Fug the Fromage: The Beyonce Movie, a.k.a. 40 Things Beyonce Wants You To Know About Beyonce


As we’ve seen with her photo-heavy Tumblr, Beyonce is really gifted at making you think she’s peeling back the curtain to offer raw, real peeks, to the point where you ignore or forget the fact that you’re STILL actually only seeing what she wants you to see. And her HBO movie, which she co-directed and produced (the latter credit is something she has in common with Katy Perry and Justin Bieber and their ilk, on their concert/documentary films), is a lot like that. Now, I have nothing against Beyonce. I’ve never heard bad gossip about her, ever, and that’s got to be hard to achieve without being a legitimately good person. I also think she is a legitimately interesting person, one who’d have been better served by a documentary with some distance that featured outside voices, created and directed by an impartial (however possible that is) third party. It reminds me of working on Top Model — the girls who walked around conscious of the cameras, refusing to say or do anything in front of them, also never showed you any of themselves; it wasn’t until they forgot the cameras that things felt true and honest. When you give up control is when the good stuff happens.

With Beyonce being so intimately involved — sharing personal video diaries and whatnot — I figured bothering to make this movie meant she had a really good story to tell. Justin Bieber’s was at least about believing in your dreams, or something, I’m told. Katy Perry’s movie turned out to be about her marriage falling apart. But Beyonce’s… there’s a snippet of her fallout with her father after she fired him, and bits about her pregnancy that are mostly noteworthy for not being particularly thorough or high-quality. Indeed, the glimpses Beyonce gives you into anything real are so few and far between, it’s easy to mistake them for larger and more substantial bites than the crumbs they really are, and in the end, it feels like Beyonce simply wanted you to know some stuff that all revolves around this central conceit: Her life really is freaking great, and she’s really good at everything. It’s not much of a plot. It doesn’t come off as vain as that sounds, but watching this movie only made me want to see one about her that really nails the depth and breadth of her life and her persona — one put together by someone who is not the subject. 

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Comments (54):

  1. glee

    How much self-love does this woman have? (I am a fan of her music. The only things I know about her are what’s in the press. And this movie. And from this, she is a deranged egomaniac!).

  2. Brenna

    After looking through the slideshow, I have a few thoughts:
    1. I’ve never seen that much of a resemblance between Beyonce and Solange before, but WOW, do I see it now. In picture 2, you could have told me that was Solange.
    2. While it totally isn’t any of my business, I think Beyonce was pregnant, but I think she padded herself for the VMA reveal because she wanted to make sure people saw she was pregnant. I think she wanted to make the announcement a big reveal, but her bump wasn’t far enough along yet for it to be noticeable, so she padded out so you could tell. Which also explains the crumpled bump a little, because she probably had to keep the padding in until her real bump caught up to where she padded it.
    3. Blue Ivy looks exactly like Jay-Z.
    4. I need to get my butt to the gym, because Beyonce’s body is SICK! She really is beautiful.

    • Stefanie

      I agree with all your points.

      I agreed with all of the commentary as well.

    • Kim

      I agree with the padding theory. To me, the crumpled bump always looked like a foam cup in the boob of a swimsuit. (there is a word for those, I’m sure, but it is late and I am sleepy) But I always thought it was just to smooth out the dress and hide the poky belly button

  3. Art Eclectic

    I know a lot of people think that Gaga is the new Madonna – but when you look at Beyonce, you see the Madonna marketing machine in full bloom.

  4. Eliza Bennett

    I’m going to see Beyonce in July (the costumes! The pyrotechnics! so STOKED you GUYS OMG) and I’m pretty sure her postbaby body is going to make me want to curl up in a ball and die. I’m glad GFY did a recap of the Beyoncumentary, because I wanted to know what it was like without actually having to go. Looks about like I expected. It’s a weird thought, the idea of the Great and Powerful Beyonce being starstruck by someone, even Jay-Z. You’d think after being with someone for a really long time, esp. if you yourself hit fame-goddess proportions, that no matter how famous they were, to you they’d just be a regular guy. That’s actually sweet, I think, that she’s so amazed her life turned out to include marrying her hero. Aww. Talked myself on board the Beyonce Train.

  5. Lindsay

    The shot of Beyonce with the gold tooth is DC shooting Bootylicious, so it’s not a real gold tooth. And that was from their second album, not the first.

  6. Annie S.

    The BIC is a perfect mix of Bey and Jay, IMO. Definitely got her daddy’s nose and mouth, but the eyes and skin tone are all Mommy. Seriously, she IS a muffin.

  7. julyol1972

    So she did a vanity project to herself – do I care? Not really!!! It took me many years to appreciate her as a singer and a performer, and now I’m firmly on the side that she works really hard and will give you your monies worth at one of her concerts. So I’ll give her a pass with the movie.

    As far as some of the criticisms go. I think when groups like The Rolling Stones have documentaries/movies put out every few years and are given a pass for the same self-serving regurgitated dreck – maybe Beyonce shouldn’t be judged so harshly. I just hope she doesn’t do this kind of project again.

    • Tiffany

      I agree about her giving you your money’s worth. Ever since i saw the video of her in concert where she fell down a flight of stairs ON HER FACE and then got right back up and kept singing, I have had a lot of respect. I am surprised she didn’t break her nose, it looked so painful.

      • Heather

        I’m not criticizing her for doing this project; just sort of wondering what the point of it all was, since it didn’t shape into a very useful narrative.

      • Nancy

        Didn’t you notice she sang as she fell all the way down the stairs! Lip syncing much?

  8. junaitatres

    Thank you for this, Heather. It was an interesting read and your commentary was insightful. I think Beyonce is a beauty and a legitimately great performer, but this documentary appears to be nothing but an ego trip. Her image is just so tightly controlled that it makes everything she does (including pregnancy) sort of suspect. Katy Perry’s and Justin Beieber’s documentaries worked to some extent (don’t judge me) because you saw at least a portion of the struggles and personal sacrifices involved in their success. A two hour Beyonce (self)love fest is just not that interesting.

  9. Tiffany

    I only got through a little bit…but I think it says SO MUCH that she started off saying that her dad withheld love from her. That, as a child even, he wouldn’t give her affection until she did something many times over until it was perfect. That is kind of disturbing, IMO.

    I think she took that round-about form of neglect and turned it into her work ethic. I think she is proud of her work ethic, and in an age where TONS of pop stars literally have others do 90% of the work (even the singing), she is unique. I don’t know if this was the best way to go about presenting that, though. She is so far in the bubble that she doesn’t know how it appears from the outside.

    • Heather

      I think that’s a great point. Like I said, I actually like Beyonce, and the few stories I’ve had from people who worked with her have never included a bad word. In fact, they all seem surprised that she IS genuinely gracious and cool. And I think she does work her ass off. But I agree that feeling like she needed to do a project like this, and then doing it in a way that skips over a lot of the really insightful stuff, doesn’t do her justice. She’s more interesting than a self-authored puff piece.

      • Tiffany

        Well said, Heather. And I give you guys sooooooooo many props for mentioning that your ideas about her personal life are extrapolation. So many sites just throw out a thought as if it is fact, and it takes a lot of integrity to point out that it is just a guess. You do that for many stars, not just B, and it is one of the reasons I keep coming back! Your commentary is hilarious AND quality! :)

      • Lindsay

        Like you said Heather, either be totally private, as she used to be, or put it all out there, like someone like Lady Gaga, posting on Twitter and exposing everything (physical and emotional). This is some weird middle ground that kind of paints her in a negative light, that she’s totally into herself – stop the world, Beyonce wants to get off!

  10. A.J.

    Heather, I read the same thing into the Beyonce/Jay Z relationship. So it’s not just you. Let’s hope we’re both wrong!

    • Maretha2

      I have the same vibe on the Bey & Jay relationship. But I do not know these people at all. Hopefully in private Jay-Z hugely appreciates his beautiful, talented, hard-working wife and realizes what a lucky man he is.
      Perfect description of the fear after miscarriage, too. I really appreciated how this was a “Fug the Fromage” that was sensitive and caring while also being witty and entertaining.

  11. Helen

    I don’t know, I just read all of this and, despite the engaging writing (as always), it was about as interesting as a treatise on relative paper towel wet strength.

    And the thing is, I’m not sure there IS any more “there,” there, no matter who’s writing or filming. Beyoncé’s likeable and pleasant, gracious even, but that’s just good manners; I don’t think she has much real personality of her own.

    So I’m not convinced she really is short-changing herself. Maybe this is all there is. You can be hugely successful and really nice and also be dull.

    Also, now I am going to bash my webcam with rocks until it stops whimpering. Because clearly it is sabotaging my life deliberately!

  12. Miss Louise

    Heather, this is an even-handed and generous reflection. I myself might have been more critical because I find these kinds of puff-vanity projects nauseating, and this one is no exception, but I really do appreciate that you’ve followed GFY’s ethic of combining critique with respect. It’s aprt of the reason I come here daily – I can get snark elsewhere, you and Jessica always bring goodwill to the table. To me, crock-umentaries like this one are a sobering reminder about celebrity, even as experienced by the genuinely talented like Beyonce – that is, when you’re on top, you’ve got to keep the spin machine on overdrive. It all seems so exhausting, amd exhausted.

  13. Dirk

    OMG. i had no idea you guys were doing this and i honestly can’t wait to read it.

    and can we start fugging Smash? We won’t have the opportunity to much longer.

  14. tigers4us

    We will never see the real Beyonce, and certainly not in this vanity project. EVERY public appearance is carefully choreographed and controlled. Her handlers (& husband) will not allow her to be herself, and I’m guessing that’s OK with her.

  15. tigers4us

    I didn’t see this “documentary” and have no desire to do so. Thanks for posting this, though. However, way too much egomania and self-love here to slog through all 40 pics.

    • One of the Leahs

      Wow, do I disagree on that! Every slide was a gem as far as I’m concerned.

  16. Melly

    I’ve seen almost the whole show…you can’t help it if you channel-surf HBO. The footage from rehearsals and concerts is the best. The rest is a bunch of not much, and I do think she very much wanted to get some specific footage out there for everyone. Picture #30 looks like a prosthesis of some sort was applied with some material…you can see finger streaks along her side. And in the later preg photo, why show a silhouette shot…and such a very perfect, inauthentic-looking silhouette, with only the baby bump enlarged, nothing else about her body even slightly pregnant looking? Just odd, but people have their reasons I guess.

  17. Susan

    You’ve never heard a bad thing about Beyonce? Are you blocking out Dreamgirls completely? Do you not remember how incredibly bitchy and ungracious she was about Jennifer Hudson’s success? First she said the role was so hard for her because she had to suppress her fantastic singing voice, since her character wasn’t supposed to have the best voice in the group. Then, when asked if she would have wanted Hudson’s role in the film, she basically responded that the role would have been impossible for her to play because she would have had to gain so much weight to do it. I’m no J-HUD fan, but that was some serious nastiness.

    • Heather

      I didn’t hear any of that, no. I was just sharing that the behind-the-scenes whispers we’ heard here and there from people were all positive. Those quotes are certainly a shame.

  18. Ladyciarrai

    Beyonce does say “life is but a dream” in this so-called documentary in a scene when her and Jay-Z are on a yacht…and she does mention how many weeks she’s into her pregnancy when she’s wearing that uber-revealing body suit in slide 27….
    I do agree that the movie was slightly odd because it was hardly revealing and almost counterintuitive. She was extremely popular/powerful/successful before this mostly non-revealing film so it just drew attention to the fact that she is a private person who likes it that way (and probably most of her fans do to). She seemed to be one of the few superstar-famous who was able to stay out of the typical over saturation that most popstars need/use and that was part of what kept her in that ehelon. But mostly, yay Bey :)

    • Heather

      Did she? I remember her saying when she was wearing the webby short thing, but I thought the quote was more vague when she was in the bodysuit. Sometimes the focus becomes getting the screen grab, and I forget to listen.

      • Ladyciarrai

        that’s what i was thinking of, that webby thing :)
        btw you and jessica are brilliantly entertaining and awesome. thank you for this wonderful, wonderful site!

  19. Edith

    I have remarkably few thoughts on Beyonce, but I did want to point out that this line made me laugh out loud:

    I am showing more than that right now, and I’m not pregnant.

    I said the same thing when I saw the 5-months-pregnant Duchess of Cambridge. sigh!

  20. Rigor_Mortis

    “It doesn’t come off as vain as that sounds”, are you kidding me? This pseudo documentary was HILARIOUSLY NARCISSISTIC. If you told this woman “go fuck yourself” she’d probably sigh and say “I wish I could.”

    • Heather

      Hah! I didn’t get that much rampant ego from it. Obviously any project like this is by definition a vain enterprise, but I don’t think she carries herself arrogantly at all.

  21. LT1

    I know less than nothing about Beyonce and Jay-Z but when I’m around people who are very demonstrative in their love I tend to back down so the combined amount is even (I love on a bell curve). Maybe that’s what Jay-Z is doing? I don’t love those people in my life any less, I just don’t like too much emotion going on.

    I was so laughing at the execs listening to the record. Way back before G n’ R’s “Use Your Illusion I and II” came out I had to go to the record company and listen to it in a conference room. It was very strange–and it didn’t help that I didn’t like what I was listening too (talk about vanity project) while surrounded by the promo people. I’m afraid I might have been smiling and nodding a lot too.

  22. Andrew S.

    What strikes me the most about the documentary was her talking about how when she grew up celebrities weren’t as eager to share their lives and you only knew them for their work and it’s definitely something she took to heart. The thing is, there is plenty I’d love to ask (primarily – what it her feelings on her parents divorce and how does she feel about her father’s other child) but she is a person like everyone else and we aren’t entitled to *anything* so what we did get (especially about her miscarriage) was pretty intimate for someone as private as she is (only she, Jodie Foster and Janet have done well at being big celebrities but keeping parts of themselves off limits), so while there is always more to ask or want I can be content with what we did get.

    • Rina

      Andrew, you have a great point about celebrities not owing us the nitty gritty details, but that begs the question, why feel compelled to do a movie on your life?

  23. NCY

    I think Beyonce is GORGEOUS and a great dancer but (there is always a but) she is NOT an independent woman. Her father controlled her, then he was replaced by Jay-Z, her PR team (run by the man in her life) regulates everything so strictly that there is no way the public can ever know the real Beyonce (I am starting to doubt whether she knows who she is since she’s never had to figure it out for herself). I sympathize with her for the miscarriage and the whole fake baby thing was badly handled but none of it is any of our business, being a fan does not give carte blanche to EVERY aspect of a celebrity’s life.

  24. Heather

    Certainly not, and I’m definitely not saying it does. Suggesting that she’d be a great documentary subject by an impartial observer is definitely not the same as saying she owes us information. I AM say, though, that you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can’t complain about the culture of knowing lots of things about a celebrity, and then make a movie about yourself. And yet she has, and it’s a very thin shell of a movie. Why bother? I say, stick to your guns and stay private.

  25. MaryAnne

    I’ve never been a huge Beyonce fan, but I didn’t have anything against her until the whole Taylor Swift/Kanye thing, when she defended him by saying that “he was just defending art” … it came across really snotty and sore-loserish.

    • ericajeanine

      I don’t remember her saying that, but I do remember when Beyonce won later that evening she asked Tylor to ocme on stage and finish her speech.

  26. notemily

    I had no idea there were rumors that Beyonce’s pregnancy was faked. I’m still stuck on Sarah Palin’s fake pregnancy from 2008.

  27. Raimesela

    I’m not much of a fan, maybe it’s cause I’m jealous of how sweet & perfect she seems to be and this documentary just adds to that well put together image. You’d wish she’d show her flaws which might make some us like her. In interview with Oprah she said it was for the none fans. I didn’t work for me. I also don’t get the Jay Z pairing, I hope he adores her. I mean he’s a mogul & all but he’s still a rapper who calls women B***. Would not be rubbing shoulders with presidents if it won’t for Queen B.

  28. Lily1214

    On TV, I saw Beyonce sit down in a chair and the “bump” take a fall. I don’t believe she was ever pregnant.