UPDATE: It seems that sanity has prevailed. Just as I was hoping/expecting, it seems that The Sun – not the most reputable source for these things – got it completely wrong. In a statement released to Billboard, Beyoncé representatives clearly stated that the singer “is in no way tied to this project.” In fact, investigations by other publications can’t even find the existence of a Saartjie Baartman project in the first place. In other words: Move along, nothing to see here.
Original story follows:
Congratulations. We’re only five days into 2016, and I’m already pretty sure that I’ve just written my weirdest headline of the year. UK’s The Sun newspaper (via News24) reports that Grammy winning pop singer Beyoncé is apparently busy penning a screenplay focusing on Saartjie Baartman, the infamous Khoikhoi slave who was controversially exhibited as the “Hottentot Venus” freak show in 19th century Europe due to her rather large buttocks.
Baartman’s offensive treatment gained the attention of British abolitionists who tried to have her freed, but ultimately failed to do so thanks to a very dodgy “contract” signed between Baartman and her slave owner Scottish doctor Alexander Dunlop. Baartman would continue to be exhibited until her tragic death from an unknown inflammatory disease in Paris in 1815. However, even in death she would not regain her dignity as her corpse was dissected with her brain, skeleton and genitalia being kept on display for more than a century and a half in Paris’ Museum of Man.
That is certainly some heady material to be adapted by a complete screenwriting novice, but Beyoncé is apparently going to take on the challenge. The ex-Destiny’s Child frontwoman has already made the foray into Hollywood with starring roles in Austin Powers in Goldmember, The Pink Panther remake and the Oscar-winning Dreamgirls, among others. Of course nobody was exactly throwing any Oscars her way for her acting, but according to The Sun’s sources “Beyoncé is desperate to be taken seriously as an actress…
Even though she’s had a string of well-received movies, she still feels her breakthrough role is yet to come.
“She now wants to write a screenplay that gains her respect – and hopefully awards – from the film industry, and thinks Saartjie’s story could be her ticket. Winning an Academy Award would mean everything to her, and she’s a woman who is used to getting exactly what she wants.”
There’s a part of me that thinks that this may just all be tabloid rag gossip, and there’s an even bigger part of me that really, really hopes that it is. Saartjie Baartman’s story is a tragic one that needs to be handled with great respect and care, and not just as a means to add more silverware to your trophy cabinet. That being said, I’m not going to outright dismiss Beyoncé’s screenwriting skills without actually having seen them. For all we know she could be some kind of screenwriting savant, even though her song lyrics don’t exactly hint at that hidden talent. On face value though, this really doesn’t feel like the best fit for this project.
Last Updated: January 5, 2016