In Accountability, Beyoncé reflected on her upbringing, specifically her relationship with her gun-wielding, whiskey drinking, cowboy type father figure. Left, a young girl rides a horse accompanied by an adult male, juxtaposed with Beyoncé riding her own horse with a male companion trailing behind (right). These consecutive shots imply the passing of time, her connection to her roots, as well as her growing independence.
In the above consecutive shots, the masculine posturing, stoicism and aggression compared via quick cut to a caring father lifting a young daughter into his arms depicts her father has been socialized as many men are: to be a strong, powerful protector who shows no sign of weakness.
If it wasn’t before, it is obvious now that the aggression, violence, and retributive justice model Beyoncé displayed in the first half of the film have been established as learned behaviors passed down from her father.
CH. 7 – REFORMATION
“I began to search for deeper meaning when life began to teach me lessons I didn’t know I needed.”Beyoncé in ELLE, December 2019
Beyoncé in an empty Mercedez-Benz Superdome, home to the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. Lying in the fetal position, wearing a white lace dress, she rests her head on her elbow, visibly despondent, clutching her stomach.
Compare Beyoncé’s pose on the field at the Superdome to her in the chapter “Emptiness” (left) and again here in “Reformation” (right). Her grief and emptiness have carried on into a third consecutive chapter, where she will seek to restore and reform her relationship.
Beyoncé’s wedding ring returns to her hand, a reversal of the gesture we saw in the chapter “Anger;” right, a woman on the porch of Madewood plantation waits for someone to “come home.”
Beyoncé peers through the window to reveal a white picket fence gate and a bright white sky above it; this gate at once potentially symbolizes the “Pearly Gates,” the entryway to heaven, but also the “white picket fence” synonymous with the “American Dream.”
The same gate from the opposite perspective (courtesy of Splendid Market); given that this is the gate surrounding Madewood Plantation, the implication is the historical exclusion of African Americans from the “American Dream.”
The Beach and Allusions to Ibo Landing and the Middle Passage
Beyoncé, acting in the role of a priestess, leads a group of 8 other Black women wading into the water, each sporting a distinct hair style, but unified in dress, expression, and motion, as they follow Beyoncé in a slow, prayerful procession. Wading into the water suggests a form of Baptism, to be reborn to a new life of devotion to God.
“United they look out over the water, perhaps honoring their past, and choosing not to wade any further.”Rebekah Hutten, Feminist Scholar
Again, the women in white wading in the shallow water, but now stopped to join hands and raise them above their heads in unity, suggesting the communal power of Black women to “move a mountain.” While embodying the same spirit of resistance as their ancestors at Ibo Landing, these women, in contrast, do not meet their demise, but instead band together to create new lives for themselves.
Left, Beyoncé first in a chair overturned, in a state of sleep or deep rest; right, three Black women take up the same lying down yet seated pose, surrounded by an abundance of red and pink roses. Beyoncé, no longer sleeping, but instead sitting on the ground in front of the other women, implies her awoken from a state of passivity, the gold paint on her skin signifying her worth.
Additionally, the restrictive poses of the women on their backs could serve as a reference to the Middle Passage, according to a blogger under the pen name “melanatedmoney.” The voyages were characterized by the maltreatment of enslaved Africans as cargo, packed tightly and contorted to fit as many people as possible onto boats.
Beyoncé adorned with white markings similar to those painted on the women during the chapter “Apathy.” The shot rotates 360 degrees, suggesting a journey that has come full circle; her eyes lifting to the sky imply a shift focusing on more spiritual matters, something we’ll see throughout the following chapters.
Left, the beach setting of the chapter, no longer at sunset, as we transition from Reformation to Forgiveness, the next chapter; right, a purposefully disorienting image, flipped upside-down, of two women lying on the beach with the ocean in front of them; the implication is one of reversal, and likely foreshadowing a reversal of the curse to come.
The women who have graced the waters throughout the chapter raise their arms in the air, ready to face the challenges before them and heal gloriously, together, this small group serving to inspire a multitude to band together and progress as a community.
Compare the joined hands and raised arms in the aforementioned shot to these above from Chapter 3, which we determined were symbolic of the beauty and shared struggle the bind Black women.
BONUS MATERIALS: Episode References and Links
- The Carters’ 2018 collaboration “713:”
- Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance at the Superdome in 2013:
- Shelton Alexander’s “I WAS THERE: HURRICANE KATRINA SUPERDOME SURVIVOR:”
- Transcript of Anderson Cooper’s September 2, 2005 edition of A360, featuring Rev. Jesse Jackson’s characterization of the post-Katrina reality in New Orleans
- ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast, “Cursed and Blessed,” detailing the history of the Superdome and how it became a potent symbol for the city’s rebirth
- Again, Beyonce in ELLE magazine, December 2019
- Mikael Owunna observing the connection between the beach scenes and the story of Ibo Landing
- Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, in discussing her novel Song of Solomon, explains the myth of “The Story of the Flying Africans”
- Feminist scholar Rebekah Hutten’s Masters Thesis, You Spun Gold out of This Hard Life
- Blogger melanatedmoney’s “The Tea on Lemonade: Love Drought“
- Brittney Cooper interviewed by Janell Hobson in Ms. Magazine