Before watching this film, I thought of Tina Turner’s hits, her commanding stage presence, and the domestic abuse she suffered by her former husband, band member and manager Ike Turner. After watching “TINA,” I realized I was not the only one who had this image of her. The media has trouble separating her from the story of her abusive relationship. However, with this documentary, she gains the opportunity to tell her story truthfully, independent of the narrative created for her in the past.
This documentary takes us back to when Tina Turner was simply Anna Mae Bullock, a teenager who sang in her rural Tennessee church choir. It was there that she would eventually meet Ike Turner, who gave the young Anna Mae the stage name she carries to this day.
“TINA” depicts how getting involved in an abusive relationship is not as simple as it may seem. Through Turner’s backstory, the film explains how abuse is an ongoing cycle one gets stuck in. Growing up with a mother who was a victim of domestic violence, Turner seems to have accepted the fact that she, too, was destined to live a life devoid of love or happiness. Turner describes desiring love, but feeling as if she would never receive it. She experienced this both in her personal and professional lives, when she struggled to create a solo career because record labels would not take a middle-aged Black woman doing rock-and-roll seriously.
This movie educates the viewer on the realities of domestic abuse by providing detailed accounts of Turner’s story and the way this abuse affected virtually every aspect of her life and career. In “TINA,” we get the sense that she not only tells the story for herself, but for all the women who are in similar situations. Turner, once and for all, is taking control of her life’s narrative, and taking a stance against the typical media portrayal of her as a public figure.
Although this documentary takes us through Turner’s relationship with her abuser, it also demonstrates how she left her marriage and went on to become a successful solo artist. She utilized the same strength she mustered to leave her relationship to launch herself into a stratosphere of fame and recognition. This is made evident through the juxtaposition of clips of Tina performing with Ike in the 1960s in front of measly crowds against those of her performing by herself to sold-out stadiums decades later.
The archival footage in the film is contrasted with present-day interviews of Turner and those affiliated with her, such as Oprah Winfrey and Angela Bassett, the latter of whom played Turner in the 1993 biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Through these interviews, we learn Turner remains an inspiration for those closest to her, as a woman who endured a great deal of trauma and prevailed in the end.
These interviews serve a purpose in telling the unique story of Turner’s life in a tasteful and demonstrative way. These interviews are contrasted with Turner’s own candid reflections on her life, portraying herself not as someone who was always strong, but as someone who was not able to lift herself out of an abusive relationship for years.
Through this honesty, Turner provides hope for the many women who are in abusive relationships, yet feel too powerless to escape them. Watching these admissions moved me, and I was heartbroken to learn of the harsh realities she’d kept secret for so many years.
As someone who approached this movie not from the point of view of a fan, but instead of a curious spectator of Turner’s life, I walked away from the movie convinced of the legitimacy of her iconic status. She transformed the trauma of her life into a successful career, and used her music to transform the lack of love in her life to put more love into the world.
Her story deserves to be told because it shows the heights of strength and perseverance that one can hold throughout life. She doesn’t ask you to care about her story, but you can’t help but root for her as it plays out on the screen.
“TINA” is available to stream on HBOMAX.
Email Sophia Carr at [email protected]