Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beyonce's 'If I Were a Boy' video

Beyonce's If I Were a Boy is now one of my favorite videos of all time. Watch it now so I can spoil it in discussion below.

The brilliance of the video is in the concept, but it could not be done without absolutely perfect acting. The video runs as follows. We open with Beyonce getting ready in the morning. Her boyfriend's made breakfast and is obviously excited that they might eat together. She snubs him and leaves the breakfast. You watch him and your heart sinks with his. She goes through her whole workday with her (male) work partner, flirting heavily with him, while her boyfriend spends the day at work rebuffing (light) advances from attractive co-workers and purchasing a gift for Beyonce online. They go to a party together where Beyonce again flirts with her co-worker and her boyfriend looks on like a loser. Then the song breaks with a tiny snippet of dialogue between Beyonce and her boyfriend where you realize you've been taken for a ride. It's at 3:37:

"I don't think you realize when you act like that, how it makes me look. Or feel," he says.

She turns around, her body still facing forward. "Act like what? Why are you so jealous? It's not like I'm sleeping with the guy." She says this laughing a little, the implication that her boyfriend is being stupid and irrational for feeling how he is feeling.

"What?" he says, stunned that she would bring up sleeping with another guy.

"What?" she says, with the same expression.

Then the video switches focus. And he repeats, laughing at her, now, using the same manner that she had:

"I said, yo, why are you so jealous? It ain't like I'm sleeping with the girl!"

And we're back to the beginning. You realize that Beyonce was the chump, that her boyfriend was the one blowing her breakfast off, leaving her at the table, chasing after other girls. Your sympathy goes from her boyfriend to her, and it's so much more with her because you were more sympathetic to her boyfriend than you would have been if she had been the chump all along.

What gets me so much about the video is that I've been on both sides of this. I also see the expressions on their faces and have worn them all. When he's just staring into space, or calling her phone having her not pick up, or watching her flirt with someone else. And even, I wish it weren't so, but even after the switch, when he was the one hurting her and laughing at her. I've felt trapped in these fights like I couldn't find a way through them without hurting my girl. Especially with Voice. When I watch the party scene, I wonder if I'm watching my future. If I were her boyfriend, I wouldn't be looking on helplessly. I'd be having a good time myself. But before too long I would start to wonder why we were even together. With Voice, we're not together. But if we were, would it be like that? Maybe. Am I watching my future, or maybe my present? And am I really as helpless as I feel? I don't believe I am.

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