Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Disection of the Celebrity Docudrama

Before I continue into this dissection, let me state this; a little disclaimer if you will-Yes, I will be discussing the recent docudrama to grace television about Beyonce but I DO NOT hate Beyonce! I can’t say the same for the other ‘artists’ I will be mentioning, but dammit it’s a start and I won’t be too brutal with them- I mean, not many people would turn down the chance to sing teeny-bopper songs for a couple mil a year.

Now, the dissection.
Though I am not a big Beyonce fan, I think Beyonce is a very accomplished  musician; a good-looking person with a pretty and magnanimous singing voice, but I do have a few issues with her which were spawned from her documentary, Life's But A Dream. Okay, I didn't exactly watch the whole thing, but I saw enough (and read a few reviews and spoilers) of it to know that it was much of the same thing that the Katy Perry and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never documentaries were made of or was very consistent to in material.
Because of that fact, I couldn't get through it without doing a few things, like continuously sighing, rolling my eyes or occasionally cringing intermittently or in-time to some of the less savory moments (a crew member or stage manager angrily waving a piece of fake hair in the air), and then figuring out early on that I would not like it even if I tried watching it longer for any good parts I happened to come across.

It might as well have been called The (Oh so) Privileged Life of Beyonce or An Inside View to Mega Stardom, which made me realize what I hate most about all these celebrity docudramas.

1. Their promotional tools, not real documentaries. Beyonce had not one factual thing in the parts of the documentary I watched, which led me to believe that it was like this for the rest of her short documentary or my preferred term, the docudrama.  Even before the docudrama was on air, she was on Oprah and other television shows basically promoting a promotional tool, namely her brand and herself. She talked on her new baby and big pieces of her life that would be filmed, undoubtedly misleading people to believe the documentary would delve deeper into what she had affirmed would be shot with no such luck.

2. Some of these people are too young to have documentaries. These people are instant and sometimes overnight sensations that don’t have much to document in the first place, which left me scratching my head when Justin Bieber came out with his at the tender age of 15 or 16.

3.They are completely and utterly pointless. Just last month I watched a documentary of Henry Ford, the man who created the Model T car. It wasn’t boring at all, although it probably should be by today’s standards and what people of my generation find interesting. Maybe it was because I am a proclaimed history buff, but it delved into what made this man a success in innovation, his many failures (personal and business), and how his one contribution changed the world. There was real, tangible drama behind it because it discussed the many facets of this flawed and gifted man’s life. The most one of these celebrity docudramas can create in the drama department is it's terrible counterpart, sensationalism.

One scene in particular that demonstrates this sensationalism and attention-getter attraction is of Beyonce talking into her webcam, since most of it is made up of webcam videos and interview-style sittings by some unknown figure, saying how nervous and extremely scared she was for a performance scheduled the next day. The next day arrives and she's sitting in a chair getting her make-up done, if I remember correctly, and giving orders to set up everything; a few minutes pass and she then says in her little monologue that "I'm a calm and confident person, and I know can do this." So then what was the point of going through all that amped up, false worry before the big performance? On-stage she looked like she was meant to be there, moving all around the black top as if to claim it as her territory while looking directly into the audience with fearless eyes. And she's done it all before, countless times. She first came on the scene when she was like, what, 19? Katy Perry also pulled a stunt like this in her celeb docudrama, looking sad before going on stage but then getting in front of the audience with a big, happy smile as if it were and indeed is her dream come true.

What are these 'documentaries,' and I say that very loosely, really conveying?

Let's first look at the definition of documentary.

1.Consisting of, concerning, or based on documents.
2.Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter, as in a book or film.
n. pl. doc·u·men·ta·ries
A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social, or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner and often consisting of actual news films or interviews accompanied by narration.

The key words are objective or without editorializing.
I know we can never expect full objectivity or limited editing, but its hard to swallow this when the executive producer was Beyonce herself and the film had weird out-of-place interviews, many webcam sessions of herself, and incoherent and random clips of scenes with her crew members on stage set ups, family encounters, or friends and hubby all mashed and mixed together.

If you're hoping to get a complete view of how the oh-so deep and faceted Beyonce is, well it's going to be dam near impossible. Justin Bieber had nothing of a personality aside from a regular teenage boy that got incredibly lucky, so it was fine with him. And Katy Perry was always an eccentric sort-of figure, which easily and explicitly explained her behavior and personality in her docudrama.

Beyonce’s is filled with contradictions of behavior and personality, but then who cares? She is a mega star, and all mega stars at one point of their entertaining careers have been docile and nice to crew members one minute then demanding the next, and rightfully so I suppose; it just doesn’t leave for good television viewing. Show business is show business though.


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