Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lemonade

Before watching and discussing Lemonade, I had heard of it and knew what it was about, but I wasn't necessarily eager to watch it. I enjoy Beyonce as an artist and a performer, but watching Lemonade just wasn't at the top of my "to-do" list; of course, as soon as it was assigned for us to watch for Women's Studies, it was. I knew that Lemonade was a visual album divided into sections with songs and scenes in each section, but until I watched it, I didn't understand that the sections were representations of emotions felt during an affair in a relationship. When I realized that each section was an emotion, I found that I understood the visual and auditory aspects of each section and how they related to the emotion being expressed. I've never really thought of Beyonce in terms of feminism specifically, meaning I've never analyzed whether or not she is a feminist like we did with Dr. Nardone, but if someone had asked me whether Beyonce was a feminist before this lecture, I probably would have said, "yes."

In her lecture, Dr. Nardone looked at different aspects of analyzing Lemonade in terms of feminism, such as women/feminism as a monolith, art and politics, the gaze/"the male gaze", the madonna/whore, and appropriation and subversion. I never would have thought to look at all of these factors if I had been asked to analyze Lemonade and Beyonce in terms of feminism on my own, I actually didn't even know what most of these things were before we discussed them.

In terms of establishing the gaze, we discussed the fact that there are women staring at us through the camera throughout the whole video. This is contradictory to the idea that Laura Mulvey discusses as the "male gaze", which says that in film, women are typically objects, with men staring at them behind the cameras, on the sets, and in the movies. Beyonce uses the gaze by having women staring at the camera throughout the whole film, and at one point in Hold Up, it's Beyonce who is looking into a camera and smashing it (twice). Through my observations while watching the film and Dr. Nardone's discussion of the gaze in class, I understood this as Beyonce's way of reversing the gender roles of the gaze and staring back. To me, it seemed like she was saying like, "oh, the men are staring at us, so we're gonna stare back at them and see how they feel". I thought that Beyonce's use of the gaze in Lemonade showed that it is a feminist piece of art because she used the gaze to reverse gender roles, challenge the dominance of the male culture by staring back, and challenge the objectification of women because no one was staring at the women in Lemonade, they were staring at us.

We also talked about the how stereotypical symbols associated with women show up, and in most cases are defied, in Lemonade. We talked about how Lemonade toys with the idea of women being "feminine" and "pretty" by appropriating sites of masculinity such as baseball bats, monster trucks, football fields, and the like, and by Beyonce saying "suck my balls". In part two, Denial, Beyonce says, "I tried to change, closed my mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier. Less... awake..." I thought this was ironic, and she probably wanted it to be taken that way, because in the next scene she it swinging a baseball bat around and driving a monster truck over a bunch of cars. I also noticed these lines specifically because they reminded my of something Mrs. Hamovit said in SWAGA once; she said that women are told and expected to take up less space than men. We're supposed to be physically, and mentally smaller. We're not supposed to voice our opinions as much as men, if a woman is loud and outspoken, she is "hysterical" or "crazy", but when a man is loud and outspoken, he is "educated" and "passionate". So the fact that Beyonce is challenging the stereotype of women being more feminine, prettier, and smaller than men, for me, enforces the idea that Lemonade is a feminist piece of work.

We also talked with Dr. Nardone about how Lemonade is a revision of the heteronormative romantic narrative in that the end is not happily ever after, it is a call to arms. Beyonce says , "ok ladies, now lets get in formation." She wants us to get in formation to confront the patriarchy and make a difference in the lives of women and in our own lives

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