The music video emerges as a medium by which the form and function of the spectacular Black female body is rearticulated. By interrogating her performances of Black femininity that operate in her Hype Williams directed video, “Video Phone”, this essay explores the ways in which each character she embodies shapes the way respectability politics is understood in popular culture.
The sequence, 2:00-2:28, seems to be a briefing on how to do frontality. Beyoncé sings directly to the camera and looks directly into the camera. Whenever the artist speaks directly to the audience, the spell of the medium is broken. Direct address is important because Beyoncé expresses that she is aware of being watched and that she wants to be watched through the viewer’s…show more content… write that “the persistence of respectability politics often impedes on female artists’ attempt to formulate an unapologetic pro-sex stance, especially among black and Latina women”(Cooper et al., 724). While I agree that respectability politics is a useful strategy for improving conditions for black female artists, I also believe that Beyoncé’s and her director, Hype Williams’ creative direction of placing untraditional modes in her video also effectively makes a statement about the strength of the erotic. In “Video Phone”, I argue that Beyoncé is balancing the demonstration of agency and control over her desires and her body, within the parameters of the politics of respectability, which is described by Durham, Cooper and Morris as “a range of strategies, largely regarding notions of honor, self-respect, piety, and propriety, deployed by progressive black women to promote racial uplift and women’s rights and to secure broader access to the public sphere” (724). Usually, Beyonce’s videos have tended to be sexy but also classy, like in “1+1” or “Superpower”. In opposition, this video shows a clashing of good and bad sexuality. In one instance, a woman may be a lounge performer but should she not then dance provocatively as she performs the role of a military trainer (2:20)? I argue that such a range of modes is freeing and this is positive. To some, its constant frontal visual might create a deadened affect, yet at the same time, others can experience excitement. What beautiful, talented performers and what a catchy song! There is no doubt that Beyoncé wants to let the viewer that this is a visual worth noting. Hence, the song and video hover between the two affective modes. From just watching a sequence of the whole video, the viewer can adopt new stories. Perhaps I might take seriously Beyoncé’s military trainer role as her being a masked leader of a posse or she could be a new apt