Dreaming of the Third Rail
Everyone needs a good editor. Even Beyoncé.
By Denise Clay
It is said that if you're going to a dinner party at someone's house and want to have a calm, quiet, polite evening, there are two topics you do not discuss: religion and politics.
But if you're going to a dinner party where mostly Black folks, especially young Black women, are on the guest list, you must add one more thing to your "topics you don't discuss" list...
That topic? Beyoncé.
Unless you're prepared to swear your allegiance to Queen B at said dinner party, it's probably a good idea if you just sit in a corner quietly if the topic comes up. I've touched the Third Rail of African American Entertainment more than once and believe me you're in for a shock if you even look like you're going to suggest that Beyoncé isn't the best entertainer ever.
So I had to think long and hard about taking on Beyoncé's HBO Documentary "Life Is But A Dream", as a topic for a column. Since she's the only Black woman not named Kerry Washington that anyone is talking about in Pop Culture these days, I couldn't just ignore it.
But there are longtime friends of mine who are still kinda mad at me because I believe that among the ways that the U.S government tortures prisoners is to play "Single Ladies" on a loop. I know I'd tell you anything you wanted to know just to make it stop...
Hopefully, they'll forgive me for what I'm about to say next.
While we did learn a thing or two about Beyoncé Knowles-Carter through this documentary, it wasn't enough to warrant an hour plus of my time. The last time that a pop diva's "life" got that much of my time was when Madonna's Truth or Dare premiered.
I didn't like it, either. In fact, I've been trying to get that two hours of my life back for years now...
But like I said, we did learn some things.
We learned that Matthew Knowles was dropped as his daughter's manager because she wanted her father to be her father, not her employee. That sounds kind of logical to me. When a parent is wearing a business hat, it makes it hard for him or her to remember that you are, indeed, their kid.
We learned that the reason why you're probably gonna pay as much as $300 to see one of the shows on the Mrs. Carter Tour is because Beyoncé gets dancers in volume. She's like a female MC Hammer...
We also learned that Beyoncé was actually pregnant with her daughter Blue Ivy and that no surrogate was involved. She addressed that rumor directly and was even surprised that someone would say that when she had faced a miscarriage previously.
(I felt like telling Beyoncé that the pictures of her being visibly pregnant won't convince those who swear up and down that she and Jay-Z's offspring isn't really theirs. I know this because I've been trying to convince many of these same folks that the Illuminati went out with the Spanish Inquisition with no luck.)
We also learned that Beyoncé would like for you to pay more attention to her performances than anything else...she says as she dances in a short gold-fringed dress...Hey, she says, you never paid attention to Nina Simone's outfits. You paid attention to her talent.
(Keeping. The. Snark. Impulse. At. Bay.)
However, the knowledge gained wasn't enough to overlook the flaws.
You ever hear the saying "The lawyer who defends himself has a fool for a client"? Well, "Life is But A Dream" kind of proves that this could also apply to someone trying to make an autobiographical documentary. Ten minutes into this and I was (a) totally confused and (b) wondering where this child's editor was.
Everyone, from Pulitzer Prize-winning authors to Grammy Award-winning pop divas needs a good editor. Beyoncé was far too close to this project to be objective...and it showed.
The only people who do good monologues are comedians and really experienced actors, neither of which describes Beyoncé. I would have liked to hear her father's side of the management break story and to hear from her Mom. I would have loved to hear from Jay-Z about his relationship with his wife and how being half of a famous couple has impacted them.
But all we got was a monologue. Beyoncé told everyone's story. That's no fun.
What the documentary could have done had it been directed by someone else is humanize someone whose grotesque overexposure makes that hard. You want to like Beyoncé, but you're reminded throughout the film that she is BEYONCE and thus unreachable.
If I were advising Beyoncé right now, something that would never, ever happen, I would tell her that if she wanted to do this in 10 years or so, it might work...especially if she took the lead of another chanteuse for awhile.
That chanteuse? Sade.
Every 10 years or so Sade shows up...kind of like cicadas. She'll put out an album, go on a tour, make everyone love her again, and then she's gone for another 10-plus years.
She makes us miss her.
We can't miss you if you never go away, Beyonce...
And this documentary proves it...
Now if you'll excuse me, I'll just sit here and wait for the backlash...