Extra Credit – Analysis of Beyond The Lights

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As the title states, this is an extra credit assignment and I hope should be fun. Please see the film and write a brief analysis of the film. Does the main character fall into or breaks any of the stereotypes we have talked about this semester (tragic mulatoo, jezebel, mammy or sapphire) and why? Please use examples from the film. There are some interesting twists and turns in the film that relates specific to the music industry that creates its own stereotypes about black women. In addition, all the films we have see in class have been either by Black or white men, this film is written and directed by a woman of color. Does this make a difference in how the characters are developed and how the story is told. Here is an article written about the director, Gina Prince Bythewood, also the director of Love and Basketball. As I have noted before, I’m keeping track of all the postings. If you missed a few, this assignment will count for three postings, since you are going to a movie instead of watching one in class. The catch is that this assignment need to be completed by Dec. 1st in order to count.

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11 thoughts on “Extra Credit – Analysis of Beyond The Lights

  1. Beyond the Lights depicts the story of singer Noni Jean, who is having a difficult time acclimating to her new found stardom and the pressures of the music industry. Consequently, she attempts to commit suicide but is fortunately saved by a police officer, Kaz. Throughout the initial portion of the film, Noni’s character wholly represents the Jezebel archetype, as she is constantly made to wear tight, barely-there attire for performances and appearances, pose in explicit, suggestive, and salacious ways for photo shoots and sing raunchy lyrics in her songs. However, as the film progresses, Noni abandons the overly sexual façade she has to portray for the music industry and begin to love herself without the additions of make-up, fake hair and nails. She no longer feels the need to hide behind artificiality and ends up shedding the role of the Jezebel for a more positive image of the black woman that we don’t get to see very often. More so than the film Claudine, in my opinion, Beyond the Lights clearly illustrates the transition of Noni’s character from a sex object to a love object. She represents a sex object because essentially, that was a part of her job, to embody a sexual persona and to fulfill the sexual desires of men. Also, she is forced to a fake relationship with another celebrity, Kid Culprit, who uses her for sex and humiliates her by forcing her to simulate sexually redolent positions on stage during one of their performances. Kid Culprit also rips open Noni’s jacket to reveal her body and lingerie, as she clutches it closed in an effort to slowly regain control in her life. Noni became a love object as she began finding her identity and reclaiming her natural physical self outside of the music industry. She started loving and finding value in who she was, ultimately allowing Kaz to love her.
    I definitely think it made a difference that the film was written and directed by a woman of color because the female characters were more thoroughly developed than those often seen in male directed films. Also, being that the portrayal of women in the film came from a woman’s point of view, it made their experiences more authentic and realistic, whereas the male perspective can sometimes obscure female characters and come off very one dimensional.

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    • Very great comments and observations. I completely agree that Noni is first portrayed as a Jezebel but also as a Tragic Mulatoo. Her relationship with Kaz helps transfer her from a sex object to a love object as well as help her develop self esteem and being more self empowered. I agree that the filmmaker being a woman definitely plays a role in how the main character was portrayed and eventually evolves. Great analysis!

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  2. Finally saw the movie and I must say that I absolutely LOVED it! I would definitely see it again and I hope there are more movies that depict black lives in a more positive way! In the movie, Noni is first seen as a sexual object and a jezebel. You’ll notice in the music video with Kid Culprit, she moves provocatively and is seen being touched, groped, and humped by him, as if for the music industry to constantly remind women, particularly black women, that they are subordinate and sexual creatures. Noni knows that the hypersexual image that she portrays is not the real her and with all the pressures of her newfound stardom, she almost commits suicide. She would have succeeded if it weren’t for Kaz rescuing her and saying that he sees her. From then on, they embark on a relationship even though Noni is in a “relationship” with Kid Culprit (one she quickly ends). Throughout the movie, Noni transitions from sexual object to love object as she falls in love with Kaz and he reciprocates. My favorite scene is when Kid Culprit slut shames her and rips off the jacket (that she refused to take off throughout her performance because she did not want to reveal herself) at the BET awards and Kaz defends her honor and decks him in the face. She also starts to shed that jezebel and hypersexual image within herself and the music industry as she stops wearing makeup, takes out her weave and fake nails, and starts dressing in non-revelaing clothes and takes control of her musical career. The fact that this movie was written and directed by a woman, is refreshing. We get to see a story of a black woman through the eyes of another black woman and it was very positive. Black love, salvation, and coming into your own with someone by your side were the themes I saw portrayed in the movie and I feel like there should be more movies with these themes.

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  3. I’m glad you got a chance to see it Chanell. It was risky for the filmmaker to tackle this issue. Its important to address because it will hopefully help change not only how we see black women in the music industry but the media. From my understanding, the director spent a lot of time talking to women in the music industry to get an understanding of how they become hypersexual. With all the films we have seen this semester by both black and white filmmakers, this is the first time a female director has made a significant impact on challenging the stereotype we see in the media and it’s refreshing!

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  4. After watching the film “Beyond the Lights “steering Noni Jean a singer who tries to find herself after a suicide attempt, Noni Jean shows several stereotypes Tragic Mulatto and Jezebel. Noni is the female every guy wants and every girl wants to be but sadly she realized that this is not who she wants to be. Noni’s mother Macy jean plays a sapphire that set high expectations and control her life. In the scene where Noni was doing a photo-shoot they wanted her to go topless and before she took off her shirt she looks over for her mother’s approval. In the scene where she was called out for winning the Award her mother make sure she’s “Perfect”. Like the director of the movie stated “Young artist need to be hyper sexualized in order to get noticed” and that’s who Noni represented. Honestly, I feel Noni wanted to become her own person but with her mom and media influencing her she was confused. In the scene where she performs at the BET awards she was supposed to take her jacket off but she kept it on. She also takes out her weave and shows her natural hair because she was tired of being this Perfect Image. At the ending of the movie Noni preforms a rendition of “Blackbird” the same song she sang at her talent show. I was watching an interview called Miley Cyrus Change and Miley response to one of the question was “Googling your self is harming yourself, Going to Twitter and Facebook and seeing things posted about you is harming yourself –This is what happened to Noni . By a female writing this movie I do feel there was more of a “Reality “twist to this movie and she showed what actually goes on not only in the music industry but life in General especially women Of Color . The scene in Mexico Macy explained why she pushed Noni so hard and it’s because her parents not wanting her because she was black.

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    • Good comments Shavonn. Noni at the beginning of the film does demonstrate elements of a Tragic Mulatto and a Jezebel but because the film is written by a woman of color, I believe gives the main character an opportunity to grow and develop as a person. She moves beyond being a stereotype and sex object to being self realized and empowered. I don’t think that her mother is a Sapphire in the true sense of the stereotype but I see why you thought that. In regards to Miley Cyrus, she has become her own nightmare so she shouldnt be surprised by the comments about her on various social media sites. I think that is the point that the filmmaker was making about how these young women get caught up in the hype and fame of the music industry.

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  5. I’ve finally had the chance to see Beyond the Lights and I really liked it. The movie begins with Noni talent competition and her mothers competitive nature. When Noni gets second place, her mother drags her cd the stage to later bring her to the car to tell her to drop her award because she’s not a runner up, she is a winner. From that scene you can get a glimpse into Noni future that shows her struggle to be happy and be herself. The movie then flash forwards to her stardom and music career and her winning an award for one of her racy sexualized songs (that she isn’t to fond of) after the awards show she goes back to her hotel and has a breakdown and tries to commit suicide by falling off her balcony. Her mother then screams and Kaz (police officer) runs in and saves Noni from ending her life and says the touching words “I see you” which opens Noni heart and mind because she doesn’t feel empty and invisible. Throughout the movie Noni goes through obstacles with her record label with being a sex object and appealing to her fans and having a fake relationship with Kid who laters in the movie sexually embarrasses her on stage. Kaz becomes her protector and lover and brings out the light in Noni that everyone seems to dull.
    You can see Noni transition in the movie from a sex object to a love object. She was more over sexualized in her music videos and in her magazine ads to appear to her male fans. Her record label even pushed her to stay with super star Kid Culprit, even tho he was disrespectful and only care for sexual appearance and actions and not her feelings. Noni felt like that’s the only reason people liked her and didn’t care for her talent. When she falls for Kaz she transitions to a love object showing more of her personality and bringing out her natural beauty. She feels the love and comfort around him and is able to be herself. I feel like the writers and producers depicted the stereotypes well and shows how women are seen in the media. But it also shows that these women are still people and have feelings as well. Since it came from a woman’s point of view it gave a better insight on what a woman goes through in the media.

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    • Epiphany, I agree that Noni transitions from a sex object to a love object. You share very similar observations to Latesha, Chanell and Shavonn in regard’s Noni’s change from hypersexual to a more fully formed and well rounded person. I think the filmmaker, Gina Prince Bythewood made a great effort to address and counter stereotypes like Jezebel and the Tragic Mulatto and expose the many trappings of the music industry.

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  6. This was a great movie. I grew liking to it, mainly because of the fact that it is something that I feel like I have seen happen in real life, where someone is living someone else’s life not because they wont and cant say no, but because its all they have known since they were born. Noni is a perfect example of this. & like she states to Kazam(whose name is actually kinda cool) it took him for her to realize that there was more to life than what her mother coming saw for her. This begins my analysis, because I think that first and foremost, her mother was doing all of this, because she may have failed in this aspect of her life, and like the hair dresser said, she wanted nothing more than what she saw best for her daughter. That isnt right in any sense, and at a certain age it should have stopped and Noni should have been able to not just decide what she wanted to do because she obviously loved music, but she should have been able to do it the way she wanted to, with the lyrics that she had created for herself. There are a tons of things that I can touch on from this movie, but to put into focus the stereotypes, I’ll look at the fact that Noni was in fact a Jezebel, but I don’t think that her Jezebel ways were really who she was, but rather what she was nurtured into. Her relationship with the rapper dictates that because when describing it to Kaz, she says that its just something that the makes the label looks good, and it seems like this is her reasoning for all her Jezebel ways from the way shes dresses to her lyrics in her songs. It doesnt help when her mother is advocating for her to go topless in her photo shoots either. Therefore, even though she was portrayed as this Jezebel I think she was just a lost soul searching for herself. She may have found herself when she cut her hair and was spending all that time with Kaz, because for once in her life she didn’t have to do anything that anyone told her and was free. I compared her to a drug addict in rehab though, because her being away from it all, was her rehab, but the moment she got another little hit, and heard about her label wanting her back, she was back with it, and had to fire her mother, and realizing that her “therapist” Kaz was actually right in what he told her before she went back. What I can say though is that she was transformed from a sex object to a love object, and just as any other story goes, it took her having to go through hell and back to get to this “better life” in which she eventually could actually say that she was happy. Not to mention she finally got to sing her own song in front of all her fans. There”s a whole other topic I wanted to touch on that had to do with Kaz and his father’s and his own battles that he was fighting, but that might be too much, so this will do.

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  7. In the film beyond the lights, this character presents different characteristic that she falls into. She has a combination of a jezebel because she was being very sexual in a physical way and as well the way she dress to get attention from the media. She is also a tragic Mulatto because she is confused about her indentity to the point that she uses fake her to set an imagine about her and then towards the end she stops wearing all this make up and fake hair, she basically makes herself look like the real person she is.

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  8. technically, this film wasnt offered as an option for extra credit but will give some credit for responding to the post. My only other issue is that you didn’t incorporated the reading which could have really connected you to the reading

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