Beyoncé on Oprah and HBO All in One Night! Vomiting Yet?
On February 16th, Beyoncé took one more step towards her goal of world domination. She was the marquee talent on both the HBO and OWN networks that night, advertising the appearances as a glimpse into the life of Beyoncé. This was the night that everyone was waiting for. We were going to learn that Beyoncé IS a real person. With feelings and stuff. And we were going to see Blue Ivy. On our TV screens. In live action. She was going to expose herself for our entertainment. This is hefty stuff.
Thing is … we really didn’t learn much. If ratings were the goal, mission accomplished. There were 1.8 million pairs of eyeballs watching her on HBO. That’s a record number for an HBO documentary. And 1.3 million watched the “Oprah’s Next Chapter” installment. Huge numbers all around. But what insight did we really get into the life of a superstar? Let’s recap.
Over on OWN, Beyoncé setup an interview with Oprah to whet your appetite for what was to come on HBO. Oprah more or less guided us through the major topics of Beyoncé’s documentary, asking related background questions. She fawned all over the starlet, commending her on her courage to release the documentary, show intimate moments in her life, and share her emotional depth. If you took Oprah’s word as gospel, this documentary was going to change the way we all looked at documentaries, and quite possibly, shift the Earth’s axis.
Now I can’t knock Oprah too much for giving Beyoncé such a softball interview, but I was disappointed in how certain things were glazed over or completely left out. For instance, Oprah asked Beyoncé about her decision to not have her father manage her anymore, and it turned into this teachable moment about parents transitioning and letting their children manage their own lives.
No follow-up (or even mention) of all of the “baby mama drama” that was “coincidentally” happening around the same time. No talk of how her mother is still making her costumes and seems to be the girl’s shadow, but her father is always MIA? We’re just going to let her say that she loves her father deeply and that he means so much to her, but we aren’t even going to ask how that news affected her? FAIL.
So once that dog and pony show was over, it was time for the main event: Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream. The documentary utilized a lot of personal camera footage that Beyoncé recorded on her laptop. And we learn that she uses said laptop like a diary, talking to it when “no one else is around.” As a result, she got her Tyler Perry on for this one, starring, producing, and directing the film. Say what you want, but nobody can ensure their multi-hyphenate status like Bey.
My main criticism of the work comes down to its intent. This spectacle was all about Beyoncé exposing herself, but I felt like she came off just as polished and practiced as usual. There were only a few moments were we saw some real emotion or fire. My favorite was when Beyoncé noted, “When Nina Simone put out music, you loved her voice … you didn’t get brainwashed by her day-to-day life and what her child is wearing and who she’s dating and all the things that really is not your business. It shouldn’t influence the way you listen to the voice and the art, but it does.” In that moment, you could see that everything that comes along with fame frustrates her, and she does have a deep passion for what she does. Now I believe that it isn’t all about the Benjamins.
Other bright spots were her preparations for her 2011 Billboard Awards performance of “Run the World (Girls)”, her interactions with Jay-Z, and her anger over the surrogacy rumors. It was insightful to see everything that went into creating the elaborate production for the awards show performance, and Beyoncé’s love for Jay-Z was truly palpable. And while showing footage of what must have been her 8-9 month old belly, Beyoncé definitely crushed any lingering suspicions that she didn’t actually carry Blue.
But once again, the documentary ended up really light on insights of what her life is like. In her effort to show that she is turning into a businesswoman, she more or less showed that she is the diva that you thought she was backstage. She took a sizable amount of time showcasing her nephew Julez, heavy-handedly remarking that she wanted to bring him to Paris with her because it was really important that he see his father. But where was the footage of Beyoncé the mother? Beyoncé the wife? The daughter? The sister? Why didn’t she interact with any of her family members? I don’t think Solange was even in the film. If you are making a movie to show us how “normal” you are, shouldn’t we see you in normal settings? Not just you performing, preparing for performing, or talking about the pressure of performing?
At the end of the day, Bey did open herself up … a little bit. She actually talked about her husband and their courtship. We did get to see her child for a moment. She talked about what it feels like being in her position. And I applaud her for that. The thing is, after watching 90 minutes of a documentary on Beyoncé’s entire life, I still don’t know who she is. I know more about her, but she feels just a foreign as before. Usually when stars open their lives up in this manner, you are able to connect with their lives and understand their humanity on some level. In Beyoncé’s case, I’m just not sure what makes her tick. And, her thick veneer will take a lot more work to crack than a lighthearted interview with Oprah and a self-made documentary could possibly muster.
So what did you think of the documentary? Touched? Turned off? Share your opinions in the comments!
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