Beyoncé’s ‘Renaissance’ movie is all about family
OPINION: The second most important star in the film is Blue Ivy, and Beyoncé is the mom who does it all.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I knew it as soon as I saw it. I was sitting there in the front row of the theater watching Beyoncé’s awesome new concert film “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” and dancing along with the Beyhive when we were plopped into that scene that everyone was talking about. It’s black and white. Someone suggests they cut the song “Diva” from the setlist. Blue Ivy, sitting off to the side, leaps into the adult conversation blaring, no, no, you can’t lose that song. She’s bringing way too much energy into a professional brainstorm. But kids do that. The thing that made my jaw drop is that Beyoncé let us see her scolding her child.
“Blue, baby,” she says firmly. “You gonna have to take it down a few notches.” She came in with that mama tone. We all know what that’s like. But instead of hushing, Blue continues pleading in favor of “Diva.” In response, Bey does not silence her child. She affirms Blue’s right to her opinion while saying you’ve got to express yourself more calmly. And then, as Beyoncé is telling Blue about cutting people off, the film cuts Beyoncé off and leaps into her onstage doing “Diva.”
So much of “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is about family. We see a lot of her husband, Jay-Z, some of her parents, Matthew and Tina, and a little of her two younger kids, Rumi and Sir. But the second biggest character in all of this is her oldest child. So much of this film is about how Beyoncé the global superstar and Beyoncé the mother vacillate within Bey. As Wesley Morris said in the New York Times, “We witness a parent in an assortment of resonant parenting moods.” Morris also notes that this is a “moving, unexpectedly transparent feat of self-portraiture.” We have not ever seen this deeply into Beyoncé’s family life.
She talks about trying to give the kids normalcy and making time to go to their schools and suggests she may take a break after this project, but the culmination of the whole Bey-as-working-mom theme is wrapped up in the story of Blue getting onstage with her.
As the Renaissance World Tour moved from country to country, the internet was abuzz with videos and chatter about Blue Ivy’s dancing from night to night. It’s fascinating to me to hear the backstory — it was Blue’s idea, and at first, Beyoncé said no. As a mother, she knew that dancing on a big stadium stage was too much for a child. But apparently, Blue was persistent; we all know how kids can ask and ask and ask … So finally, Bey agreed to let her do one show, which of course turned into many. Parenting is a journey, y’all.
The story of Blue and how she handled that opportunity — and the extension of family to include Amari Marshall, aka AmariMonster, the dance co-captain who becomes Blue’s dance mom — all of that is why this feels like so much more than a concert film. We get Jay-Z on a private plane talking about how Beyoncé was smiling to the maximum degree her face could allow when Blue was onstage with her. We get Matthew Knowles crowing with pride about how Blue rebounded and grew after her first performance. It’s a doc about Beyoncé and her family in so many ways.
The four-year journey to create the Renaissance tour — this massive afrofuturist, ballroom-affirming pop culture circus — is a reflection of who Beyoncé is as a performer and a leader. Just as Renaissance the album is a reflection of her spirit because, she says, it speaks to the music of her childhood — the songs that her beloved Uncle Jonny played in the house. He was clearly a big part of her youth. He was part of the extended family that raised her. This album comes from her soul because it speaks to the music she grew up on. Some stars would make a thematic album like this because they think that’s what people want to hear, but Beyoncé did it because house and disco are the music of her earliest cultural memories. It’s the music that bonds her with her beloved family. This whole project is all about family.
Regarding Bey and family: Make no mistake, she is the mom who carries the Earth on her back. One of the core messages in this film is that this epic tour is the product of Beyoncé’s mind, her spirit, her stamina. She is the lead visionary here. She is the boss who’s pushing the people around her to be their best. In one brief but unforgettable moment, she is told by some expert that they are using the widest sort of lens that is made in the world. Beyoncé questions him. Really? A beat later, we hear her saying so I looked online and it turns out bigger lenses do exist … A woman in the row behind me yelled, “You go, girl.”
The Renaissance World Tour, one of the biggest pop culture spectacles ever, flows from the spirit of Beyoncé, and then “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” takes us deeper inside Beyoncé’s world. It’s more than a concert film; it’s more than just visuals. It’s a look inside her life. It’s also the product of shooting multiple concerts and blending together the amazing fashion and dancing while explaining how this all got made. This film enhances the experience you had when you attended the Renaissance World Tour. It’s valuable in helping people understand how deep all of this goes. This movie is wildly visual, deeply Black and extremely powerful. And seeing inside Beyoncé’s family like this makes it all so much more meaningful.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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