Dearly Departed, plus Club Tropicana, The Interview

I’ve lost another one of my favorite freaks. One of my childhood crushes–this time, he wasn’t androgynous, like Prince or David Bowie, but he sure as hell was one gay “filthy f–ker,” as he himself once said.

We wore out the WHAM! Video Hits tape. Like, we watched the Careless Whisper video–my sister and her best friend, and her younger sister, who was my best friend– and each played different roles, and then rewound it and replayed it, rotating the roles. Every fourth time you had to be “Andrew’s Fingers” (anonymous guitar strummer) but every fourth time, you also got to be The Slut, and whip your hair back in passion, so it worked out.

I know all the words to Wham! Rap. My sister and I performed the song, with most of the dance, for our horrified children at last spring’s family talent show.

I don’t think I had one sleepover where either Labyrinth or George Michael didn’t come up at least once.

David Bowie was my introduction to sexual awakening. Prince was my introduction to owning your freaky-deaky. George Michael was the soundtrack behind all of that.

He, like Bowie and Prince, was a freak, too, but he was afraid to be out about it. He was outed, but it’s hard to remember that because the moment it happened, he lived out, proud, with no apologies. He donated to charities quietly, and shouted his celebrity to the rooftops when he needed to get attention.

He was a mensch. He was out and proud. He was politically active. When he broke into his torch songs, he had a voice that could melt steel.

Everything She Wants and Freedom ’90 are two of the greatest pop songs ever written. (The video version of ESW, of course.)

This one time, though, he made kind of a this-side-of-terrible song, with a video that was more or less an excuse for Andrew, Pepsi, and Shirley to join him in Acapulco. And, as shindancer once said, one night many years later, I got drunk on pina coladas, tracked him down in London, and interviewed him about the video.

(OK, I didn’t. That last part is a lie, up to and including the pina coladas part. I would never drink that many pina coladas.)

Here’s the original post. Because we must remember George Michael as all of these things: as a mensch, as a gay man, as an activist, as a brilliant songwriter, singer, and performer, and as a mostly-naked guy drinking at a poolside.


SlumberPartyMovies recently had an opportunity to interview George Michael about his epic video, Club Tropicana, which has always puzzled me on a few counts.

SPM: Great to meet you, George! Long time-listener, first-time interviewer. Let’s jump right in: Why weren’t the credits in the Wham! The Hits VHS version?

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GM: Look at two beautiful women in matching slouchy shirts clip-clop along a darkened path and forget your question.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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GM: Look at me posing with a white wine spritzer and forget your question.

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SPM: Where is the place where membership’s a smiling face, where strangers take you by the hand and welcome you to wonderland?

GM: Beneath the Panama.

SPM: Wait, like south of the Panama, or underground, or what?

GM: No, sorry. I meant they welcome you from beneath their panamas. Like hats.

SPM: Oh, so where is it? Acapulco? It must be Acapulco, right?

GM: Look into my eyes and forget your question.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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A: Look at me showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Why is it that all that’s missing is the sea, when you’re clearly sitting on the beach in this scene? And you talk about soft white sands and blue lagoons?

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A: Look at me showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Why is Andrew Ridgeley wearing long jams, and you’re in a white speedo?

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GM: I am Greek and he is not.

SPM: That’s fair. But his hair is clearly better than yours.

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GM: Look at these women’s crotches and forget you ever thought that.

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SPM: Who the fuck is this guy?

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GM: Look at us me angry in a cowboy hat and forget your question.

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SPM: Do the girls stop and pick you up or leave you stranded?

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GM: Look at me shaving naked and forget your question.

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SPM: OK, so you’re pilots and they’re flight attendants? Why did you act like you didn’t know each other? Or were just surprised that they’re really hot in bikinis? Do you know each other or not? And are you on furlough or something, which is why you’re a pilot and permitted to drink all day and bake in the sun for a week? and honestly, I know it’s the 80s, but it’s a little sexist that you guys get to be pilots and they’re attendants.

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GM: Look at Andrew showering and forget your question.

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SPM: Forget my question? That’s a weird thing to say! No!

GM: Then look deeply into my eyes and forget your question.

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SPM: Where are you going on those donkeys?

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GM: Look at us shirtless, playing the trumpet, and forget your question.

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SPM: Forget my question? That’s a weird thing to say! No!

GM: Look at us in pilot uniforms and forget your question.

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SPM: Wow! Looks like that’s all the time we have for today. Thanks, George! You’re a true SlumberPartyMovie god.

GM: I know.

The Mystery of Ph. D, Mtv, and the video for I Won’t Let You Down.

This is not a popular post. It never got one comment or one like. Understandable. I always assumed that I was the only early 80s PhD fan. Then, this morning,
Eric sent me this message.

“Comment: Who is the girl in the video?”
Which one? The icy blond walking the dog, or the catatonic blonde with the Ditch braids? I don’t know Eric, but I felt for his plight. There is just not enough information about PhD videos out there. My first instinct was to suggest that Eric ask Jim Diamond himself, but then I remembered. Jim Diamond died recently. I looked it up, to be sure, and yes. He died. ONE YEAR AGO TODAY! One of two things is happening, one…he is trending on some social media site somewhere….or two, my junior high crush is haunting me through my blog. Believe what you want, Lerlines.

slumber party movies

Back when I was 11, I had a bit of a crush on Jim Diamond, lead singer of the Mtv rising stars, Ph. D. What? So he’s a little weird looking? I like weird looking.

Totes hot, am I right? Please say yes. Totes hot, am I right? Please say yes.

The problem with having a crush on Jim Diamond of PH. D.  was that by the time I was 11 and a half, Mtv stopped playing their video, and never played them again. What’s that you say? Teen Beat?! Ha! Teen Beat would never publish a picture of Jim Diamond. They were too busy finding new un-airbrushed* photos of Ralph Macchio. No. For a 12 year old girl in America in 1982, Ph. D. were as unattainable as wine coolers and earth-tones. 

Then, quite few years later, came YouTube. The first Ph. D. gem I dug up was Little Suzi’s on the Up. The video combines a…

View original post 380 more words

Fish-Faced Enemy of the People Has Passed On

While everyone else is talking “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” and “Willy Wonka,” we must not ever forget the beauty of Gene Wilder’s Blue Blanket Freakout.

NOTE: TCM hates us and the WordPress embed isn’t working. So click here for A Minor Compulsion.

I’m sad. But he lived a full life, and had Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease. And rather than sinking into a 48-hour funk of sadness, I fully plan to laugh my ass off well into the night tonight.

We’ll miss you, Leo Bloom. I hope you’re dancing around a fountain with Zero and Gilda right now.

My Clue Remake Dream Cast: 21st Century-Style

Life can be a dream, yes? The song says so! And in dreams, they remake Clue–not as a duplicate of the first movie (as if that’s possible) but as a wonderful, 21st-Century vision of Mr. Boddy’s mansion on a hill.

SPM Rules for Casting Clue

  1. Funny: If you’re not funny, why are you here? Leave through the front door and step in some dogshit on the way out.
  2. Mature: We need mature actors with whom we can trust our favorite movie ever. It’s true the spirit of the original and is a welcome difference from the young-and-pretties.
  3. True to the character: That’s a purposeful word choice: I’m not suggesting we stay true to the actor’s portrayal; just that we stay true to the character on the page. With some minor exceptions, of course.

In my dream cast of Clue, the script stays virtually the same, with the only differences being adjusting for gender as needed, and eliminating the lazy, easy jokes that were the hallmark of too many movies in the 1980s.

WADSWORTH: Martin Freeman

MartinFreeman

And you’d had a letter and you’d had a letter and you’d had a letter–

With all apologies to Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch, the best choice for Wadsworth is Martin Freeman. The defining characteristics of Wadsworth are that he’s British and he reacts. Martin Freeman is the next Bob Newhart, who was the next Jack Benny, and Jack Benny built a lifelong career on reaction. We know he’s funny; we know he’s very British; stop dithering and cast him.

Alternate: Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch

MR. BODDY: The Rock

TheRock

This is preposterous.

This casting choice is credited to a Facebook friend of a friend. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson not only is funny as hell, but he also plays serious well, and the action of moving his body from place-to-place will eliminate the need for the Cook’s fat jokes later in the script. Also: The Rock, because The Rock.

Alternate: Tim Curry.  I kind of like that idea, but I have other plans for Tim Curry.

PROFESSOR PLUM: Viola Davis

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Wait a minute. Who did I kill?

Professor; condescending; can do slightly sleazy. Who’s it gonna be? Viola Davis. She’s brilliant, and from HTGAWM, we know she makes a kick-ass professor who plays every side of every coin she’s given. And how different is a psychiatrist from a lawyer? One caveat is I haven’t see her play a lot of funny… but I bet she’s a funny bitch.

Alternate: Lucy Liu; Jordan Peele

COLONEL MUSTARD: Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch. Don’t insult both of us by making me explain this.

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This is WAR, Peacock!

Alternate: A verrrry distance second is Suzanne Cryer. But, come on. Jane Lynch.

MISS SCARLETT: Sofia Vergara

Sexy, funny, elegant, brilliant? Sofia Vergara. This woman has overcome the burden of physical perfection to become hilariously self-effacing and goofy.

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Oh, I’m being blackmailed, all right. But I did what I’m being blackmailed for.

Alternate: Salma Hayek, who is also hilariously self-effacing and sexy.

MRS. PEACOCK: Laverne Cox

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BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COOK!

Senator’s wife? Party planner dresses like your very elegant crazy aunt? Laverne Cox. The batty absent-mindedness is a bit of a stretch for her, but I have faith.

Alternate: Buzzfeed suggested Meryl Streep, and that’s marginally acceptable.

MR. GREEN: David Hyde Pierce

Fundamental character change: Mr. Green is gay. Most 80s movies I love have a moment that just rubs like sandpaper these days. In Soapdish, it’s when they out Montana Moorehead as being trans, sending her screaming off set. In Clue, it’s when Mr. Green says he’s going to go home and sleep with his wife. Ha! Ha! He’s a good guy, and whew, he’s not really gay! Thank goodness.

So: David Hyde Pierce. Niles Frasier practically IS Mr. Green.

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I CAN’T UNLOCK THE DOOR WITHOUT THE KEY!

Alternate: Javier Munoz. No, I haven’t seen him yet in Hamilton, but I have to cast someone from Hamilton, because it’s my movie so you shut up.

Second Alternate: Kenneth Parcell.

MRS. WHITE: Tituss Burgess

This was the hardest call. Casting anyone in Madeline Kahn’s role hurts my heart: she’s gone, she’ll never return, and no one will ever be Mrs. White. I’ve seen people suggest Kate McKinnon, but she’s too young, and too likely to play it like Madeline Kahn.

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I hated her… so… much.

So we need someone who will capture the spirit of Madeline Kahn–her wide-eyed deadpan silliness, her utter embrace of absurd gravitas–but someone who will make the role all her… or his own. So I give you Mr. White: Tituss Burgess. He’s funny, he’s over-the-top, and he will never, ever be mistaken for Madeline Kahn.

THE VICTIMS

The victims will be played by their murderers, with some exceptions (RIP Eileen Brennan and Madeline Kahn). I love the idea of killing them off, one by one–it’s a fabulous way to kill our sacred cows, and it also gives these bit characters new life. And also new death.

THE MOTORIST: Martin Mull

THE COP: Christopher Lloyd.

THE COOK: Michael McKean (Eileen Brennan, we miss you so; you’d have made a wonderful Cook.)

SINGING TELEGRAM: Tim Curry (OMG Tim Curry as a singing telegram could you DIE?)

YVETTE: Kate McKinnon. See, I got her in there after all! Imagining Kate McKinnon pissed off about being in a French Maid costume makes me so warm and fuzzy inside. Also, I would like to see Tituss Burgess hating on Kate McKinnon in a French Maid costume.

THE CHIEF: Howard Hesseman, and we’ll credit him this time.

Don’t screw this up, Hollywood. Do it right or don’t do it at all.

 

 

Ghostbusters Twirls Them Haters: Female Friendship, Gaslighting, and Doing Your Thing

OK, Lerlines, I did it: I packed up the 7- and 5-year-old daughters, the husband, and we checked out the new Ghostbusters film.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m a scholar of the first movie. It came out when I was 9, and I still watch it two or three times a year. I have video of my three-year-old lying on the floor, having been “slimed,” and asking the Ghostbusters to save her. I know that Louis Tully has been an accountant for four years, I know about that time many Shubs and Zuuls were roasted in the depths of the Slor, and I know that when Ray gets a fellated by a ghost, he’s wearing epaulets.

OK, that’s done.

I really, really wanted to like Ghostbusters 2016. I’ve been terrified it would be a gross disappointment: even worse than the trailers suggested (those trailers were not good), and that all the angry, pouting guys at home whose childhoods were ruined by the suggestion of a new Ghostbusters film would end up being right, and would walk away thinking, “See? Girls ruin everything.”

Last night, after leaving the theater? I was grinning from ear to ear, and didn’t stop smiling for at least three hours, most of which were spent in my kitchen, discussing the movie with my husband (who also really enjoyed it). My seven-year-old spent half of the movie with her face buried in my lap–it was a lot scarier than the first one–and my five-year-old spent most of the time staring, wide-eyed and beaming, at the screen.

The five-year-old's favorite was Holtzmann. "Why?" "Hair!"

The five-year-old’s favorite was Holtzmann. “Why?” “Hair!”

I’m not going to get into the details of the movie, with spoilers and whatnot; Emily Asher-Perrin’s review of the movie is quite good, and captures a lot of what I liked about it. So I encourage you to head over to Tor.com and read it, if you want a more traditional movie review. She’s spot-on with what works and what doesn’t, how the world-building is fantastic in this one, and how brilliantly the characters work.

Kevin, I love you forever, you big dumb bimbo.

Kevin, I love you forever, you big dumb bimbo.

A few of my own thoughts: I saw that one reviewer complained that the first joke was about a queef, and this puzzled me, because there were a lot of jokes before getting to that one-and-only fart joke. Zach Woods is the first person we see on screen, and he’s one of those actors whose very presence has me bracing for hilarity. Granted, he doesn’t tell jokes. He does what he does best: he softly, and with great delight and curiosity, delivers information like a quietly psychotic children’s librarian. So, no. Queef is not the first joke. Unless, of course, your definition of a joke is “Wait for it… deliver… pause for laughs.”

In which case, this movie is not for you.

Generally speaking, it takes some time to get off the dime. After that first terrific scene, we get Erin’s (Kristen Wiig) backstory. Then she reunites with her old friend, and we get some nice character-building. About 20 minutes in, I got worried. Aside from a few laughs, I hadn’t burst out laughing yet. Is this not going to be funny? I thought. But then I resolved to set that aside, because, hilarious or not, I was really enjoying the movie.

I can love this movie without it being the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

And it is funny. I was dying to see Kristen Wiig be as hilarious as I know she is, but many scenes had me and the entire audience cracking up. They balanced the humor with great special effects, scary ghosts, suspense, and a central villain who was, essentially, the embodiment of of all those angry, pouting guys at home.

Women Being Women

In discussing the movie with my husband, I kept coming back to several very sweet, poignant moments where the women were just having fun. Dancing, singing, ribbing each other, squealing and jumping up and down. And I mentioned to him that this movie had a much greater focus on their mutual friendship than the first one did.

“That’s not true,” he said. “The first movie had a lot about their friendship.”

“Really? I mean, you knew they were friends, but…”

“The scene where they’re eating the Chinese food! And….” he named a few more.

“Oh. I guess so. But it didn’t really affect me like this one did.”

“Well, of course it didn’t. Because they weren’t women.”

Then he gave me a duh look. Because duh.

He saw all the subtleties of male friendship in the first movie, and appreciated that on a deeper level than I ever did. I can recite Ghostbusters from start to finish (and have), but now I understand that he gets it on a deeper level: they’re guys being best friends in the ways that guys are best friends, and I’ve never had that experience.

And there you have it, folks: the reason representation matters. The women in this movie are women acting like women. They’re not women kicking ass in characters that could be male; these kick-ass characters are unapologetically female.

Aw. They love each other.

Aw. They love each other.

When they first see a ghost, Abby can’t stop talking about how beautiful she is. Erin can’t stop jumping up and down, chanting, “WESAWAGHOST! WESAWAGHOST!” That is exactly what I would do in that situation. The men in the first Ghostbusters were excited (and terrified) but they didn’t jump up and down, clapping their hands. Because generally, guys don’t do that.

Women do. And these women  are women, through and through. They’re also brilliant scientists and clever historians and brave and funny, and they love each other, and they make each other laugh, and they show each other affection openly. They have the same friendship I have with my friends. And now I’m getting choked up.

If you don’t like movies  that are, at their core, about female friendships, this movie is not for you.

It’s Not Ghostbusters. It’s Annie.

After we put the girls to bed, I turned on the original Ghostbusters. Ten minutes in, I remembered what I’d always known about Ghostbusters: it’s a near-perfect film comedy. Every moment is in the service of pace and humor; it doesn’t bother with world-building or explaining much about the back stories; fuck all that, it says to us, get on the goddamn train and ride this bitch all the way downtown.

Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t like that. It takes its time. I look forward to rewatching it. Many times.

Some of the haters have complained that the new movie isn’t canon. And I love canon as much as any nerd, but from the start, I accepted that this is a different movie. Same high concept, same premise, same city–different people, different story, different world. In a nutshell, the parallel to this movie is not Star Trek, where they invented an entirely new timeline just to say it’s canon.

The comparison is the new Annie.

When I saw ads for the new Annie, I had a “don’t ruin my childhood” reaction, I’ll admit. But then I saw Quvenzhané Wallace’s gorgeous smile and thought: my girls deserve to get their own Annie. I had Aileen Quinn and the traditional Annie, and I loved that movie. But now my girls have their own Annie–one that’s relevant to them, who looks like their friends, who lives in the here and now. They have new songs and Daddy Stacks instead of Warbucks, and they live in a smart penthouse instead of a mansion, and they have a foster mother instead of an orphanage headmistress, and it’s all theirs.
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I didn’t love all the updates: There is one Miss Hannigan, and that is Carol Burnett. That said, it’s just as sweet and catchy as the original, and it resonates for my daughters. I can still love the original, and like the new one, and know that the new one is important.

Semi-Spoiler Alert: Fuck the Haters

In the end, the original Ghostbusters was about having a rollicking good time on the world’s greatest high-speed comedy rail ever run, and Ghostbusters 2016 is a terrific SFF comedy with a fantastic message, subtly delivered by the people who should deliver it.

That message is: fuck the haters, and do your thing.

A deep thread of gaslighting runs through the movie. As a child, Erin is visited by a ghost every night for a year, and her parents don’t believe her. In fact, no one believes her, until she befriends Abby. She knows the truth, because it’s happened to her, over and over again. But because the people around her haven’t experienced her life, they disbelieve her outright.

When the mayor’s character comes aboard (portrayed vacantly and hilariously by Andy Garcia), the denial goes big: well, sure, we believe you. But to do something about it would be politically difficult, so instead, we’re going to publicly discredit and humiliate you.

Sounds familiar.

Erin spends much of the movie trying to preserve her reputation; she doesn’t want anyone to make fun of her. She doesn’t want to be “Ghost Girl,” the object of ridicule; she wants to be well-liked and get tenure. So she decides to deny her own truth because she’s tired of defending herself.

When Erin finally faces a grumpy old man debunker, the embodiment of all the people who have told her she’s crazy, she makes a terrible error in trying to gain his approval. In trying to appease him, she causes more pain.

The other three women? They’ve got it right: Fuck those guys. “We know we’re right. We saw a ghost and we know we’re right. Who CARES whether he thinks we’re lying and hysterical? We know we’re right.

When they’re facing down the villain, he complains that the world has been so cruel to him: people made fun of him, they’ve been mean to him, they never appreciated his work!

In response, we see the sad, kind faces of the Ghostbusters.

“We’ve been there, too,” they say.

In that moment, the importance of this movie comes into high relief: this guy wants to destroy the world because he feels threatened and unappreciated. These women, who have also lived threatened, underappreciated lives, know that it’s more important to save the world than to give in to the haters.

I don’t know of a better message for 2016 than that.

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We’re here. We’re women. Get used to it.

 

Beysplaining to a Music Critic

I recently read this terribly lazy preview of Beyonce’s Formation tour (which is coming to Pittsburgh in four days and OH MY GOD I AM SO EXCITED) and was inspired to write a letter to the editor. Because, in addition to writing pages-long theses about “Lemonade” in a blog, I am now also compelled to call out music critics who are bitter that their bosses make them cover Beyonce when they’d rather talk about The Avett Brothers. Or Neutral Milk Hotel, or something. I probably don’t know the name of the band he wants to cover, because I’m not that fleek.

Here’s the article.

I crafted the letter carefully, hoping to strike just the right tone of condescending mansplaination. Only, of course, I’m not mansplaining; I’m Beysplaining. Shindancer suggested I post the letter here (I don’t know if it’ll be published or not.)

So at the risk of being as smug and self-aggrandizing as this guy, here’s my best crack at Beysplaining Formation. Let me know how I did.

Scott Mervis’ preview of the Beyonce Formation tour was one of the most depressingly lazy examples of music journalism I’ve read. Not only does he joke in the first three paragraphs that Beyonce herself will take a bat to attendees’ cars–a joke that, at best, is obvious, and at worst, foments ridiculous rumors that she’s personally violent–but he also says she depicts cops as “the enemy.” If anyone with critical thinking skills listens to the album, or watches the film, they’ll understand that’s patently untrue.

Later, he says “Daddy Lessons” includes a gun that “you fear might go off in the third act.” That little dramatic hyperbole unnecessarily feeds the rhetoric about Beyonce, as well. Lastly, “Becky” isn’t slang for “white girl.” It’s slang for a narrow-minded white girl who uses sex to climb the social ladder.

I have no idea whether Mervis likes the album or if he’s seen the tour and can speak to it personally. My suspicion is that he’s annoyed that he has to cover a female pop star’s tour, conducted his research on Buzzfeed, and opted for rabble-rousing over a real review. (Aside from the shoutouts to local Pittsburgh musicians, of course.)

That said: I’d like to see a more in-depth piece about the “local industry insider” who believes that “women don’t want to see other women” at concerts. As a woman who’s attending the Formation tour with three other women (and we’re all also seeing Dolly Parton later this summer), it seems to me that a reason women aren’t seeing other women is because the men in power aren’t actually bringing women here.

Newsflash: Women like music by women. Women have friends who also like music by women. And women have money. In the words of the Queen Bey: “Boy, bye.”

 

Lemonade is “The Wall” for Women

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock since the Super Bowl, you may have heard that Beyoncé has a new album out. Remember how she marched a bunch of armed women onto the field in February and then threatened to kill all the cops? Except that she actually didn’t do that at all? I remember it, mostly because I had no interest in the guys in the helmets. Then she released the video for “Formation.”

No fucks given.

No fucks given.

Fuck yeah.

I like singles, but I’m an album listener. That’s why I’ve been listening to nothing but “Hamilton” since December. So when  Beyoncé  released “Lemonade,”  a bittersweet, empowering story of betrayal, fear, fury, self-doubt, and eventually, redemption–and released it with an hourlong film, scored by the music and interspersed with monologues–well, step aside briefly, Aaron Burr, Sir. The Queen has entered the building.

The music is potent on its own; coupled with the movie, it should be studied in film classes.

The Wall: It’s the Fat and Psychopathic Wife’s Fault

Which brings me back to my own freshman college experience, when we studied Pink Floyd’s double-album opus “The Wall.” As an 18-year-old, I loved “The Wall,” for all the reasons I listed above: it was dramatic, theatrical, had a narrative arc, scenes playing out, majestic music, and even a movie to go with it. Animation! Symbolism! Nazis, I think! PAIN!

Watching it in a freshman class, during “What Shall We Do Now,” a friend of mine said, “This guy has some issues with women.” She was not impressed, and seemed insulted.

I didn’t want to think about that theme in “The Wall.” I loved the music too much. I loved that the movie was so dark and animated and like nothing I’d seen before. Emily was less impressed. She saw the misogyny inherent in every scene. I didn’t want to.

I watched it again a few years ago, and found myself so disgusted with Pink, the melancholy, suicidal rock star protagonist, that I was pissed off at my 18-year-old self for days. Little bits of the album and movie kept coming back to me: his abuse at the hands of his evil schoolmasters, whose “fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives.” His mother, who lost her husband in the war and then became overprotective of him. His wife, who apparently got tired of his boo-hooing and left him. So he turns to his groupie, and then trashes his hotel room when she tries to cozy up to him.

That's the fat and psychopathic wife on the left, FYI.

That’s the fat and psychopathic wife on the left, FYI.

His mother, his wife, his groupies, his schoolteacher’s spouses–they’re at the root of all his problems. The women in his life are too mean, too loving, too distant, too empty-headed, too something or everything to satisfy him. And when he hits rock bottom, when he overdoses to numb his pain, and his manager busts in to force him to go on with his life and put on his concert like he promised? He decides to become a fucking Nazi. Women drive Pink to become a Nazi.

This what we call "very subtle symbolism," class.

This what we call “very subtle symbolism,” class.

This is the story of “The Wall.” Pink blames the women in his life for everything that goes wrong, from his miserable schooldays to his failed marriage to his overdose to his eventual embrace of fascism and violence. People die and are persecuted because Pink’s women didn’t love him enough in just the right way.

It’s like a textbook for MRAs. And I studied it in college as an example of existentialism in 20th century America.

Lemonade: Is It My Fault?

“Lemonade”‘s protagonist doesn’t entirely disagree with Pink: throughout the album, she constantly asks some version of, “What did I do wrong?” In “Love Drought,” she asks it so many times she even says “Oh, I already asked that. My bad.” She apologizes for asking what she did wrong. She kept it sexy, she kept it fun. She’s been committed, she’s been focused. She’d give up being a star for the sake of saving her marriage and family. She gives him life, but he’s her lifeline. Which part wasn’t right? Tell her and she’ll fix it.

Of course, it’s not all self-doubt. Before “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” her enraged guitar anthem, she asks, “Why can’t you see me? Everyone else can,” before rolling into “You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy.” He has power, but so does she. But even this is tempered by Malcolm X’s assertion that the “most disrespected…and unprotected… and neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

All of it piles into a rage focused on this one man who took advantage of her vulnerability and power to betray her. In this number, she accuses him of all the same things: You didn’t love hard enough. You didn’t try hard enough. “If you hurt me, you hurt yourself.” The message? You need me.

I don't think wearing an ankh is a coincidence.

I don’t think wearing the Egyptian symbol of life is a coincidence.

She closes that number with “If you try this shit again, you gonna lose your wife.” Which is the first clue we get that she’s considering giving him a second shot. She’s willing to forgive. But not until after he lives life without her for awhile. Not until after she’s spent time with her sisters. Not until she’s thought about her relationship with her father, trying to figure out how she got here.

That’s when she comes back around to examining herself. How much can she take? How can she fix it? What did she do to make this happen? This, I believe, is the clearest commonality between “The Wall” and “Lemonade,” and also a pretty goddamn clear illustration of something men and women seem to have in common: It’s the woman’s responsibility. If it doesn’t work out, it’s because she did too much, or not enough.

What did I do wrong?

What did I do wrong?

The difference, of course, is in the ultimate result. In “The Wall,” his perceived abandonment justifies violence and taking over an entire nation of people; he’s been so crushed that his only recourse is to crush others. When he’s brought to task for his crimes, a judge in the shape of an ass sentences him to “be exposed” before his peers. To “tear down the wall.” And so the wall falls–the wall he’s built to protect himself against all the pain in his life–falls. And little boys are left to pick up the pieces.

Lemonade_boys

The next generation will fix it?

In “Lemonade,” she picks up the pieces herself. After the pain of suspicion, anger (and she does get angry, hoo boy; but she only hurts things, not people), testing her independence, she decides in “Sandcastles” that her marriage is worth more than the betrayal, and begins to re-forge her bond.

In the haunting number “Forward,” she leafs through photos, presumably of her marriage in better times; then we witness grieving women holding photographs of Black men. They’re the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner: men whose women–mothers, wives, sisters–will never get them back.

Lemonade_Forward

Will she abandon this man in her life because of his sins? Will she move forward, without him, and raise her daughter without a father in her home? Or will she move forward with him, so she doesn’t join the grieving women? Black men are an endangered population in America; will she cut off her care of the one who is most precious to her, because he betrayed her?

In the next number, she moves from the dark place of grieving to join women in 19th-century-style dresses. As her sisters look on, she stands alone on a stage, singing “Freedom,” with its Doors, Civil-Rights-era-style keyboarding  and the refrain, “I break chains all by myself/Won’t let my freedom rot in hell/Hey! I’ma keep running, ’cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.” Meanwhile, we witness visions of Black women in the South, dancing a haunting ballet, eating together, standing stoically together in strength.

 

Lemonade_Freedom2

Freedom, I can’t lose.

I can’t watch these two scenes back-to-back without crying.

How It All Ends

“The Wall” ends with “The Trial,” and the man being shattered by his society’s expectations of himself–he’s not strong enough to expose who he really is without being broken down into dust. The women in his life forced him to feel emotion, and, terrified of it, he built a wall that would protect him from the depth of his feelings. The wall metastasized into violence against others; his self-protection branched out until he destroyed anyone who even glimpsed his true self. He’s a human firestorm, consuming everything in its path until he consumes himself and is destroyed.

Tear down the wall.

Tear down the wall.

“Lemonade” ends with “Formation,” where this Black woman–who, like Pink, is a superstar on whom millions pin their hopes and expectations–is not destroyed. Like Pink, she’s experienced pain, the endless drip-drip-drip of sexism and racism on a daily basis. Like Pink, she’s channeled that pain into art. Like Pink, she comes face-to-face with her rage.

Unlike Pink, though, she does not believe she’s alone. She’s supported and surrounded by women who have been where she’s been. Because she’s a woman–a Black woman–she knows she is not the first, and not the last. She can make or break men. She is who she is, and she has made her own decisions, and fuck anyone who doesn’t like it.

I hope men study “Lemonade” the way I studied “The Wall.” I hope they see the enormous responsibility women place on themselves. I hope they experience the beauty, symbolism, and visuals as the film it is, not as “eye candy” or a long music video.

Approve or disapprove of her journey and ultimate outcome, but at least listen. Try to understand it. Because that, in my opinion, is the difference between “The Wall” and “Lemonade.” “The Wall” is about sinking deep into one’s own pain to the exclusion of anything else.

“Lemonade” is about empathy. It’s about exposing the gray areas in relationships. It’s about taking down walls, exposing wounds that can be healed by sunlight. This is what the 21st century holds for us, I hope: understanding that our pain is not unique, that we are not alone, and that looking outward, not inward, is how we save ourselves.

Pink feels the weight of the world, and tries to crush it. Beyoncé feels the weight of the world, and she carries it.

Pink builds a wall; Beyoncé makes lemonade.