A Triumph Of Brand Management: A Review Of The Beyoncé Documentary
1:30 pm, February 18th | by Sarah Devlin
Sarah: So, Beyoncé on Beyoncé. I watched it with my jaw on the floor.
Colette: “Are You There God? Of Course You Are, It’s Me, Beyoncé.” Luckily for me, HBO Zone (an HBO channel with an unclear target audience) was playing it ALL DAY yesterday. I actually watched it four times. I wish I was joking.
Sarah: Thank God. I mean, thank Beyoncé. So it’s safe to say that you loved it.
Colette: I think I went through stages — confusion, inspiration, infatuation with Jay-Z…
Sarah: I MEAN.
Colette: I think i watched it so many times just to see Bey & Jay-Z sing Coldplay’s “Yellow.”
Sarah: I’m a huge Bey fan, and I’m also a huge fan of her narcissistic personality disorder, which was in full bloom. It made for a great doc.
Colette: There were some choice nuggets of delusion. You are right.
Sarah: I was saying to the sales guys this morning (we were discussing it, obv) that while I’ve been a fan for a long time, I’ve noticed that it’s only been in the past few years that Beyoncé has become this mega mega A-lister. I feel like this was the final cementing of her legacy, sort of. It was an infomercial for how amazing it is to be Beyoncé. And I loved it.
Colette: Well, what was so interesting to me was that there is a whole segment in the middle of the documentary in which Beyoncé talks about how we, the fans, are being brainwashed by the media, and how an artist’s “image” matters more than it used to.
Colette: And she’s saying this in a documentary about herself that she made herself.
Sarah: She is the one brain washing us!!!! Yes. It was genius.
Sarah: The fact that she said that, flat out, in the middle of the infomercial for how amazing her life is, is one of the best feats of image manipulation I think I’ve ever seen. Like I said, jaw on the floor.
Colette: She really knows how to control her brand. This documentary was one giant propaganda piece and I just ate it up. I feel like Beyoncé was preparing us for the next chapter in Beyoncédom: Beyoncé, the mother/wife. “Mrs Carter.”
Sarah: Oh, let’s talk about that for a second. I heard some talk about people being disappointed that she called her upcoming concerts “The Mrs. Carter Tour”…am I the only one who saw that as a very self aware and very funny joke? I felt like she was saying, “Sure, I’m Mrs. Carter, but no one on the planet besides Mr. Carter and the IRS would ever think to call me that, because I’m also BEYONCÉ, KING OF POP”? I felt like it was totally ironic.
Colette: Did you? I didn’t get that impression at all. I’ve always had a difficult time grasping Beyoncé’s stance on feminism, and whether or not she would actually identify as a feminist. I mean, she does things like “Independent Woman Part 1″ and then follows it up with “Cater 2 U,” the most horrendous of horrendous songs.
Sarah: Hahahaha. I’ve always gone in on her brand of feminism. Being a wife is clearly really important to her, and I kind of like that about her? I guess I just feel like someone who is as in control of her career and image as she clearly is (especially after this doc) has to be a feminist. She’s in the club.
Colette: Absolutely. I am definitely not about to take away Beyoncé’s feminist card.
Sarah: I can see how her whole thing about being a wife and pleasing her man can be off-putting.
Colette: I was surprised to hear how much credit she gives Jay-Z regarding her career and her personhood. But then again, I also didn’t realize she was so young when she started dating him!
Sarah: I also sort of make an exception for “Cater 2 U” and also “Upgrade U” (which, sorry, is the jam) because it’s not like “ALL MEN ARE KINGS” — to me it feels like “I want to do nice things for you because I’m in love with you and care about you.” Like, it’s about a specific person.
…Maybe I’m also just a Beyoncé apologist.
Colette: Ha! Believe me, I understand the impulse. I am all about love and loving. Those songs remind me of what Beyoncé talks about pretty early in the documentary — how she wanted to be polite and liked by everyone. I guess I always took those songs as some sort of comprise or pandering to the audience. A way to make her more marketable, less severe. Does that make sense?
Sarah: Yeah, I don’t know about that…because again, to me, those songs are about wanting to be a certain way in a particular relationship. Which you can do without sacrificing any of your agency and power in the rest of the your life.
Colette: To me it feels like, “Hey, I may be singing about ladies getting power but at the end of the day, I just want to help my mans put his do-rag on.”
Sarah: Hahaha. I bet Jay Z does need lots of help with his do-rag. What did you make of all of the “Beyoncé the boss” content? I am a sucker for rehearsal footage so I was very very happy to see all of that. And to see how particular she was, and how much of a sh*tshow getting a show together could be (and how everything seemed to happen at the last minute).
Colette: Well, I just want to note that Beyoncé’s choreographer was the most hilarious guest star. I am going to be quoting his monologue about everyone “staying in their lanes” for months to come.
Sarah: OMG that was amazing. Also screaming at people about sewing their hats to their heads. He’s the breakout star for sure.
Colette: “I DON’T NEED THAT, TIFFANY. I DON’T GOT TIME FOR THAT.” I was frightened. I wanted to sew a hat onto my own head.
Sarah: You know how Tiffany gets.
Colette: Always starting trouble.
Sarah: I loved LOVED LOVED her doing the choreography for the Billboard Awards in the hotel hallway.
Colette: I loved how she was sitting in that tiny room with all the graphic designers!
Sarah: Yes! This is part of why I don’t mind the mythologizing of Beyoncé that much, because she is so hard working and professional.
Colette: It was just so refreshing to see someone so involved with every facet of their business.
Sarah: Yes. I feel like a lot of artists would be like “You guys figure it out, I’m going to bed.”
Colette: Well, it’s such a nice break from all these artists who have fashion lines but never touch a piece of fabric or singers who are “creative directors” but never do much more than appear in commercials. Beyoncé is a businesswoman and her business is Beyoncé.
Sarah: Yes, truth.
Colette: And I am all about it.
Sarah: What did you think about her addressing the surrogacy rumors? Did you buy into those rumors, first of all.
Colette: Haha are you asking me if I think Beyoncé used a surrogate?
Sarah: Yeah! A lot of people jumped on board the conspiracy train. For my part, given that she’s so obsessed with Jay Z, I don’t think for a second that she would outsource the job of Carrying His Heir.
Colette: Exactly! She is such a control freak and perfectionist, I doubt she would ever let someone else carry out her pregnancy. And if she did — man. I bet that surrogate was in LOCKDOWN.
Sarah: Yeah, I just don’t think it happened. There were enough “baby bump in bathroom mirror” shots that I feel like would be pretty hubristic to try to pull off, if she did use a surrogate.
Colette: I’ll admit it — I definitely spread that rumor for a little bit, especially after seeing that Australian interview where her “bump” strangely collapsed.
Colette: I think that was just because I’m a sucker for crazy celebrity stories. But that’s for a different day. (Seriously — ask me a different day. I have a lot of tales about Greta Garbo lesbian hook ups.) That whole story was so strangely out of character too, wasn’t it? Beyoncé wasn’t and still isn’t, to a degree, tabloid fodder.
Colette: She doesn’t get that much traffic in the Stars and US Weeklys of our time.
Sarah: Well, she’s actually a private person. Every celeb says that they are, but she walks the walk. Everything is tightly controlled.
Colette: Well, but then there’s this documentary.
Sarah: Yeah but that’s different than a tabloid story for a few reasons.
1. It’s all coming from her camp
2. There’s nothing in there that she doesn’t want in there
3. It actually doesn’t really reveal very much of her personal life
Colette: Hm, that’s true.
Sarah: Think about how she talks about her dad. It sounds like she’s addressing whatever happened between them…but by the end we still have no idea. She’s one of the most actually private and media savvy people in the world, I think.
Colette: Definitely! She only spoke about her father in terms of their business relationship.
Sarah: No mention was made of the affair he had that led to her parents splitting, etc.
Colette: Which I found incredibly classy (and unsatisfying).
Sarah: Right. This doc basically allows her to give the illusion of full disclosure, while making sure that nothing unsavory or too personal gets out. It’s genius. Genius, I say!
Colette: That’s it! Fans feel like we have been given this massive gift and we are much closer to our Prophet. But really, what did we learn?
Sarah: That she works hard and loves her husband. That’s basically it.
Colette: I suppose we saw a lot of Blue, who has been hidden up until now.
Sarah: She’s adorable, too. Haters to the left.
Colette: By the way, Blue looks an awful lot like Drake and yes, I’m starting a new conspiracy. (An adorable DRAKE.)
Sarah: Great. I’ll spread it like wildfire. Okay, final thoughts: Tina Knowles setting Bey’s hair in curlers before she gave birth, Bey dancing to “Love Fool” with Kelly Rowland and another member of Destiny’s Child who is probably buried in the ocean somewhere.
Colette: Hahah that was Solange, her sister!
Sarah: Whaaaaaat. I did not catch that. And I know Solange!
Colette: Yeah, girl. Yeah. That was Solange before she blossomed into a hipster fashion icon.
Sarah: Oh her nephew was also the cutest. Solange’s kid. I died.
Colette: He is a precocious little devil!
Sarah: Okay, so on a scale of 1 to 10, what do you give this film.
Colette: Well, just for the fact that it gave me scenes of Bey working out in diamond hoop earrings and cutting her hair, I would give it a 9.
Sarah: Yes. Fair.
Colette: It would’ve been a 10, but the whole Tree of Life motif that was going on at the beginning and the end….that definitely lost her some points.
Sarah: WITH THE BLUE IVY. No, that was gold.
Colette: Oh, come on now!
Colette: That was cheesy and even Terrence Malick knew it.
Sarah: That’s why it was so great!
Sarah: I give it a 10, because I was trying to paint my nails while I was watching it and I had to abandon that project because I couldn’t look away.
Colette: That’s the most accurate measurement of interest: can you do your nails while watching this?
Sarah: Oh and also a 10 for the rehearsal footage. Her dancers are bananas.
Colette: Actually, you know what? I’ll give her a 10. I just remembered that scene of baby Bey disturbing the bees.
Sarah: YES. METAPHORS. OR SOMETHING.
Colette: “READY TO STING ME, B*TCHES?” She says that. In a concert. I wrote it down.
Sarah: As you should. Embroider it on a sampler.