The Elevator Incident Matters Because Beyoncé's Always So Damn Perfect

Oof. So, what are we calling this elevator situation? Is there a name yet? Jaymageddon? The Solpocalange? The Bey After Tomorrow? I Knowles What You Did Last Summer? I don't know if I have ever seen the internet this whipped up and riveted—"ever," by the way, includes Adele Dazeem, Anthony Weiner, AND the complete run of Scandal—and something that momentous needs a name.

Or is it that momentous? Would we care as much about Beyonce's problems if she wasn't so masterful at concealing them?

Families fight. Couples have problems. Human beings do not get along. Some people are abusive and some people respond to frustration with violence and some people are mean drunks and some people lose their tempers sometimes. This is not a good situation (and violence is always wrong), but as far as the public can tell, it is—in the grand scheme of things—a fairly commonplace one.

So what's so fascinating here? Why does this single event feel like an irreparable rift in space and time? The before-time and then the DOOOOOM?

Obviously people always want to see celebrities stripped of their veneer—to see the "real" person inside whatever narrative's been crafted by teams of handlers and publicists and social media managers. That hunger is built into the celebrity machine, and it's why we're endlessly fascinated by "real" celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, whose public persona appears indistinguishable from what we believe to be her genuine self.

Beyoncé has, for years, been the epitome of that painstakingly curated "realness." Her social media presence—especially on Instagram and Tumblr—very deliberately implies that we're not looking at some Hollywood contrivance, but peeking into her real, non-professional, sun-dappled, golden life. And that life is fucking perfect. There's a level of cognitive dissonance built in when you look at Bey's Instagram: We know we shouldn't trust celebrities' polished public versions of themselves, we know what we're seeing is hardly the full picture — but she gives us just enough candids and selfies and plates of chocolate chip cookies to make it plausible. Maybe this is her. Perfect, but not too perfect. And besides, I WANT TO BELIEVE.

That perfect version of "real" is, of course, a direct result of Beyoncé herself being a notorious perfectionist. You might even call her a bit of a control freak; this is a woman who, after her Super Bowl performance was seen by 104 million people, tried to have seven unflattering photos from the event erased from the internet. Any photographers who don't specifically work for Team Bey have since been banned from her concerts. Her WHOLE THING has been "I woke up like this, flawless."

And for the most part, it's all been flawlessly executed. Until now.

I keep thinking about Beyoncé and Jay and Solange walking into that elevator and flipping a mental switch when the doors closed. Exhaling, slouching, frowning. Believing, for a moment, that this was a private space. Lifting the enchantment and transforming back into themselves.

And plucking that tiny moment for themselves—away from the cameras and the public narrative, to air some real shit—has dominated the pop culture/celebrity conversation for three days now.

The internet isn't just flipping out over some behind-the-scenes footage of a woman attacking a man in an elevator. (If this story involved messier celebs, like, say, Ke$ha, Lohan, and Shia LaBeouf, it wouldn't last more than two news cycles, tops.) They're enthralled by the contrast between Beyoncé's peerless mastery of her image and the utter chaos of this bare, human moment. Because this behind-the-scenes footage proves that Beyoncé's previous behind-the-scenes footage was as artificial as anything she does on stage. This is what "real" is. I'm not sure it's what we really wanted.

Images via Instagram and TMZ.