What is a “Dreamgirl?” March 4, 2007Posted by jsaffold in Uncategorized.
I missed the Oscars due to two terrible exams, but this was the one clip from the evening that I caught on YouTube. In class on Thursday, we discussed Beyonce’s status as a ubiquitous sex symbol and the strategic marketing used to create her mass appeal. It is interesting to see Jennifer Hudson’s journey through American Idol to Dreamgirls. This video shows one of her performances on American Idol, just as a comparison. The voice is just as powerful but her look is certainly different.
What I find interesting is the nature of Dreamgirls and the fact that it was that film that propelled Jennifer to stardom. I wonder if her path would have been at all similar had she not been the underdog and if she hadn’t been constantly in comparison to Beyonce. Her voice is clearly superior to Beyonce’s, but that alone is not what I think made her into a star. I wonder if we will expect to continually see Jennifer Hudson in the underdog role–it is sort of related to how female power often comes in the form of revenge. What struck me about the clip was that Anika Noni Rose, the third Dreamgirl, was in the center and Beyonce and Jennifer were off to the sides when in all the promo pics and in the movie, Beyonce assumed the spotlight position. It may seem minor, but it was a big deal in the actual film that Beyonce took Jennifer’s lead position and assumed the “center” spot. In this performance, Jennifer effortlessly sings circles around Beyonce, although Beyonce does clearly try to sing up to Jennifer’s level.
The problematic part for me is this: why were we more apt to accept someone like Jennifer when she was in the Effie White role? Would she have been as successful if she hadn’t played the part of a woman wronged? Also, if Jennifer came out with a video even remotely resembling “Upgrade U” (complete with the sensual rolling in jewelry, the diamond in her mouth, sitting in the trunk of a car) it would certainly be received much differently from Beyonce’s.
As a not-so-academic side note, I had a “moment” when I was sitting at the men’s basketball game last weekend (the NESCAC semifinal against Colby). It was in the silent moments just before an Amherst free throw, when from behind me I heard the refrain of an adolescent male voice: “To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left…” I’d heard the female done-wrong “anthem” many a time on the radio and even listened to it by choice on my iPod, but it had never struck me just how ubiquitous Beyonce and all things related are.