Through the unique artistic choices represented in the film to the absence of heteronormative imagery, FKA Twigs creates an environment that is usually not represented in the Hip-Hop community. In particular, to this absence of heteronormative imagery, I point out the over-sexualization of women, toxic masculinity, and the lack of female narrative. In her new album named Magdalene, a name usually associated to the adulteress Mary Magdalene, we see the reclamation of not only the narrative but also of a history that is usually glossed over by those who deem it unworthy.
In this essay, rather than pointing out the reasons on why the film can be considered as a black feminist artistic work and the history of Mary Magdalene, I will be building on Harding and Wood’s concept of standpoint theory. The idea of this theory concentrates on the perspective of the viewer and questions it from what we know or from the experience we have. These experiences can be pushed further and concentrated in specific categories associated to gender race, class, and sexual orientation.
In particular, it will analyze the representation of Queer Utopia and the progression of acceptance through the past and even the trauma of the protagonist in the film. As well I will be exploring the usage of symbolism visually and sonically and their interpretation to the viewer.
Home with You begins its first half with a muffled pulsing sound and what seems to be within an underground club. It is clear within the claustrophobic aspect ratio that the viewer is following FKA Twigs into her journey.
The color palette also plays a role within the mood with its dark greens, browns and blacks covering the city. The one scene that stands out in the first half is the driving sequence. The song suddenly switches into gospel instrumentals and the performers in the car with FKA Twigs begin to dance in unison but have their eyes covered with painted ones.
The second half of the film switches completely and we are introduced into a wider aspect ratio with the protagonist driving through a clear countryside leading to an unsuspecting suburb. Although her companions are still in the car with her, she franticly walks until the scene cuts into her being on the floor in white with an older woman. The gospel tone comes back and we are introduced to a group of performers, that are also in white, dancing around hanging sheets. In unison with the woman giving what seems to be a ritualistic baptism/cleanse to FKA Twigs, the dancers begin to dance similarly until the crescendo hits its climax and begin to do contortions.
In last piece of the film, she is running down into the woods and across a river in search of something. The closer we get to the song seems to slow down, the more distorted the film gets. The climatic end of the film we see the older woman waving her white scarf while the protagonist pulls a rope from the well revealing a little girl with the same attire as her. In the final scene it is revealed that the little girl’s belly button is actually FKA Twigs missing eye. From leaving the overwhelming environment of the club to driving to the quiet countryside, her left eye is always blocked from the viewer but the item blocking it evolves into a Band-aid. This can also be scene in within her dancers and the coverage of their eyes. Another costume choice that stands out from the film are the white gowns that are shown in the second half. It is very reminiscent to religious garments and their association to what can be worn at a river baptism.
Lastly, when it comes to the lyrics and the way they are sung, it is very noticeable that they are very distinct. The sections that I would consider spoken words seem to have a harsher distorted sound. The instrumentals also seem to fit it with the harsh bass and single piano assisting with the melodic parts. Unlike its spoken words’ counterpart, the singing portion has flourishing strings that are not harsh and the vocals are layered to sound like a chorus. The lyrics themselves seem to be directed at herself and into extending sounds like an apology.
When it comes to analysis the visual, I would like to start off in using Queer Utopia in relation to standpoint theory. The reason I use Queer Utopia, a term coined by Jose Estaban Muñoz, is to bring up what an ideal society one wishes to be in regardless of what the status quo is. “these spaces then create the potential to “free” minoritarian individuals from the “here and now” of heteronormative space and time…” (Muñoz ,2009, cited in Jones,2013, p.2) in regard to standpoint theory, is because of the oddity of the environment that we are surrounded in the first half of the film. In particular, it is the safety that is introduced through the characters. For example, the clothes we see the males wearing in the club depict from the ones being worn in the voguing community. The second example is the way women are shown without fear of getting assaulted from what they’re wearing. These little details bring up an issue that I clearly experienced and have seen in communities. Through my experience, these tropes are also quite prominent in queer spaces.
Secondly, I would like to discuss the feminist standpoint of the usage of imagery and the usage of Mary Magdalene. As stated before, the significant visual moment in the film is the white gowns dance sequence. The reason for this is a significant moment because of its association to Mary Magdalene and her likely connection to the protagonist. The reason this is significant is because of chosen saint and her rare usage as someone holy and nurturing. Portrayed mostly as an adulteress, Magdalene was known to be also an herbalist and healer. The feminist standpoint plays in when the role of the archetype is flipped and changed to take control of the established narrative. For example, words like bitch or maricon have suddenly changed into words of empowerment in order to control the image that it carries. Which brings up the question, if words can change into symbol of empowerment, can religious figures do the same?
Lastly, I will analyze the visualization of story and the symbolism found through it. When it comes to discussing the main conflict in the story itself, the main one that I seem to grasp more to is the idea of narration of trauma. The reason for this can be seen from the different ages that can very well be the protagonist. Unlike the two-younger counterpart, the older woman has both her eyes. In a way it can be associated with her in coming to terms with her past and bringing forgiveness to herself. As relation to her lyric “ I didn’t know that you were lonely, If you’d have just told me, I’d be home with you” (Twigs, 2019, track 2) It can be inferred that she is referring to her past selves as completely different personas.
In conclusion, Home with You can be seen as not only as a creative Black feminist piece in a very hetero masculine music genre but also as an allegory of past trauma. Through my analysis, the narrative through the music and its accompanying visuals can be placed in different backgrounds but still invoke similar experiences while also commenting on society in regard to the social norms. In particular to these experiences as stated before, it is by invoking the idea of re-conquering the narrative of names that have negative connotations and even embracing experiences that make us whole. The development of this research can be expanded into the identity of Mary Magdalene in pop culture with a concentration into her close association to the queer identity. The reason for the development is to explore the adoption of outcast religious figures within groups.