Written by Brooklyne Gipson (@Brooklyne)
The higher her star rises, the more polarizing of a figure Beyoncé Knowles becomes. On the one hand, she’s worshipped by her legion of fans as a goddess among mortals here on earth, and on the other she’s lambasted by critics hungry to knock her down a few pegs. Her 90 minute HBO documentary special Life Is But a Dream, which debuted last Saturday night, is the latest point of contention for fans and critics.
Billed as an expose on Knowles' private life, the documentary failed to live up to the tagline: “Raw. Real. Revealed.” Admittedly, what was promised was virtually impossible to deliver, considering the fact that the project was both executive produced and co-directed by Knowles herself. This was Beyoncé as seen by Beyoncé.
Still, amid the generic home video footage, the contrived couch interview, the “Bey-roll” from the superstar's laptop camera, and other fanbase fodder, there are a number of real surprises and thoughtful moments. Life Is But a Dream provides real commentary on today’s celebrity-obsessed culture.
In a moment of lucidity, Knowles talks about how stifling her public persona and success have been to her creatively. She also shares her opinion of the increasingly intrusive media.
“When I first started out there were no Internet people taking pictures of you and putting your personal life or exploiting your personal life as entertainment,” she says. “I think people are so brainwashed. You get up in the morning, you click onto the computer, you see all these pictures and it’s—all you think of is the picture and the image that you see all day, every day, and you don’t see the human form... When Nina Simone put out music you loved her voice. That’s what she wanted you to love, that was her instrument. But you didn’t get brainwashed by her day-to-day life and what her child is wearing and who’s she’s dating and you know all the things that really, it’s not your business, you know? And it shouldn’t influence the way you listen to the voice and the art, but it does.”
Since splitting with her father as management in 2010 (another aspect of her life glossed over in the doc), Knowles has expressed an interest in connecting with her fans on a more personal level. Early last year her new management company Parkwood Entertainment turned to Madison Avenue for pitches on how to revamp her website. Her desire to be more open, or at least to give the illusion of transparency, could be understood as another marketing gimmick, like the development and promotion of the Sasha Fierce alter ego. In recent months we’ve seen the fan group entity “The BeyHive” become more active to that same end.
However, it becomes apparent in between the lines of the documentary that Knowles didn’t put out the clarion call to increase her web presence simply to share every meal on Instagram or to secure TMZ headlines. It seems as though her current goal is to demystify her presence while putting forth a sound argument for why she’s maintained her distance, especially in regards to her private life.