There is a fairly common belief held in our society. A belief which posits that Beyoncé is #flawless to the point of being an advanced humanoid from the future who does not have the capacity to do anything misguided or embarrassing. As far as theories go, it makes a lot of sense. Apart from the journalist responsible for that Huffington Post article claiming Bey has yet to "earn" her Album of the Year Grammy, most people concur that Lemonade is an audio-visual masterpiece, with her 2013 self-titled being the only other recent release that comes close.
On stage, she is a force beyond approach – like a natural disaster, but a good one. She announced her first pregnancy by bursting open a sequin dinner jacket and sensually rubbing her tummy after blasting through all of the 5,000 key changes of "Love On Top". Her thighs work harder than the UN. Beyoncé is un-fucking-real. Except, guys, we are all forgetting something. Something terrible, something important. No, not her starring role in a hip-hop adaptation of Bizet's Carmen, which sounds like Destiny's Child doing "Trapped In The Closet". We are forgetting the 2002 motion picture Austin Powers in Goldmember.
Rated a generous 5.8/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, Austin Powers in Goldmember is a classic example of a joke gone much too far. Following the trials and tribulations of a flamboyant Charlie Croker in various velvet bell bottom jumpsuits – who's surrounded by women whose names are a variation on "Sex! Ha ha!" and somehow manages to find enough time between nutting to thwart a bald evil genius who's really into nuclear weapons – Austin Powers is the sort of thing that could only have been popular in the 90s and ideally needs to stay there, like JNCO jeans and Bill Clinton's crime bill. By the time 2002 rolled around, Austin Powers really should have been viewed in a similar way to how Robin Thicke is today – which is with regret, if not thunderous silence – but it was allowed to happen because, as Shrek Forever After will attest, Mike Myers does not know how or when to stop. As a result, a part of Beyoncé, like Elizabeth Hurley and Heather Graham before her, is now trapped within 90+ minutes of culturally insensitive dress-up and fart jokes. How many times a year do you think Beyoncé has an intrusive thought about Mike Myers in a fat suit putting on an aggressively Scottish accent and solemnly says to herself: "I don't know why I did that."
To be fair, the early 00s weren't a fantastic time for recently-turned-solo Beyoncé's reputation in general. Yes, "Crazy In Love". Indeed, "Baby Boy" featuring Sean Paul. However: Carmen, Goldmember and a musical rom-com called The Fighting Temptations featuring Cuba Gooding Jr as a serial liar. Those things also happened and they cannot un-happen. So let's take a closer look at the Beyhive's Lord and Saviour, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, in the midst of what we can now safely call her Beg Years.
Our first glimpse of Beyoncé arrives in the credits. Now, prepared as I was to re-watch this film based specifically on the knowledge that she would be in it, seeing the name "Beyoncé Knowles" appear on screen sandwiched between Mike Myers and Seth Green still shook me deeply. Beyoncé destroyed the Grammys just a few days ago – reclined on a suspended chair, singing the shit out of "Love Drought" and channelling a very pregnant Oshun. This isn't right.
Aside from the wardrobe, punchlines and entire plot, I would say the main failure of Austin Powers is that the introduction is seven minutes and 26 seconds long. SEVEN MINUTES. AND AN ADDITIONAL TWENTY-SIX SECONDS. To be fair, there is a small break in which Britney Spears makes an appearance to have an erotic dance-off with Austin Powers. Turns out she's a robot with gun boobs whose head explodes when Austin Powers thrusts. Why not, I guess? Anyway, moving on.
The next 20 minutes are dedicated to explaining who Goldmember is (a mad Dutch man who eats his own skin), making jokes about some guy's face mole ("Mole" - Austin Powers, 2002) and a long back-and-forth with Seth Green that I would say contains an average of four actual words. Also a faux Britpop "Daddy Wasn't There" song happens. So let's go ahead and skip to the moment Beyoncé shows up.
Allow me to set the scene.
The year is 1975. Beyoncé, as you can see, is wearing a plastic wig. She is playing the role of a special agent called "Foxy Cleopatra" going undercover as a club singer. She, like every other female lead in the Austin Powers franchise, has shagged and been wronged by Austin Powers. Her first line of dialogue is: "Good evenin' everybody, and welcome to Studio 69!" (Get it? It's like Studio 54, only more shaggadelic, baby… or something). If I had to compare Trump's America to a moment in pop culture it would be Beyoncé singing "Goldmember" in runs while Mike Myers, wearing lace-up shorts and clog roller skates, slaps multiple women's butts.
And that's just the beginning. Brace yourself, emotionally, for her second bit of dialogue.
"Well, if it isn't Austin Powers…" – I should mention at this point that every line is delivered in the sort of exaggerated Louisiana accent you rarely hear outside of Blaxploitation films – "You've got a lot of nerve dragging your jive, white ass in here." There is a whole exchange here that academics could spend years deconstructing, but I'd like to draw attention to this one interaction specifically:
"All I know is, Mama only got a taste of the honey, but she wanted the whole beehive." To which Austin Powers says, "Oh, beehive!"
Is this... This can't... Be where the Beyhive comes from, can it? Is it a knowing nod? A coincidence? Actually it doesn't matter. The Beyhive got its name from Goldmember. I'm convinced. We could go through the rest scene-by-scene but like I said, this film has basically no plot, so instead let's look over some particularly distressing highlights:
Here is Beyoncé, in her first Pokemon evolution form of the sun god she would later take at the Grammys, just done filing the nails of a man who supposedly smelted his own dick off. Sad.
Here is Beyoncé shortly after saying "Up yours, jive turkey," and shortly before getting booted in the forehead by a clog.
Here is Beyoncé not knowing what a time machine is because she's from 1975 not… 2002, where time machines are commonplace.
Here is Beyoncé, having the internet explained to her via a video of a monkey picking its butt.
Here is Beyoncé engaging in some lite-cultural mockery.
And here is Mini-Me disrespecting Beyoncé's leg.
All in all there's a lot of upsetting footage in this film. Beyoncé – reserved, graceful, larger than life – is reduced to an exposed midriff shouting "I'm Foxy Cleopatra, and I'm a whole lotta woman!" and "shazam!" while a man called "Fat Bastard" sings on the toilet.
Same, Ozzy, who is also in this film providing some meta-criticism about recycled jokes.
I feel like Beyoncé has not been given enough shit for this. This is like Rihanna being in Jay and Silent Bob Strike B__ack. This is like Princess Anne being in Eurotrip. This is could easily have been the rest of her career; co-starring role upon co-starring role in mediocre films from which you come out feeling nothing but a sense of loss for the minutes you will never get back and with a renewed awareness of the passing of time. She could have been musical comedy's Rob Schneider. But she did not become musical comedy's Rob Schneider. She became fucking BEYONCÉ. At the end of this journey, all that's really left to do is pour one out for the endless possibilities of life. Praise Bee.
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(Photo via YouTube)