A Deconstruct of the movie "Paris is Burning" as it relates to 6 Chapters in our textbook
Paris Is Burning is a provocative and controversial documentary film released in the year 1990. The direction was done by Jennie Livingston who focused on filming the drag ball culture and society that existed in the city of New York during the 1980s. The film focuses on three primary topics: race, homosexuality and prejudice towards a social stereotype. Hence the movie focuses on not just the culture of the whites in the American urban society but also the lifestyles of the African-Americans, Latinos and gays within the communities while also shedding light on the lives of the transsexual and sex workers in the city.
The significance of the movie is not only on the thought-provoking topics it covers, but also in its style of filming and the fact that it perhaps marks the end of the cultural phenomenon that was in fact the New York Drag Balls. The way that the documentary is shot is that it moves between footage of the drag ball events and interviews from some of the more popular personalities in American culture at the time form the African community, Latino community, gay as well as transsexual community. The drag ball events and competitions were all structure and divided across specific themes and all contestants were meant to walk across and around a crowded room like models do on a ramp. The only difference was that the judgment criterion was not based only on fashion sense and representation but on the authenticity of the individual and what he was representing as part of himself. Each group of contestants was divided into houses based on their fashion sense and styling however e.g. The house of Prada. Each house was representative of the family or social circle of the contestant. The most consistent winners would attain the status of a legend. The interviews included talks with some of the best in the business like Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Anji Xtravaganza, and Willi Ninja. The interviews and commentaries were all focused on how these individuals who were leading different lives from the norms had to tackle issues on intolerance, racism, homophobia even from their own families, diseases, medical/social/economic deterioration.
The drag ball is also represented as a multifaceted presentation of sex, social divide and race. It's a place where any and every individual can freely express one's lifestyle, identity, orientation, dreams, goals and opinions without any fear of intolerance, ridicule or judgment. The film manages to not only bring to light the African-American community within America but also the Latino community each coming with a wide array of identities, sexes, orientations and social transgressions. The film also received recognition for its provocative approach and thoughts. Some of the accolades included the following:
• It won the International Documentary Association Award in 1990
• It won Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Documentary in the year 1990 as well
• It won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in 1990
• It won the Grand Jury Prize for the Best Documentary at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival; the Teddy Award for Best Documentary at the Berlin International Film Festival
• It also won in 1991 the Best Documentary at the Boston Society of Film Critics Awards (BSFC)
• It was also in the year 1991 that it won the Golden Space Needle Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival
• In the year 1992 it won the Outstanding Film or Documentary at the GLAAD Media Awards as well as the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Documentary
The limitations of the discourse of norms: Gay visibility and degrees of transgression by Jay Clarkson
The chapter focuses on what can be believed or perceived to be normal gay representation either in the media or in a normal social setting. The chapter starts off with a very interesting opening passage where we read the discomfort of a straight-acting gay man upon the very open gay behavior of one of his friends at a local community hangout. The concerns of the straight-acting gay man is not the open gay exhibition but in the setting that the gay exhibition was made. The setting was a local family hangout in an area where gay visibility was minimal to say the least. The chapter goes further on to discuss how the society and media too are still somewhat bemused as to the right amount of gay visibility within a heterosexual setting. The chapter also highlights that it is the media depiction that somewhat leads the way to how homosexuality is generally tolerated in the social structure. One very important aspect that this chapter highlights is that more gay visibility does not mean that there is somehow more power and acceptance given to gays in the society; what it merely does is bring it under the spotlight a lot more, which in turn can also lead to higher scrutiny.
When we analyze media gay visibility, we see that the effort is to make it feel more like a daily norm or part of the social structure as opposed to one that is frowned upon or trampled. The same was not the case for the individuals presented in the movie. It shows how one of the characters of the movie became part of the New York Drag Balls phenomenon because his homophobic parents could not accept his lifestyle choice and threw him out of the house onto the streets. The documentary again is a very important piece of work when understanding how the attitude was for a majority of the people back then with regards to homosexuals.
The interesting comparison here is that New York Drags Balls served as the expansive media outlet for gays back in the 1980s and 1990s. The Drag Balls was the outlet for the homosexuals and queer individuals to express themselves freely without shame, judgment or punishment. The documentary focused on this particular drag ball culture that existed at the time in the city of New York City with focus on the African-Americans, Latinos as well as transgender visibility in the communities and societies. This not only helped them highlight the numerous homosexual issues that the societies were facing at the time but simultaneously brought forth the issue of race and prejudice that existed.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the documentary movie is the commentary made on how a lifestyle of the white people when achieved by the minorities is when they know that they have succeeded. The passage is a very simple two and a half minute commentary. However, it is also perhaps the most clear-cur description of the difference between the lifestyles of the whites and the minority races within the American society. It states again how the media does not accurately depict the minorities as most advertisings show that the average person is either rich or highly educated; even when the children are shown playing in an ad, they are shown to be playing in a lawn with a connected backyard and a pool instead of a concrete wall in an alley way. The media depiction was a cause for concerns for the minorities back then because they all knew that the media depictions was what led the social structures to a large extent and as long as they couldn't match the whites' lifestyle, there was little to no chance of them showcasing the truth about the lifestyle that they originally came from.
This is a very interesting take as conformity is given importance here by the minorities for their own recognition. The media depictions are going through the exact same phase for the homosexuals now which is why many straight-acting gay men have to choose where and when to freely express themselves in homosexual activities. It is why the media depictions are focusing more on how and when a gay or lesbian 'comes out of the closet' as opposed to focusing on why they come out. If the focus did shift towards why they come out, it would become obvious that the visibility in the media was the reason that there is increased scrutiny in the social classes towards homosexuals. This increased scrutiny has led to increased peer pressure and pre-conceived judgments on what behavioral aspects are associated with homosexuals.
Three faces of Eva: Perpetuation of the hot-Latina stereotype in Desperate Housewives by Debra Merskin
This particular chapter focuses on the actress Eva Longoria as the Latina stereotype in the television series Desperate Housewives; making the point that Eva's choices in life are correspondent to the role on the series as Gabrielle Solis. She is perceived to be a desirable and "hot" woman because of her ethnic background and its influence thereof. What is really interesting to note here is that this perception is actually self-imposed by the character.