Jabine Nabers and Donald Glover’s “Swarm” is centered around the step-sisters, Dre and Marissa. Both of them are huge fans of the global pop star named Ni’Jah. They want to be like her; they want to be in her presence, and they want to protect her from her haters at any cost. While Marissa grows out of her obsession with Ni’Jah due to her relationship with Khalid, Dre refuses to do anything with her life other than eat, drink, and breathe Ni’Jah. That’s why she fails to deal with the fact that Marissa doesn’t want to live with her anymore and goes on a night of partying and merrymaking. Unfortunately, Marissa decides to break up with Khalid because of a massive argument and come back to Dre. That’s also when Marissa’s suicidal tendencies act up, and, with no Dre to stop her from carrying out her worst thoughts, she kills herself. This causes Dre to spiral out of control and go on a murderous rampage all across the USA, and the only thing that can stop her is a meet-and-greet with Ni’Jah.
Major Spoilers Ahead
“Swarm” makes it very evident from the get-go that Ni’Jah is loosely inspired by Beyoncé. The name of the show, which is the name of Ni’Jah’s fans, is a direct reference to Beyoncé’s fandom, which goes by BeyHive, because Beyoncé is nicknamed the Queen Bey. The fandom uses the bee emoji to refer to itself, and the show is littered with bee imagery and bee sounds. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, which is made of elements from the show that have been derived from real life. So, let’s start with the two biggest ones: Dre biting Ni’Jah and Dre rushing onto the stage where Ni’Jah is performing. The bite happened all the way back in December 2017 when Beyoncé was attending Jay-Z’s party for his album, “4:44.” As per Tiffany Haddish, an actress went up to Beyoncé and actually dug her teeth into the pop star. Infuriated by the whole affair, Beyoncé allegedly called Jay-Z’s attention to it, while Haddish told Beyoncé that she was ready to beat that actress up. However, Beyoncé stopped Haddish from harming this actress because she was on drugs. The actress who was rumored to have done “the deed” was Sanaa Lathan. Lathan obviously denied the allegations, but Haddish pretty much confirmed that it was her.
Over the course of Beyoncé’s long career, she has been in a lot of weird encounters on the stage. Recently, in 2020, in Brazil, a fan pulled her off the stage. This one time, her hair got entangled in the blades of a literal fan. She was sexually harassed in Denmark, and while she usually forgives her fans’ overexcited behavior, that was where she drew the line and threw him out of the stadium. But the one fan-related incident that “Swarm” was referring to was, the one from 2018, where a 26-year-old man named Anthony Charles Thomas Maxwell rushed toward Beyoncé and Jay-Z during their concert in Atlanta. He apparently made contact with the couple and was subsequently charged with battery after being treated for some minor injuries. So, the moment Dre walked onto the stage to meet Ni’Jah, it was inspired by Maxwell’s actions, except it went down much more amicably. That said, the footage of the same that was shown in the sixth episode of Detective Loretta Greene was that of Maxwell going after Jay-Z and Beyoncé. I admit that it was a really weird choice to use actual footage and then do a fictional version where things happen differently, but I guess the showrunners will answer that in the second season (if it happens).
As for the parallels between the BeyHive and the Swarm, a lot of it is new information for me because I have seen millions of anonymous Beyoncé fans come to her defense if somebody badmouths her on Twitter or Instagram. But that has become a common thing amongst fans of every kind of celebrity. So, I wasn’t sure how much of the portrayal of Beyoncé’s fandom was accurate and how much of it was over-exaggerated in “Swarm,” and my surface-level research showed that a lot of it was pretty accurate. For example, Dre participated in doxxing a Twitter user who kept badmouthing Ni’Jah, and she was about to put up his information on the internet so that he could be physically harassed and intimidated by the pop star’s fans. The same thing apparently happened with Maxwell, as the BeyHive found his address soon after his identity was revealed. The severe trolling that was shown in “Swarm” is quite similar to what the BeyHive does to anyone who dares to even look at Beyoncé in the wrong way. They’ve gone after Nicole Curran, Taylor Swift, Omari Hardwick, Tamera Mowry, Rachel Roy, Piers Morgan, Azealia Banks, Kid Rock, Wendy Williams, Raven-Symoné, Karrueche Tran, Rihanna, Monica Lewinsky, Diane Warren, and Madame Tussauds (I’m not even kidding). “Swarm” also features a lot of self-harm, and that might be a reminder of the fact that members of BeyHive were cutting themselves, with the hashtag #CutForBeyonce, after Beyoncé accidentally cut her ear with her earring during her performance. At the cost of sounding repetitive, no, I am not kidding.
Lastly, “Swarm” is chock-full of cameos, but the ones that made some kind of sense to me were those of Paris Jackson and Billie Eilish. So, Paris is, as you’d know, Michael Jackson and Debbie Rowe’s daughter. Debbie Rowe is White, and the late Michael Jackson is Black. Paris visibly looks very white. But in an interview in 2017, she famously said that she considers herself Black because she is heavily into African-American culture and because Michael apparently told her to be proud of her Black roots. In “Swarm,” Dre scoffs at Paris when she says the same thing, thereby channeling a lot of people’s sentiments when Paris says she’s Black in real life. I am guessing Paris Jackson did that scene to mock herself for her immature statements, and that’s cool. As for Eilish, well, the 21-year-old pop star has been accused of “Satanism” because of the imagery in her music videos and her goth-inspired looks. Hence, it wasn’t really surprising to see her being a part of a cult (yes, it was a cult) in “Swarm” and apparently taking Dre into the show’s version of the Sunken Place from “Get Out.” For the sake of clarity, I don’t think Eilish is in any kind of cult now or has magical powers. Her songs are great, though.
Well, that’s some of the most obvious references to real events that I caught while watching “Swarm.” I am sure there are more that eagle-eyed fans will be able to notice, especially if they are aware of every bit of Beyoncé-related fact and trivia. The showrunners do rely a lot on viewers having intricate pop-culture knowledge of what went down between 2017 and 2018. If you aren’t updated about all that, the viewing experience can be a little confusing. But I think the events of the show will intrigue you enough to dive deep into the BeyHive rabbit hole and find out what exactly happens in there. With all that said, I wish Glover and Nabers did a better job of fleshing out what extremist fandoms actually do instead of straight-up painting them as murderers. I get it. This is a slasher horror show. So, they had to do justice to the subgenre. However, I think they could’ve done a better job of showing that celeb fandoms can do a lot more damage to “haters” without resorting to physical violence, and that’s the scary part.