The latest psychological thriller series in town might have some well-placed comical undertones. But when it opens with the disclaimer “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional,” it does stay true to it. Amazon Prime Video’s Swarm has taken the stan culture and made a series which is raw and steeped in real-life events.
Created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, Swarm is facing a lot of speculation for being based on revered pop star Beyoncé and her immense BeyHive following. From references to Queen Bey’s concerts and her albums to her costume style, this series might not name her, but surely clocks her in at every step.
More about Swarm and the alleged real-life events behind it
The seven-part series revolves around Andrea ‘Dre’ Greene (Dominique Fishback) and her foster sister Marissa (Chloe Bailey), who are completely obsessed with singer, dancer and popstar Ni’Jah (Nirine S. Brown). For them, Ni’Jah is not just a regular celebrity but a cult figure.
Despite relating to Ni’Jah’s music and admiring the star, this Amazon Prime series shows the sisters at a juncture, where Marissa realises that their admiration has transformed into a blind obsession.
However, Dre doesn’t think twice before killing someone when she hears them talk ill about Ni’Jah. This makes viewers dive into Dre’s dark psyche. Although the series has the unpopular stan culture as its backdrop, it quickly takes the shape of a menacing thriller where the culprit doesn’t perceive her actions to be wrong.
The themes pose Swarm as a strong comment on modern online fandom and the unhealthy depths that fans go to for their idols.
Cast and crew
Besides these factors, the series amassed huge attention due to its star-studded ensemble featuring Billie Eilish and Paris Jackson. In fact, former US President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s daughter Malia Obama is also one of the writers. Previously, she had interned for HBO’s Girls (2016) and served as a production assistant for CBS’ Extant (2014).
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Real-life events and controversies
Swarm doesn’t make much effort to hide any real-life events and Beyoncé-related connotations. It even highlights obvious details.
Firstly, Ni’Jah belongs to Houston, Texas — Beyoncé’s hometown. The series goes back to 2016, the same year the R&B star dropped the famous album, Lemonade, which talks about her husband Jay-Z’s infidelity. And here, Ni’Jah’s album Festival clearly stands as its fictional parallel. Interestingly, Swarm also reveals that Ni’Jah’s husband Caché (Stephen Glover) cheated on her.
The pilot episode shows Marissa killing herself when she learns that Ni’Jah was being cheated on. This is a reference to a 2016 incident, where reportedly, a woman named Marissa Jackson killed herself after learning a “certain pop star was being cheated on by her husband,” as shared by Nabers during a Q&A session, as per IndieWire.
Ni’Jah also gets pregnant with twins just like Queen Bey in 2017.
In the series, Dre collects ticket memorabilia of a group named Glamour’s Child which can be deduced to be inspired by the group named Destiny’s Child, of which Beyoncé was a member.
The reference to the infamous elevator fight of 2014 is a major standout of the series. In the third episode of Swarm, Dre goes to Los Angeles to confront a content creator named Alice Duley who called out Ni’Jah on Twitter for not stepping into an argument between Caché and her sister. In reality, Beyoncé’s sister Solange and Jay-Z were also involved in a heated argument.
Swarm is not available in Singapore yet, but you can find out more here
(Main image credit: Swarm/ Photo by Warrick Page/Warrick Page/Prime Video/ IMDb; Feature image credit: Swarm/ Photo by Quantrell D. Colbert/Quantrell D. Colbert/Prime Video/ IMDb)
This story first appeared in Prestige Online Singapore