by Latoya Peterson
Recently, Beyonce released the video for her single “Video Phone.”
M. Dot took the opportunity to look at Beyoncé’s lyrics in the context of the societal position of African American men and women. In the comments to her post, commenter Luna put up a link to theory friction practice, a blog that is definitely being added to my must read list. With the tagline “queering everything” the unnamed blogger (who I will refer to as TFP) throws a wrench into existing feminist narratives surrounding Beyoncé by pointing out subversive elements in “Video Phone.” As a refresher, here’s the video:
In a post titled “(m) Beyonce’s postmodern politic: feminism and videophone,” TFP writes:
There are two reasons why I live for this video. 1) it’s totally self-aware and 2) it has this weird feminist politic which bothers me because it’s also really conservative.
For anybody aware of the film reservoir dogs (trailer here, at 0:30) the video references it in that Beyonce leads this group of suited people past a wall, which on its face isn’t very interesting, but that the video calls to itself as a video is important. It also says that “I am aware of my place in film history” which lets us know, that we are part of a historically situated audience who has prior visual experience. In the context of her last few videos, this is an aesthetic break in that she’s not dancing with two female people: she walks and leads a group of males who aren’t gawking at her sexually, but following her lead. This is where I first noticing this weird queer/feminist politic: Beyonce is costumed in a way that presents her as a sort of sex object, but the male people here have zero interest in her sexually and are walking all sterile and dignified. When this is added to the Reservoir Dogs reference, the crime plotting gets foregrounded and the sexuality gets somehow deadened. In this way—and throughout the whole video—the camera handles its gender politic conservatively, but the content works to subvert that conservatism. [...] Continue reading