Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Beyonce & beyond: Ghetto-speak on the red carpet?

In response to a reader thread from my Dreamgirls postings, on whether Jennifer Hudson needs to tone down her ghetto-speak, and whether Beyonce for all her polish still has a diction problem:
Ghetto-speak is little different from any of personal idiosyncracies that stars quickly learn to disguise in public — at least if they value the dubious honor of “stardom,” that state of affairs where every cornflake they consume is analyzed, quantified, and photographed in the press. The erasing of ethnicity is not the problem, since some publicity makeovers actually play up ethnicity, or invent it. (What is Charo, anyway?) It has to do with streamlining what they’re selling, and with an on-the-job dress code. Women who work in department stores are required to wear pantyhose. Women who make movies for big studios are required to feed the public’s fantasies without crossing the line (Britney Spears’ lack of panties and Janet Jackson’s nipple are red-carpet behaviors that went askew).
All the way back to the beginning of the star system — Florence Lawrence was billed as “the first movie star” because she was the first actor to emerge with an actual, identifiable name from behind the mask of her corporate logo (the “Biograph Girl”) — stars and would-be stars have been groomed for whatever red-carpet persona was in vogue in their day. Think of the stars of yesteryear with their “mid-Atlantic” accents from some indeterminable country mid-way to London. Think of how they plucked Rita Hayworth’s hairline to raise it to less feral dimensions.
Today’s actors shape themselves, often with drastic results, which is why they need publicisits and handlers more than ever: Who knew Tom Cruise was such a flake until he fired his long-time publicist and started expressing his true self in public? Stars should NEVER express their true selves in public unless they’re extremely savvy, with — as Melanie Griffith said in “Working Girl” — “a head for business and a bod for sin!”
So, my take on Jennifer Hudson: She’s completely new to this business and has not yet worked out her red-carpet game plan. As for Beyonce: She’s done a great job so far with packaging, but it’s true, I noticed that she hasn’t found a “public voice” she’s entirely comfortable with.
Stars are judged for their off-camera lives, and that’s not entirely unfair, because that’s the cross that stars, but not necessarily actors, have to bear. And it’s what they’ve signed on for. It’s what the movie “Dreamgirls” is all about — not just wanting to sing, have an audience, make a living at it, but wanting to get to the top, and accepting the compromises that come along with that (quite different) goal. Being a star can (and usually does) mean stripping away much of the individuality that made someone so promising in the first place, toning down the highs, papering over the lows, leaving behind your friends. I imagine many of these stars wake up in the morning disoriented: who’s that in the mirror?

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3 Responses to “Beyonce & beyond: Ghetto-speak on the red carpet?”

  1. Sally says:

    Jami, I’ll give you that, and like I wrote, Jen has a while to go before she gets to Beyonce’s level. Beyonce is trying to ditch the Texas drawl, but honestly, I find it charming. She’s poised and she speaks well. Jen will get there, if she has as long a career. let’s hope Clive & his record comp. give her the right push and promotion.

  2. Cher says:

    Beyonce unfortunately does not sound polished when she speaks. She makes innumerable grammtical errors. I’m from Texas and it’s not a southern drawl, but more ebontic diction.

  3. London says:

    I agree with you Cher, It is not a Texas southern drawl that is affecting Beyonce speech. It’s basically ebontic diction and poor grammar. In addition, during some of her interviews she struggles to speak and clearly answer questions properly. Once again the beautiful young lady has a speech problem. Okay, lets look at her sister Solange (sp) and Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, their both from Texas and speak very well….

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon