Written by Lena Waithe, ‘Beauty’ follows the story of a girl named Beauty, who is a musical prodigy. After preparing all her life to be a singer, she finally gets the opportunity when her father secures her a contract from a record label. Beauty’s mother, however, doesn’t yet want to let her young daughter go out into a cutthroat industry. The film focuses on this turmoil within her family, where everyone seems to be pulling her strings for their own advantage.
The story views life in the music industry with a raw and intimate lens. Through Beauty, we see the struggles and the compromises that one has to make in order to succeed in an industry full of wolves ready to tear you apart. While there is enough tension in the story, the high stakes of the situation are put into perspective through the setting. Location becomes a key part of the story as we see a significant change in Beauty. Similarly, the time period defines the music of the film and the career arc of the protagonist. Here’s what you should know about its setting.
When is Beauty Set?
The events in ‘Beauty’ take place sometime in the early 80s. The concrete marker of the story appears in the scene before Beauty moves into her new apartment in New York. A montage sums up all the key things of the era, one of which is the 1984 Presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson. The decade is also pretty evident in clothing, cars, and technology. We see Beauty playing songs loudly on vinyl and enjoying them in solitude on a Walkman. If not that, then the songs play on the TV. There is no YouTube, no Internet, no smartphones. The TVs are small and have a vintage 80s look to them. The mode of communication is limited to landline phones.
Another thing that proves that the film is not set anywhere near the current times is the closeted nature of Beauty’s sexuality. She is in love with Jasmine, for which she continuously receives chiding from her family. Her parents want Beauty to break up with her. When her career starts to take off, she is advised by her manager to keep her relationship with Jasmine a secret. This proves that not only is her family against her queerness but society, as a whole, also looks down on queer artists. While things have gotten better now, it was certainly difficult for LGBT+ artists to be completely themselves in front of the world.
Where is Beauty Set?
While the show doesn’t directly acknowledge the location, there is some inference we can draw from the film’s parallels to the life of Whitney Houston. Houston came from New Jersey, spending her childhood in places like Newark and East Orange. From the looks of it, Beauty, too, seems to hail from the New Jersey area.
In her hometown, we see the limitedness of her world. Her life oscillates between her family and Jasmine. This shows that she lives in a small town, growing up in a closed, sheltered environment. Her surroundings change radically as she goes to New York and moves into an apartment with Jasmine. Her career opens her up to new opportunities and new people. We see her leave behind the confines of her family and her town and become more at ease with herself.
Read More: Where Was Netflix’s Beauty Filmed?