Daughters of the Dust and Lemonade

In Bell Hooks’ blog post Moving Beyond Pain we see a criticism of Beyonce’s choices in showing violence, the exhibition of black female bodies, and how the film relates to feminism as a whole. This position has gotten backlash with several problems being pointed out by many feminist voices, and while I do not think there is ever that much insight that can be written on others opinions there defiantly is some elements that can be discussed. Hooks seems to have a misunderstanding of how “violence” relates to this piece. The very problem is in the language she uses, it is not violence but instead it is catharsis and likewise these actions are not sexual but freeing. Smashing car windows does not equate to the message the visual album will go on to tell, Hooks is looking at a piece and using it to define the whole. Beyonce’s character in the album preforms this hyper realized “violence” to express the freedom of not only being out of a bad relationship but being able to embrace that and from their she goes on reconcile this experience with her identity as a black woman in America.

I stand by Hooks’ attempts to analysis Lemonade and I feel like many of those who responded her in A Black Feminist Roundtable on bell hooks, Beyoncé, and “Moving Beyond Pain” do not give the exercise proper credit. Especially with comments like Blair LM Kelly’s that are basically summed up as “this is good therefore do not try to critique it.” We should dig into everything we see and find the elements of it that work and do not, there is never a point where criticism of any kind is unwarranted even if it may not be reflective of the piece it is critiquing. When these responses resound the hardest are when people are pointing out why Hooks seems out of touch and not when they are bashing her for critiquing the work.

Another problem I find with Hooks article is this comparison to Daughters of the Dust. There are parts of Lemonade that are clearly inspired by this film and they share similar themes of legacy but they are to different works in vastly different genres. Where Lemonade explores the politics modern black womanhood Daughters of the Dust delves into ideas of history and growing from your past versus living in it. One is a narrative film and the other is a visual album, which even in its label seems to avoid proper description. One shows women in charge the other shows a woman taking charge. Comparing them in the way Hooks does shows that she has not been able to progress past the 90s. She does not understand how feminism has evolved. I do not want to present Daughters of the Dust as invaluable but I do think it is a different animal, hell almost a different species, from Lemonade. 

I wouldn’t call either of these films experimental. Lemonade is a visual album in the same vein as Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It cannot be viewed through typical narrative criticism because it does not fall into the realm of experimental just because of that. It abstracts video as music is an abstraction of sound, this has been going on since the 1980s and thusly I cannot label it as experimental. On the other hand Daughters of the Dust is a narrative plain and simple, the structure is not the same as many mainstream films but breaking from this is not unique either. It may be groundbreaking in some aspects of how it shows black identity but it does so by playing in the rules of film. It is a pretty straight forward ensemble piece, I guess you could say it is experimental because the main character is an unborn child but I would be more willing to just call her an omniscient narrator. I do not want to come of as if I do not like the film or think it is poorly done, but when I read the interview between Hooks and Julie Dash I felt like Dash was not as much experimenting as using techniques that are less popular but still prevalent such as when she talks about the conversation being framed from inside, she points out this is how it usually done the only difference being the subjects.It is not typical but it is also not experimental.


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