Sorry for the long absence! I am in the middle of finals week and so many things have come up. There’s no excuse for the lack of posting, but I’m finally back. I’ve had a little bit of downtime since classes have ended, so I have taken some time to begin plowing through my long queue of films and TV shows on Netflix. There are so many things I want to check out but haven’t had the time to!
My most recent film discovery has been Beyond the Lights. I’ve been wanting to see this film for a while due to praises from a few friends. I remember it didn’t interest me initially when I saw the trailers, but it was intriguing once I checked it out.
Beyond the Lights is not only a beautiful love story, but also a commentary on American celebrity culture and the dark side of fame. Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a talented singer/songwriter, but has gained fame by compromising her true identity. Pushed to succeed by her “Momager” Macy Jean (Minnie Driver) from an early age, Noni has unwillingly found herself in the limelight. Macy Jean sacrificed her daughter’s purity to get ahead. Noni has been molded into this sex-kitten, bad girl persona (Much like a Rihanna or Miley Cyrus). She’s often shown in suggestive clothing, and is asked to take off her clothes on multiple occasions, even through she is unwilling to do so. She’s on the verge of releasing her debut album- a parade of superficial, sexual tripe that is similar to what is popular right now. Overwhelmed by fame and loneliness, Noni attempts suicide and is saved by an officer named Kaz (Nate Parker). The two begin a relationship, and through the relationship, Noni becomes liberated. Realizing that she is a joke within the industry, Noni yearns to release her own songs and remain true to herself. After an escape to Mexico, Noni is rediscovered singing the song “Black Bird” by Nina Simone. She reemerges onto the scene with a new look and new attitude.
I love this film because there is so much glamorization of the entertainment industry in film and TV shows these days. This film provides an alternative view. We idolize these young men and women, but do we think about what they really go through on a regular basis? A lot of artists’ lives are dictated by others. Their clothes, their art, and even what they say. I think of artists like Jo Jo and Ke$ha, who have had their careers unfairly sabotaged. You may feel like you know who an artist is, but how can you? Entertainment is a business. You’re being sold a product. We as consumers don’t want faulty products. Right? Today, we are too often told that sex sells and any kind of publicity is great whether it’s good or bad. But talent is talent. If you have that, there’s no need for the rest.
Additionally, I love this film’s portrayal of a biracial individual. Noni’s race is not a main focus of the film, but it is definitely shown. In the beginning we see young Noni and Macy Jean heading to a beauty salon. Macy doesn’t know what to do with her hair. It’s a curly mess. We later see Noni at her first talent show, her hair beautiful and fixed up. My favorite scene in the whole film is when Noni emerges without her extensions, Kaz is amazed at how she looks. He doesn’t question her transformation, but embraces it. As a biracial female, this scene meant a lot to me. Hair serves as a symbol of identity. With the shedding of the purple tresses, we say hello to a new person, or the Noni we saw in the beginning of the film. Noni’s real hair is free, so so is she.