Ch. 3 – Anger (Don’t Hurt Yourself)


Beyoncé as first a sleeping, silent, and suppressed servant and then emerging as the powerful, life-giving goddess Oshun.

Left, her denial transitions to rage and destruction, culminating with a vicious knockout blow of the camera and then, right, Beyoncé stampeding a row of cars in a monster truck.


“Anger stirs and wakes in her…There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging.”

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

The Edna Karr High School marching band in streets of Algiers, a section of New Orleans also known as the 15th Ward. For nearly 150 years, this area served as the location where captive Africans were held before being sold into a lifetime of slavery.

As the murder revenge fantasy is described in poetry, the camera winds ominously down a dark stairwell to the chapter’s main setting: an underground parking garage.

Malcolm X’s Interjection

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

Malcolm X, May 5, 1962

The words of Malcolm X at the funeral of Ronald Stokes are laid over visual portraits of everyday Black women on the streets in Louisiana. Their strength is silently yet effectively acknowledged as they stand strong, beautiful, and resilient despite their mistreatment.

Beauty, Struggle, and Strength

The black and white images of a circle of women underground, gowns tied together at the wrist, implies a shared struggle, one that binds them all. Their movements are individualized above, but inextricably linked.

Their movements go from being individual to now being in unison; their dress and unity representing the beauty and resilience Black women share.

Beyoncé’s Dominance and Aggression

Here we are confronted by Beyoncé for the first time in the chapter, shot from a low angle to show power. As she approaches the camera, it recedes further away, as if intimidated or emasculated by Beyoncé’s direct approach and confrontation.

Posture and framing also give Beyoncé a dominant presence. In each of the shots above, notice either aggressive, proud postures or violent exaggerated movements. The handheld camera appears to struggle to capture Beyoncé’s wild movements, barely able to keep her in frame and focus, thus proving her declaration, “I’m just too much for you.”

In conjunction with Beyoncé’s line “Love God Herself,” left, the phrase shows a self-awareness that she is not indeed “God.” Right, Beyoncé’s anger coalesces into a threatening ultimatum, her “final warning.”

After reminding her husband, “You know I give you life,” we especially notice the ankh pendant, to symbolize “life” or “breath of life.” Consider this against the symbolic gesture of throwing her ring at the camera; Beyoncé here possesses the Godly power to both give and take away.

BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links

  • Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, and Beyoncé’s Tribute at the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors Gala:
  • When the Levee Breaks, originally recorded by blues duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929: