“Swarm” Unpacked – Is it a work of fiction? (Spoiler Alert!)
Dominique Fishback has been active since 2013, but we are sure that 2023 is going to be her most fruitful year yet! Busy at work, Dominqiue stars in the new series Swarm. Also set to release this year is Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, in which Dominique plays Elena.
Donald Glover and Janine Nabers are making their own contribution to the horror comedy canon with Swarm, an Amazon series about the scary world of pop music fandom. The series starts off each episode with a disclaimer: “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or events is intentional”. However, it is more accurate to say the show is inspired by several real events that all get synthesized in the fictional, crazed character Dre.
Landing a lead role, Dominique plays the character Andrea Greene (Dre). She plays a megafan whose psychosis, triggered by abandonment, becomes rampant after the death of her best friend Marissa Jackson. Dre was a foster child who was adopted by Marissa’s parents. The two besties had a stan account for Ni’Jah, who is undoubtedly Beyoncé (hence the name of the show; “Swarm,” an indication of the Beyhive).
Scroll down to “Feature Interview” to avoid spoilers
The first episode “Stung,” is set in “Houston, Texas. April 2016.” The fictional character Ni’Jah is a Houston native and her latest album festival was released on April 23rd 2016. This is a reference to Beyoncé, a Houston native, who dropped her surprise album, Lemonade on April 23, 2016. After the release of her album a viral rumor swarmed the internet that someone named Marissa Jackson committed suicide watching the visual project for the Lemonade album. In the series, Marissa is played by none other than Beyoncé’s mentee Chlöe Bailey. Marissa kills herself after she finds out that her boyfriend cheated on her.
The infidelity of Marissa’s boyfriend Khalid is another way reality was weaved into the fictional portrayal. Beyoncé’s Lemonade album have been talked about in popular culture as Beyoncé speaking about Jay-Z’s infidelity, which he admits in his song 4:44.
And if my children knew
I don’t even know what I would do
If they ain’t look at me the same
I would prob’ly die with all the shame
“You did what with who?”
What good is a ménage à trois when you have a soulmate?
“You risked that for Blue?”
4:44 Song by Jay-Z
After the death of her best friend Marissa, Dre embarks on a killing spree. When describing the character Dre on Jimmy Kimmel Dominique share:
“The show is about this girl, I like to say she is filled with a lot of love and a lot of grief, and she doesn’t know how to differentiate between the two, and so she reacts in ways that are unacceptable, to say the least.
Back in the day, when someone said something bad you had to meet them in the parking lot, and now with social media, you can’t meet anybody in a parking lot. But Dre, she is the opposite. She’s the pull up queen. You say something on social media and she will find you.“
The first victim was Marissa’s boyfriend Khalid. She avenges the death of her best friend/ sister by bashing his skull in with a Himalayan salt lamp. All of her murders are motivated by her love for Ni’Jah. Even Khalid threw shade at Ni’Jah, which Dre did not stomach too well. Before killing her victims Dre would ask “Who is your favorite artist?” When the response was not Ni’Jah, she would proclaim that Ni’Jah had 26 grammys and that any artist pales in comparison. This is a direct nod to the Queen B herself, Beyoncé has amassed 29 grammys and counting.
In Episode 2, Honey, Dre becomes a stripper. It’s hard not to laugh at the mannerisms delivered by the stellar actress Dominique.
One of the other dancers attempts to help Dre by telling her she should dance to different music because she would make more money this way. The crazed Dre tells her that the song about a miscarriage is Ni’Jah’s “most profound song”. In 2013, Beyoncé revealed that she recorded “Heartbeat,” which she said was “the saddest song [she’s] ever written,” after suffering a miscarriage. We can look back to Jay-Z’s song 4:44.
4:44 Song by Jay-Z
Dre is awkward, untrained and unconvincing. Her arms flair around, she can barely walk in her stilettos, and she doesn’t have the upper body strength or coordination to use a stripper pole. A man extends his hand with money but he seems scared to even pay her because her movements are all over the place. As she does a split she tries to twerk for the money in the seemingly empty strip club. As she slaps her ass, the audience at home finds out she is trying to find a man who wears a Titans hat by the name of Reggie aka Tonk. The Beyhive has swarmed in to sting! Reggie ends up dead because he said some offensive thing about Ni’Jah on Twitter.
In the same episode, Twitter is raving because Ni’Jah is having twins. Once more this is a nod to Beyoncé who had Rumi and Sir Carter. Ni’Jah even rode a horse that appeared to reference one used in Beyoncé’s Renaissance album cover.
In Episode 3, Taste, Ni’Jah is called out on Twitter for not intervening during an argument between her sister and Caché in an elevator. This scene is a ecreation of the 2014 leaked TMZ footage incident that showed Solange Knowles shoving Jay-Z in an elevator at The Standard hotel in New York City after the Met Gala while Beyoncé stood in a corner.
Caché goes on tour for a new album, and the tour is called the First Last Tour, following Ni’Jah’s Festival album. He throws a party to celebrate the end of his tour. The font for Caché’s album is similar to Jay-Z’s 4:44 album, the project he released after Lemonade. Dre befriends one of the staff members on Caché’s tour so she can get access to a party. Using a fake name, Dre leads the man to think that they have been flirting, before locking him away in a room with a big cake. At the party for the end of episode, Dre bites Ni’Jah. Someone did the same thing to Beyoncé at a party celebrating 4:44. After the news broke, speculation about the identity of the biter reached a fever pitch, with a number of names thrown into the ring.
Billie Eilish even made her debut acting appearance in Episode 4 “Running Scared” as a queer cult leader named Eva. One of the women in the episode says they like “Ni’Jah’s sister better because she’s more spiritual,” which is one way to describe Solange’s music. Eva uses hypnosis sessions disguised as therapy to get Dre to confess her secrets. Eva learns about the mess Dre has gotten herself into and tries to use it as leverage. When Dre notices her phone went missing, she snaps out of the hypnosis. Dre runs Eva over in order to get to Ni’Jah’s headline performance at Bonnaroo, the iconic music festival in 2018. Similarly, Beyoncé made history as the first Black woman to headline Coachella in the same year.
There aren’t any new Beyoncé references in this episode. We see the season end with Dre, who has now assumed the identity of Tony. Dre seems to come to terms with her identity. Introduced as a virgin in the first episode, the final episode takes a turn in Dre’s newfound queer identity. Or maybe there were always glimpse of it, her love for Marissa seemed too endearing and romantic. Dre finds a moment of respite in her partner Rashida (played by Kiersey Clemons).
Cyclical in nature, the season ends with Dre trying to recreate the moment when she bought two tickets to see Ni’Jah as a birthday gift for Marissa in the first episode. Marissa was upset because it meant that she had to cover Dre’s portion of the rent again. Rashida, responds in the same way. She emphasizes that she hates Ni’Jah and that Dre is selfish for spending thousands on tickets while she works two jobs and goes to graduate school. Dre resorts to strangling Rashida and burning her dead body. She realizes that the Ni’Jah tickets were in Rashida’s pocket and they were burned with her.
In the end, Dre kills a scalper for Ni’Jah tickets. She gets exactly what she wanted and sees Ni’Jah live, in what feels like, and may actually be, a fantasy.
Throughout the show, Dre’s whimsical personality, perfected by Dominique’s jaw-dropping acting, allow us to sympathize with a young woman who is tormented by the loss of her friend and driven by her obsession for her favorite pop-star. Dre finds comfort in the personified perfection of Ni’Jah’s womanhood and talents. Ni’Jah lulls Dre to sleep and gives us a glimpse of the young fangirl in all of us. We all have that artist that we ride or die for. When Dre listens to Ni’Jah she seems void of malice. But let anyone some at Ni’Jah sideways, and Dre brings it upon herself to execute them. This speaks to a larger cancel-culture trend increasingly more common due to the accessibility of media.
Dre was lonely and looking for acceptance. She was different than the kids at her school, she rejected by her foster family, and she lost her only friend and sister, Marissa. From murder spree to obsessively eating at the scene of the murder, Dominique delivers a perfected cringe worthy portrayal of stans.
Here at Galore, I had the honor of interviewing Dominique Fishback on numerous subjects. From her Hollywod influences, to her artistic journey, Black Feminisms, astrology and her upcoming roles in Swarm and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. We are most grateful to share with you the young Hollywood actress who is taking the industry by storm. Tune in below for the full length feature interview.
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