Beyoncé unleashing her rage, reclaiming her agency, and demanding the respect of her partner through a series of boasts, threats, and ultimatums, culminating in a “final warning,” where she throws her wedding ring at the camera.
CH. 4 – APATHY
Two rows of Black women seated inside a school bus, swaying back and forth, their faces and bodies covered in Nigerian artist Laolu Senbanjo’s “The Sacred Art of the Ori.”
Left, From NPR.org, members of the Washington Freedom Riders Committee prepare to leave New York for Washington, D.C., on May 30, 1961; right, from UC Berkley News, a Montgomery bus rides nearly empty as a result of the boycotts.
Overlaid with the line “Her God was listening,” a subtle suggestion that God is silent but present for Beyoncé’s suffering, one of many glimpses of hope for redemption.
Reclaiming Madewood Plantation
The stately and ornate entrance to Madewood Plantation near Napoleonville, LA, nicknamed “Queen of the Bayou,” despite the brutal reality for its enslaved inhabitants, what Frederick Douglass called “a life of living death.”
As the camera enters, we’re greeted by tennis star Serena Williams, who descends a winding staircase and beckons for the camera to follow her into the parlour, where Beyoncé sits upon a throne.
Left, Beyoncé, confident and casual, with her leg draped over the arm of her throne, which almost perfectly mirrors Serena’s Sportsperson of the Year cover photo (right) from Sports Illustrated’s December 2015 issue (4 months before Lemonade’s release).
In both the bus and the plantation house, Beyoncé empowers her female followers in acts of defiance and empowerment that reclaim agency, gestures that resemble a common feature of her live performances of “Single Ladies.”
At 3:36 in the above live performance of “Single Ladies,” Beyoncé commands, “Ladies, put your hand in his face,” much like the command in “Sorry,” and the audience responds.
Beyonce as Nefertiti
Left, the bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, who ruled alongside her pharaoh husband over one of the most prosperous periods of Egyptian history; right, Beyoncé during the outro of “Sorry.”
Meaning “The Beautiful One has Come,” Nefertiti has become a symbol of historical Black excellence. Beyoncé embodying Queen Nefertiti calls to mind her power, beauty, and defies the white patriarchy’s historical dismissal of Black women.
The closing shot of the chapter, with Beyoncé leading a group of five Black women into the wilderness, naked, symbolizing a new direction for Beyoncé as she leaves her partner for a new, unknown life.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode references and links
- Dr. Kyra Gaunt: Beyoncé’s Lemonade is Smashing
- Dr. Lakisha Simmons: Landscapes, Memories, and History in Beyoncé’s Lemonade
- SI.com feature on Serena Williams, 2015 Sportsperson of the Year
- Jenee Desmond-Harris on Vox.com with analysis of Serena Williams press coverage
- Serena Williams with Common with The Undefeated, on race and identity
- Tyra Banks defines “Good Hair” on a 2009 episode of her talk show