers noticed her. "You know who that was? The chick from Love & Basketball," they said. This is a callback to the IRL "who bit Beyoncé" rumors where Haddish insinuated that Sanaa Lathan, star of the 2000 movie, was the actress responsible for the bite.
Lathan went on to deny those claims in Health magazine's June 2018 cover story, saying, "I would never do anything malicious like that — to her, or to anyone."
Episode four follows Dre on her quest to see Ni'Jah headline Bonnaroo, an iconic music festival in 2018. Similarly, Beyoncé made history as the first Black woman to headline Coachella that year. Dre went on to discuss her favorite songs by Ni'Jah, "Love on a Cloud" and "Don't Wanna Leave," both of which are seemingly inspired by Beyoncé's "Love on Top" and "Dangerously in Love."
Dre would go on to run into a cult disguised as a wellness group led by a woman named Eva, played by Billie Eilish, who made her acting debut aim the role. The group promised Dre a pass for the festival, but there were more sinister plans involved. Eva convinced Dre to share her darkest secrets through hypnosis sessions disguised as therapy.
Dre managed to escape the cult, but she wound up missing Ni'Jah's festival performance in person and instead watched it on her phone.
Celebrities Discuss #WhoBitBeyoncé
Social media sensation Rickey Thompson opens episode five while tuning into a talk show host interviewing a celebrity about who bit Ni'Jah. A similar sequence happened IRL in April 2018. John Legend appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and was asked if he know who bit the singer because his wife Chrissy Tiegen had previously confirmed that she knew who it was during an appearance on The Today Show.
Later in the episode, Dre walked around a shopping mall and noticed a promotional poster for Caché's upcoming "The Running Scared II Tour," which appeared to be a call back to Bey's 2018 "On The Run II Tour" with Jay-Z.
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