Last week Jorge Rivas reported Beyoncé’s “Life Is But A Dream” resulted in the biggest audience for an HBO documentary in a decade. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” is the only documentary to come close with 1.7 million viewers. However, unlike Spike Lee’s film, the Beyonce documentary did not even touch upon the subject of race. According to The New Yorker’s Jody Rosen:

Beyoncé is a terrible judge of what is interesting about Beyoncé. Consider one topic that never comes up in “Life Is But a Dream”: race. You could make the case that Beyoncé has reached an unprecedented position in American life. She is a black woman who has claimed the mantles of America’s Sweetheart, National Bombshell, and Entertainer-in-Chief. (According to Nielsen, an audience of 1.8 million watched Saturday’s broadcast of “Life Is But a Dream,” a record for an HBO documentary, and three times the average rating for the network’s marquee show, Lena Dunham’s “Girls.”) Beyoncé is one half of an African-American royal couple rivaled only by the duo in the White House. She is by far the “blackest”—musically and aesthetically—of all the post-Madonna pop divas; she represents African-American women’s anger and power like no one in popular culture since Aretha Franklin. Of course, the privilege to ignore race altogether is a sign of Beyoncé’s queenly status, and in “Life Is But a Dream” she avails herself of it. Instead, we get bromides: “We’re all going through these problems,” she says. “We all have the same insecurities.”

The Colorlines community was divided on the review. When a Black celebrity reaches Beyoncé-level star status are they obligated to talk about race in the story of their success? Here’s what you had to say.

Annaika Schutte:

Personally, I don’t understand why she needs to talk about her own race. The world knows that she is African American and we love her. She is living the “American Dream”, which many people look up to and strive to accomplish. She has had a brilliant musical career since a young age, climbed her own why up the ladder with acting, married a man that has reciprocal love for her, they have a child together, and they own homes. One thing that I believe most people and fans admire about Beyoncé Knowles is that she isn’t in the tabloids that often doing outlandish acts, she gives back to communities and charities, and she doesn’t try to put on an act to try and be someone she’s not. What’s the problem with her holding a pillow during her interview? She’s comfortable. Did Rosen also notice that she wasn’t wearing make-up? Beyoncé is a celebrity that young girls are able to look up to and not be criticized by adults.

Adrienne Mon Chéri Blossoms:

Does Mariah have to talk race every time she speaks? Madonna? Jennifer Lopez? Of course, not. Anyone who watched this understands why race did not come up. It’s not all about race, folks. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. Let her live HER life.

Pattigurl Sfl:

Beyoncé doesn’t think she’s black anyway. But not so long ago, people who looked brighter and lighter than her were considered slaves and treated harshly.

Rebekah Jean Waykedria Hutson:

Why should she? That wasn’t the point, just because her skin isn’t white doesn’t mean she needs to address what its like to be black every time she speaks.

Nic Drummond:

Because that’s not HER issue. It is the racist person’s issue.

Cymone Bedford:

She is the pioneer of colorblindness pop culture.

Shawn Sinc:

Oh really? Beyoncé is exempt from racial dialogue. No. As black women our existence is inherently political and laden with social connotation. So this little idea that “Beyoncé need not go there” is comical. Had she mentioned race some of y’all who are giving her impunity would be ready to elect her president. After seeing the documentary, I’m glad she decided to stay away from race or any kind of nuanced political discourse because the only thing it appears she can effectively highlight in a verbal sense is herself. Beyoncé plays up to whiteness in a grand, grand way and whiteness does not want to see the contrary. Let’s be careful giving a lot of these black over class women such praise. My concerns are that of Marissa Alexander’s, not pop music narcissism.

Michelle De Freitas-Guerra:

Other than actually being black, what does “not thinking” you’re black entail? We don’t make ourselves, and we don’t choose our upbringing!! Only in America have I had to defend my “blackness” and justify my complexion. I know and live my blackness every day and am always offended when in the course of just living my human experience, a usually darker skinned black person judges me on my blackness!! It’s Ridiculous!! I see it as what I am, but not ALL I am! B is black and will always be, so stop hating!!

Mon Son Cool:

NO one here has said that she isn’t black but her profound capitulation to a FRAMEWORK of whiteness with the multiple skin lightening occurrences and very vague addressing, if at all, of those situations. Or her effusive praise to the Marylin Monroe’s, Liz Taylors, Betty Pages of the world. Not to say that those women aren’t allowed to be her inspirations but we if she is to little black girls what they were to her - that is part of why our history gets lost in the fray. Being marketed by, with and through the white gaze demands that you also capitulate to it and not just work with it. And I’m not even mentioning her half-ass feminism.


Each week, we round up the best comments in our community. Join the conversation here on Colorlines.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.

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