Beyoncé in Chapter 1, with her hair covered: left, a hoodie in reference to Trayvon Martin and systemic injustice; right, a headwrap alluding to the the tignon laws of Louisiana, each implying her repressed state.
Fort Macomb: A Symbol of “the Curse” of Slavery
Fort Macomb, from Chapter 1, an actual relic of the American Civil War and a visual allusion to the West African castles of the slave trade. Left, a canted angle to create a sense of stress or disorientation; right, a wide landscape shot.
Left, Beyoncé tepidly approaching those ruins, which are again shot wide in landscape juxtaposed with a vast sky (right).
Beyoncé’s Leap of Faith
Beyoncé’s leap of faith is the destruction of the current self that’s required to resurrect into something new. Left, rack focus is used to only slightly obscure what looks like tears in her eyes, after which she symbolically removes her hood (center) and leaps (right). Notice her Christ-like pose as she falls.
CH. 2 – DENIAL
Left, Beyoncé doesn’t hit the ground, but rather falls into a large body of water, introducing the next chapter “Denial.” Right, Beyoncé sheds her clothes, revealing nude undergarment. Water is traditionally symbolic of life, rebirth, fertility, and spiritual cleansing.
Left, Beyoncé submerged in water is in direct contrast with her in a bathtub without water on “Intuition” (right).
The Flooded Bedroom
Left, Beyoncé swims into a bedroom furnished with New Orleans “Creole Style” furniture and finds herself sleeping in bed alone, seeming to represent her current role in her relationship: silent, still, and as she described, “less awake” (right).
Beyoncé opens her eyes, looks at her surroundings, and lets out a huge breath; she’s awake now, or, perhaps more accurately, she’s been reborn.
Somewhat Sinister Imagery and Allusion
The Exorcist (1973) matched with Beyoncé levitating above the bed, underwater.
Left, Beyoncé appears, praying, inhaling water and raising her head, a shot created by reversing footage of her lowering her head and exhaling. Right, the clip as a boomerang, where you can see her exhaling (naturally) and then inhaling (unnaturally) underwater.
Left, a bible drifting away in the water; right, we watch Beyoncé struggle with a red garment and unexpectedly take the shape of a devilish figure, overlaid with the lines, “I crossed myself and thought I saw the devil.”
Emerged, Above Ground
Beyoncé majestically emerges in the bright yellow Roberto Cavalli as the Goddess Oshun.
Left, from @metmuseum on Twitter; right, Beyonce descends the steps barefoot with the flood.
Beyonce as Oshun
Left, her embodiment of the Goddess Oshun, strolling with a carefree gait, confident and smiling; right, a sinister yet flirtatious smile turns to rage as she smashes her first car window.
The smashing of car windows mirrors the action in Pipilotti Rist’s multimedia art installation “Ever is Over All,” which is linked to at the bottom of the page.
Beyoncé displaying a baseball bat branded with a replica of the Louisville Slugger brand, “Hot Sauce,” both Beyoncé’s nod to Southern culture and Oshun’s weapon of destruction.
Beyoncé playfully flipping her hair and smashing a fire hydrant, encapsulating Oshun, the Goddess of water, on full display in her complex beauty, power, and charm.
The Public Gaze
In the gallery above, many amused and astonished onlookers to Beyoncé as Oshun’s destruction.
Beyoncé steps across the street confidently with windblown hair and gown, enjoying the attention of male onlookers, not unlike Marilyn Monroe in the famous shot from 1955’s The Seven Year Itch.
Left, Beyoncé notices a security camera capturing her tirade, compared with the infamous elevator footage from a similar angle of Solange, JAY-Z, and Beyoncé after the MET Gala (right).
Beyoncé notices a wig in the display of a hair salon, possibly a sly nod to “Becky with the good hair” we’ll meet later. The fire that erupts behind Beyoncé is the first of many explosions that accompany her path of destruction from this point forward (as seen below).
Beyoncé’s rage culminates in a final swing that knocks the camera to the ground as the perspective abruptly cuts to black and white at a canted angle, again intended to convey stress or disorientation. This calls attention to the complicated relationship a celebrity like Beyoncé might have with fans and the public in general; Beyoncé basks in her fans’ amusement, dancing, and celebration, but is also driven to violently destroys two cameras whose gaze she does not command.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links
- Multimedia art installation Ever Is Over All from Swedish born visual artist Pipilotti Rist:
- Amos and Andy, Season 1, Episode 12, featuring the character “Sapphire Stevens,” from whom the sapphire stereotype is derived:
- Sample source Material, Can’t Get Used to Losing You by Andy Williams:
- A reggae-inspired version of the Andy Williams track by The English Beat:
- Requirements for initiates into the religion of Santeria
- Ezra Koenig on his Beats One radio program Time Crisis, discussing his involvement with Hold Up’s production:
- Ynanna Djehuty from Remezcla Media: Followers of the Yoruba Faith Reflect on the Impact of Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’
- Brooke Obie from The Rumpus: The Recipe to Decolonized Love is in Beyonce’s Lemonade