Extra Credit – Analysis of Beyond The Lights

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.images


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

  1. The main character in this film is one who suffers behind what society wants to see her as. Her mother who is also her manager forces her into this jezebel character because her mother believes that basically sex sells. There was a scene in which the main character was taking pictures and the photographer told her to take off her top, which would leave her naked, and her mom told her to go ahead. She clearly did not want to take off her top but she did so anyways. The main character believes that she is a sex object and you see this when she is alone in the room with the cop the saved her and she tells him go ahead you got me alone. You also see the main character get treated as a sex object whens she performs with the white rapper. He shoves her on the bed on the stage and tries to rip her clothes off. Manatu says, “ These women are not “love objects”, and given their persistent coding as “over-sexed”, they cannot be perceived as objects of love.” (66) Manatu also argues, “In film, these women are not shown as characters who give themselves time in which to fall in love. Nor are they depicted as allowing men they encounter time or separation such that the imaginative act of “falling in love” can take place.” (66) These quotes are great because they show how the main character only saw herself as a sex object because that was what the world saw her as until the cop showed her otherwise. Towards the end of the movie the main character starts to see herself as a love object because of the way the cop treats her and how comfortable he makes her feel. You see her demeanor change as well. She starts wearing the straight hair wigs and starts wearing her natural curly hair, she stops dressing sexy and starts to cover up more and her music also changes. I think that because a woman of color directed the film it did change the ending because in the end the main character did find love. In most films that involve women of color they do not find love and are just seen as sex objects.


    • Stephanie, you made some good points about how Noni is shaped into the sex object by her family and the music industry. She is groomed into portraying the Jezebel, although her own personal actions are not a reflection of a woman who uses sex to get what she wants. I think Beyond the Lights makes an interesting point of showing how the jezebel gets created by the media and the role it plays in the lives of women of color. You incorporated some really good quotes from the reading regarding the sexual object but I would have also liked to see a quote about the role the filmmaker plays in shaping the images of black women in media. Especially, since you noted that having a black woman director definitely had an impact on how the black female lead was portrayed. good job!


  2. I think that Noni portrays something a little different than what we are used to seeing. I wouldn’t say that she is whole-heartedly a Jezebel specifically because she herself is not using sex to help her career and doesn’t seem to really want to be as sexual as she is. To everyone in the film and anyone who would be a fan of her character would definitely say that she is a Jezebel because it doesn’t seem like she is using sex to help her career. Noni sort of pretends to be in this relationship a rapper to help sell their song and bring herself more publicity. She dresses very provocatively and she understands that in sexualizing herself that it will help her career, and Noni does nothing to stop this at first. Her mother has always pushed her and never bothered to ask if she was comfortable or if it was even what she really wanted. She was pushed so much into this oversexualized spotlight that its how she saw herself. Noni really doesn’t want any of it, not the way she has it that is; She wants to do it differently in a way that she is respected. Caz comes along and helps her to see the girl beyond the light.
    I think that having a black female director did make a difference in how the characters were developed. In the interview she talked about her personal experience about being adopted and finding her own mother and how it helped to open up the script. I think the director really does a great job of showing how Noni starts to find her true self after hitting rock bottom emotionally. Noni starts to break all the stereotypes and really embraces herself in the end and she even finds love.


    • Liv, although you made some excellent observations you gave more of an overview of the film than an analysis. Also, there are no quotes from the readings which I think would have build upon your comments. As you noted, having a black female director and writer had a significant part in Noni’s character moving from a sex object to a love object and moving beyond the typical black female sexual stereotypes. Manatu talks about the role of the filmmaker in sustaining these stereotypes whether they are black or white male filmmakers. But here you have a woman who uses her platform to address how the media and music industry sexualizes women, especially woman of color. BTL, Noni moves from the perceived stereotype of the jezebel to the love object of respectability and femininity. Of course, she largely transforms and move towards being whole mostly through the male gaze but her character evolves beyond Manatu’s examination of black women in media. Which is progress!!!!


  3. Beyond the lights is about a singer name Noni whos a new artist in the industry. Her mother is her manager and is basically trying to make her successful by dressing very sexually and making music that Noni doesn’t really want to do. She starts to see what fame really does and tries to commit suicide but then an officer who later becomes her loves interest in the movie saves her. Her mom doesn’t want her to be with him because it will mess up her brand so she faking a relationship with a rapper but things go south when she doesn’t want to be with him anymore. As the movie goes on she starts to become her own self and runs away with the officer and dressing like a normal girl wearing her natural hair and more down to earth with no make up. All she wanted to do was make her own music and be herself not this sexy pop star so she ends up firing her mother and gaining love at the end. I would say noni could be a jetezbel because her mother and management team made her that way to dress sluty and make her music sell. She even had sex with the officer very quickly and thought he wanted to gain something out of it. Even when she was performing her ” rapper bf ” grab her in a nasty rude way making it seem as if this was normal. The director made it show that for women they can be reborn again and try to find their trueselfs and that’s what noni did.


  4. David, you kind of did the same thing that Liv did. Which was give me an summary of the film instead of an analysis of the stereotypes addressed. You gave a good overview of the film but didnt use this time to examine how Noni moves from being a sex object/sexual deviant to a love object. Also, and just as importantly, how does this film connect the readings. How does love through the male gaze of Kaz, her officer boyfriend, create respectability, femininity and love with Noni??? The pupose of these blog posts is to give you an opportunity to connect the readings to the films we watch and help you bridge an understanding of the stereotypes and the impact they have on us as viewers and media consumers. The goal is build media literacy and create a way to talk about media, film and images.


  5. In the film, Beyond the Lights the main character Nonny is an up and coming superstar singer. As with most pop star singers, she uses her body or rather her manager which happens to be her mother and the whole music and media industry uses her body in both a sexualizing and demeaning manner. Of the stereotypes that follow black women in film, Nonny at face can be viewed as the jezebel because of her sexualizing nature. However, I feel that she breaks the jezebel stereotype in that she does find love in the film that is reciprocated and that her love interest shows respect and admiration for her rather than simply seeing her through a superficial lens.
    Though Gugu’s character Nonny does inevitably surpass the jezebel stereotype, she does not escape from being viewed as the symbolic whore. According to Manatu, the social construction of black women’s “essence” is invisibly preserved so no matter what “poised” image there are of black women in film the other negative stereotypes always rear their ugly heads out. This is to say that though we see the character Nonny going through getting bashed all over every media outlet, having to escape, admitting to herself her mental problems and finding love there is still that shadow of whore in our thoughts. There was a scene in the film of her preforming on stage with her recently ex lover interest and he began to forcibly undress her when she clearly did not want to be. This action against her, ever though they had an amicable break up is what reminds the viewers that not only is that male character an obvious misogynist but that Nonny will always be looked at as a whore; even when she does find love like she did.
    All in all, I feel that this character could have been developed a lot stronger. She is only respected and allows her true self to come out when she develops her relationship with a man. It would have been interesting to see her character find herself all on her own. This is not to say that it takes away from her strength because too many times we do not see black women’s characters going through and actually finding love, but that she could have found herself all on her own. Most women, not just black women I see in film when going through an existential crisis seem to always getting saved by a man. It is like there is a need for a love component to fulfill their requirements of being saved. This was seen in the film Monster Ball watched in class and in the film Claudine. The only film where the black women character found herself and was proclaimed fulfilled was She’s Gotta Have It which I really appreciated.


    • Great observations in regards to Noni moving from Jezebel/sex object to love object. In addition, you found some great quotes from the reading as well to support your argument. And yes, you are correct that she only becomes whole or finds love through the male gaze who also sexualizes her as well in the beginning. Although, I disagree with you observation regarding the Nola Darling character in “She’s Got To Have it”. I think we are lead to believe she finds independence and self love. She does to a certain degree but only after she is raped and forced to cut off all the men in her life. We dont really ever know if she is content on her own or allowed to be multiple relationships at a time without being viewed as a whore or freak. Its sort of left up in the air. But, I’m glad you enjoyed the film. Great comments!


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