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I Watched Beyonce's Documentary

By Ryan Bassil

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When HBO announced that they would be screening a self directed Beyonce documentary, which would aim to give an intimate insight into a superstar who has otherwise been very private, I wanted the answers to several questions. Who is Beyonce? Is she human? Does Beyonce ever take a massive dump on the toilet? Does she spew up the remains of alphabetti spaghetti after a night on the vod? Does she check her Twitter friend or follow ratio and then crush herself inside? Sometimes, does she pick out little balls of fluff from her belly button and cast them carefree into the realm of reality? OR, as the media leads us to suspect, is she a a virgin angel of sass, who, despite shaking her ass and provocatively dancing in the skimpiest of outfits, represents the strong, yet innocent embodiment of the perfect female role model in the 21st century?  

Since HBO doesn’t like the UK I had to watch the whole thing through a 360px quality YouTube video. The assortment of pixels reminded me of better days spent watching videos on my Sony Ericsson of kids happy-slapping each other, so I was in high spirits. 

As the YouTube video buffered, I got ready to wiggle my finger like I wanted my cheating ex-girlfriend to come and put a ring on it. In order to fully prepare myself for the Beyonce experience, I cooked up a really healthy dinner.  

The food of champions. I wondered, does Beyonce ever eat this kind of crap whilst on tour? Has she ever felt the warm gift of a double cheeseburger to a hungover mouth at a drive-through service station in Fleet on a Sunday morning? I was excited to find out the answers to these questions. Perez Hilton had described the documentary as “thought-provoking, powerful and GLORIOUS!” But, then again, Perez Hilton is a dick. So, I was skeptical. 

Turned out I was right to be skeptical.

The film kicks off with footage of Bey performing "Crazy In Love". OK, great, I thought. The girl can sing, yes, she is a worldwide superstar after all. So let her kick her stuff for five minutes and THEN we’ll get to the part where Jay-Z holds her hair as she spews in the loo later. But, we never get to that bit...

In fact, rarely do we get to see anything that closely resembles a Beyonce outside of the limelight. 

Instead, we’re treated to footage of Beyonce singing.

Beyonce performing.

Beyonce dancing.

Beyonce having a little talk into a webcam.

More singing.

Some more dancing.

"Oh, hey. I didn’t see you there. Don’t I look beautiful?"

And so on and so forth until the end.

Sure, there are a couple of moments which tug at the heartstrings a bit. She talks about her relationship with her dad for a while. There’s several moments where she looks a little tearful while telling us how hard it is being a successful woman, carrying a baby and dealing with the spotlight. But Beyonce is still floating upon the surface, afraid, or unwilling to let us in. The only moment where we truly feel an insight into her struggle is when she talks about her miscarriage. I’m not going to offensively pretend to understand that I know how that feels but, for that short moment of the film, Beyonce was real.  

The rest, however, is a self-calculated tutorial in vanity and self promotion. We don’t get to see Beyonce, red-eyed and bushy haired in the middle of the night. Which, when you’re in control, is fair enough. But, when the film has been touted as an intimate look into Beyonce’s naked soul, I came out feeling a little cheated. 

There are other snippets of gold - Jigga and B singing accapella to Coldplay’s "Yellow" & a webcam video of Beyonce, Solange and Kelly Rowland singing along to The Cardigans both come to mind - yet the rest falls flatly on self-promotion of what we already know. We KNOW Beyonce can sing. We KNOW she can dance. We KNOW she’s beautiful. We don’t know how she acts when she’s drunk (As if her publicist would ever let us see that anyway), what she does on the road or how she kicks back on the weekend. 

In the film, Beyonce says that people see celebrities and we think that their lives are great and perfect. But, we can’t see or touch them, further perpetuating the notion of perfection. She says that the reality cannot be further from the truth. So, B, why not show us? 

Why not ask Jay Z how much of a pain in the ass you can be? Why is there no footage of your mum spilling out embarrassing tales of your high school experience? Surely, you have friends? Don’t they have any funny stories to tell us?

I get that you want to be private. In the one world united era of Web 2.0, you’re the anti-pop star who has cast all notions of candid aside. It’s fine. You’re good at it. But, when you put forth a documentary promising to shine a light on the inside world of Beyonce’s hive and, instead, show us a promotional video of the bee-keeping sanctuary, it's disappointing. 

Show business has never looked so boring. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanBassil

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