Such a glorious tale of life on the other side of the looking glass. If fame and fortune are a human body, then Beyond the Lights was an in-depth look at the messy business of blood flow and marrow formation. So intensely gritty and repulsive that you were shocked that so horrid a process could be the buoy for so delectable a creature. For so artistic a fantasy.
Beyond the Lights pulled back the veil and gave us- in the most illustriously creative, and heart stirring way possible- a look at the woman beneath. For the truth that rang through the theatre speakers and echoed hollowly down the corridors of my thoughts and emotions was that she- the girl, the woman, Noni- was not just a pitiable protagonist. She was every woman.
From Beyonce to the girl on the kickball team; from China to my own neighborhood.
She was each of them. All of them.
And not in some over-stretched, empathically high strung, inferior inducing sense either. No, that’s too marginalized a perception. Too easy to digest and dismiss. That’s a delivery form built to distract from the message it’s containing. No, no that isn’t what I mean at all. Gina Prince-Bythewood is too clever a communicator for that.
When I say that Noni is all women… What I mean is that women cannot simply be something they choose to be career wise. The industry (in every genre) evaluates them by a second set of requirements. Talent and skill are moreso the sprinkle fletched cake icing than the cake itself. Because what “they” want, more than a talented young woman, is something deeper. Something infinitely more powerful. Something that puts the potential limitless range of the gifted, the creative, the divergent in their total realm of control.
They want compliance.
Take a sexy picture. Take a sexy picture with a made up face. Take a sexy picture with a made up face and no pants on. Take a sexy picture with a made up face, no pants on, and the top of your cleavage showing. Take a sexy picture with a made up face, no pants on, the top of your cleavage showing, and your mouth agape like a porn star. Take a sexy picture with a made up face, no pants on, the top of your cleavage showing, your mouth agape like a porn star, half your cleavage showing. Then the inevitable- take a sexy picture completely nude, with a made up face, and your mouth slightly agape like a porn star.
Noni looks over at her mother- the one who loves her, her manager, the person who knows her dreams almost as intimately as she does herself- and wonders when enough is enough. Her mother looks at her like she is crazy. Enough does not exist. Do you want your dream? Then don’t look over here- look at the camera.
We have done this to our girls… to our males even… to our artists, our divergents, our outside the box dwellers, our dreamers… We have told them enough does not exist. Look at the camera. Recall the drug of congregational praise. Do not flinch as they promise you your dream while molding you into theirs. Look at the camera.
The freedom and power of a dream, held hostage by an insatiable and degrading cry for compliance. Until you’re so wrapped in their demands that you become invisible and the vision of who you imagined yourself as in the fulfillment of your dream seems nothing more than a mocking lie. The wayward hopes of a naïve little girl.
In a not small way, Noni is all of us.
And, as is typical of those who are abused in any form… we have kept quiet about it and let a perversity become the norm. We have made selling out a part of the journey. We have let “give it all you’ve got” come to mean “give yourself away to the promise with the most payout.”
Behind the lights there is tyranny.
Beyond the lights there is freedom and power.
But in the lights is nothing but blinding captivity.
This must not be my friends.
We’ve got to start doing something different.