If Beyonc

She'd be a total douche bag, judging by her new music video.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published October 28, 2008 10:45PM (EDT)

After introducing us to her "more sensual, more aggressive, more outspoken" alter ego, Beyoncé has released the videos for two singles from her upcoming album, "I Am ... Sasha Fierce." Beyoncé -- Sasha? -- shakes and stomps in a gluteally and pelvically mesmerizing fashion in the video for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," which Fader suggests could be more aptly titled, "Single Dudes (Went Through a Second Puberty Watching This)." The message is pretty deep: Put a ring on my finger or I'll sleep with someone else.

In the second video, for the ballad "If I Were a Boy," Beyoncé fantasizes about being one of those men who send single ladies into sex-wielding tantrums over diamond engagement rings. This seems ripe for some lighthearted feminist (and Freudian) analysis -- so, after the video, is a roundup of responses from some Salon writers.

Tracy Clark-Flory: I was kind of encouraged by the opening, despite the Calvin Klein cologne ad cheese factor. But the rest of the video? Meh. The message isn't exactly new: Boys and girls are different, and boys treat girls like shit. But this video is especially irksome because it masquerades as an empowered attack on rigid gender roles while only reinforcing them. The idea here -- just as with Ciara's "Like a Boy," which, OK, I secretly love -- is that the only power a girl has in a relationship is to act like a boy, instead of redefining "the rules" or refusing sucky relationships.

At the end of the video, though, we discover that Beyoncé's pseudo gender-bending is just a fantasy -- the reality is that her boyfriend treats her like crap, and she has resigned herself to that familiar role of the female martyr. Bor-ing.

Sarah Hepola: Based on this video, shouldn't this song be called, "If I Were a Lesbian Cop?"

I can't get riled up about it, Tracy, but there is something irksome here. Beyoncé, starting with her "Destiny's Child" days, has been all about rah-rah female empowerment: "Say My Name," "I'm a Survivor," "Don't ever get to thinkin'/ You're irreplaceable," etc. etc. Even pop hits like "Crazy in Love" had a ferociousness.

But I've always suspected those anthems were a bit of a posture (she's called her stage persona Sasha Fierce), and that underneath was a little girl who's been smothered by the men in her life, be they her record-producer father or her record-producer lover. Wasn't it an act of rebellion when she played the Dina role in "DreamGirls"? I mean, Jeez, this woman came to enormous fame at the age of, what, 19? She's been under the microscope (and thumb) of many people.

And so what do we get? Soft-focus male tyrant messages like this one, which is facile but also probably strikes home with someone -- maybe even me, if I were 10 years younger and schtupping a street cop. Oh, to be so young and foolish.

Mary Elizabeth Williams: First of all, if Beyoncé were a boy, a whole lot of men out there would have to reconsider their heterosexuality. In her examination of gender roles, Destiny's favorite child opines on how much easier life would be if she were a man, because, apparently, she could be an inconsiderate, emotionally retarded douche. I guess that's what being a guy is about.

For the video, she's a tough New York cop, although her perfect makeup and formfitting uniform are more suggestive of a bachelor party than "Law & Order." She patrols the streets, hangs with her buddies, and studiously ignores the calls of her dreamboat boyfriend. I'm not sure how any of this makes her more masculine, especially when, at the 2:31 mark, Officer Beyoncé busts a punk, and her partner totally checks on her badonkadonk.

But then, wait! Halfway through a climactic, post-party argument, the tables turn again. Miss B. is in fact the neglected half of the duo, and the beau is the cool, unfeeling player. Is this the Beyoncé of two years ago, the one who was all empowered and to the left? The one who unhesitatingly ditched a beautiful liar. As a woman, she's a force to be reckoned with. As a man, she needs to get some cajones.

Judy Berman: I can't even tell what this song and video are trying to say. Is it that there aren't female cops? That women don't go out for beers with their friends? That we're not allowed to ignore phone calls from men we'd like to avoid? That Beyoncé is a jealous, lonely hausfrau type who gets no respect from men?

Personally, I find all of these implications unlikely. Am I offended by them? Not really. I think Beyoncé is taking very old received wisdom about the way men and women interact with one another and shaping it into the kind of song women have been singing since the dawn of the blues.

What does offend me about "If I Were a Boy" is just how terrible it is as a pop song. Lyrics? Yawn. Hook? Nearly nonexistent. Vocal gymnastics? Very few. Come on, Beyoncé. You can do better than that.

Thomas Rogers: As far as I can tell, Beyoncé isn't really fantasizing about being a boy for the day in this video, she just wishes she were a cop. And who could blame her? I'd rather be spooning my partner at the gun range than sitting in a lonely office shopping for online jewelry. Maybe all Beyoncé needs to do is find a less crappy career.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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