Thursday, October 19, 2006
We've Been Through This Too Long
VIDEO: "Ring the Alarm" Beyonce
Beyonce’s fire-igniting “Ring the Alarm” begins with its chorus, which is almost entirely devoted to references to “the other woman.” Our singer fears losing everything she has to another woman, but this song is supposed to be about the inequity of her relationship with a man, right? Though Beyonce threatens her ex with an impending explosion of rage, she also admits that “she can’t let” him go – precisely because of the possibility that he will go to another woman. As the video shows, it is truly a song about female insecurity, the way in which society continually makes females more insecure in relationships than men.
The Sharon Stone scene in the interrogation rooms re-iterates this point about restraining and confining woman, as armed men and police officers surround Beyonce. But what she does to retaliate is use her femininity to actual scare these strong men, they attempt to restrain her but her madness increases. Beyonce and the director play upon the historically popular, yet false, correlation of “lunacy” with woman (derived from comparing “luna”-r cycles and the monthly activities of women). It is this that men fear most, what they cannot (or will not try to) understand, what Beyonce calls her “female intuition.” The sharp cuts and harsh motions of the singer are meant to amplify this affect of rage and fear, but they are constantly juxtaposed against looks of insecurity and sadness on the face of Beyonce.
Against the dark red motif of the jail we have the oceanic window where Beyonce sits almost make-up less and vulnerable. As much as she is trying to be mad, as much as she is attempting to raise a fire of vengeance – she can’t help but be afraid that she is losing something that she may not ever get again. It is no great insight to proclaim that men are more confident in their relationships with women than vice versa, mainly as a result of a system that favors aging “experienced” men and young “virginal” women. And it’s the remnants of this outdated (as if it ever had a “date” when it was acceptable) ideology that influences the constant doubting of wronged women. We all can understand the pain of being hurt combined with the fear of loss and starting over, but we can’t at the same time deny that this feeling is heightened among women – especially in popular culture. How many comparable anthems can we find sung by men? Especially in hip-hop?
But the video is aware of this. There is a building confidence in the tone of the work, and by the end our hero is in fact playing a part more than actually going insane. What she realizes is her power lies in her expression of anger. The real “alarm” that is sounding across the radio is one of distressed females, still struggling for equality in a hyper-masculine industry and world, screaming for recognition. The red-lipsticked smile that ends the video is a nod to that sentiment – and perhaps a clue to the way in which women can overcome this societal roadblock. Beyonce has always been about voice, her amazingly powerful crescendo is unparalleled in pop music for it's sheer ability to get you to listen. This is a video that attempts to match that vocal power with images of intense feeling. It is through self-expression, especially through this type of passionate self-expression, that people begin to listen and recognize inequities.