I finally got a chance to view Life Is But A Dream, Beyoncé’s documentary about her life and career, which originally premiered on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 9:00pm on HBO. I also watched the episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter that featured them chatting about the documentary.
Oprah’s Next Chapter
Just watching this interview was incredible—two incredibly beautiful, talented and successful Black women, of different generations, with some overlap in values, but different outcomes. I don’t think either is less or more feminist than the other; one chose marriage and motherhood. The other chose romantic connection without marriage and motherhood-by proxy, to her brilliant girls at her academy, OWLAG (whom she calls her daughters).
I like that Oprah mentioned that her girls stated that they felt that Beyoncé is just like them. While Oprah and Beyoncé specifically mentioned their class privilege differences, and specifically acknowledged this, the emotional experiences that they share as women and as Black women are obviously ones that Oprah’s girls could relate to.
I like that Beyoncé discussed how meaningful motherhood is to her during this interview. Here is another thing that Black women are often shamed for—loving the concept of mothering their OWN children. (I’ve written bout this before, in relation to such shaming being hoisted at Michelle Obama.) The fact that she feels fully connected to herself because of motherhood and Oprah feels that same way without being a biological mother seems like the epitome of a feminist choice (for heterosexual women). What is feminism without choices and the agency to make them?
“You balance being the fierce, independent woman with obviously a woman who adores and loves her man.” - Oprah
“I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man.” - Beyoncé
I find no problem with either of their quotes, because for a heterosexual woman, rejecting romantic love is not automatically indicative of empowerment. For some women, it has an important place in their lives, makes them feel good and makes them strong, not weak. All forms of genuine love does this. I am not interested in a feminism where love (and all forms, not solely romantic) is not welcome. It’s the building block for everything.
Life Is But A Dream
I deeply enjoyed this film. I shared some pre-thoughts about the film, before I saw it, and I mentioned if it wasn’t revealing that I would feel somewhat disappointed, as to me, that is the point of such a film. In those pre-thoughts, I also mentioned an article where the author did not like the film, but I didn’t feel that the person not liking the film put them in anti-stan or misery category per se.
However, after seeing the film, I think that author is just way off. I felt NOTHING “diva” or “cog” about the film. It felt so genuinely honest, emotional, reflective, introspective and personal. I saw a Black woman exposing her true self and this is very dangerous to do, rich/famous or not, in a world where we are the least loved. I think the film was brave. She didn’t have to make it.
I didn’t view the film as a long extended career promo as some people have suggested. It makes sense that in a film about an artist, their music is a part of the film. It REALLY made sense, more than ever, since each song shared seemed to deeply connect to her life, and music for her, is a way to work through those issues and express those emotions, in addition to it being a product for public consumption. I am a visual artist and I can relate to this dichotomy.
I especially felt emotional watching the parts where she discussed the difficult relationship with her father. I don’t think it is a coincidence that her love seemed to deepen for Jay-Z during the time the relationship with her father fell apart. I think having a positive male energy in her life matters to her—this doesn’t necessarily make her weak or patriarchal.
I love how much she spoke about women and dealing with unfairness, empowerment and friendship. While Beyoncé, like many women, straddles the fence at times regarding portraying feminist ideals, challenging patriarchy at some turns yet affirming it at others, she seems to have a genuine love for women that can be seen in her relationships with her mother/Solange/Kelly/Michelle, when she speaks of memories of her grandmother, the women she works with, and her amazing band. While some “feminist heroes” are being worshiped for having all-White television shows, Beyoncé had one of the most powerful odes to women, Black/women of colour and White, on that Super Bowl stage.
I love that she said this:
“I love my husband, but it’s nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations. I need my sisters.” - Beyoncé
I know that’s right! While I have been single for some years now, even back when I was in relationships—very good ones, I HAD to call up my best friend to talk. I had to spend time with my 5 sisters. Honestly, when she said this, she made me think of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker:
“The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend.” - Toni Morrison
“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” - Alice Walker
My favorite parts of the film were the ones with her nephew Julez, when she and Jay-Z were singing to each other (I got choked up…though I like them as a couple, this was the first time that they evoked that from me), the home video of her, Kelly and Michelle playing around and singing Kyle Minogue’s song and the adorable moments with Blue Ivy. I really loved the ending of the film with her family members around the table. Though the story is a focus on her life, it’s also a portrait of a Black American family.
Beyoncé is a really beautiful person. I leave this film with a greater impression of who she is and liking her more than I already did.