Week 9 – Ryan Beggs

In this weeks readings there are several interesting dissections of the documentary film Paris Is Burning. The first reading “‘The Subversive Edge’: Paris Is Burning, Social Critique, and the Limits of Subjective Agency” by Phillip Brian Harper goes into some detail about social roles. Harper states, “[W]hat is authentic in social roles? Who does our culture reward and who does it exclude, and how different are they? What is male, what is female? Can our chromosomal hard-wiring be reprogrammed?” (91). This particular excerpt poses an interesting digression from Paris yet is immensely relevant to the subject of the film and its audience’s acceptance. In the second reading “Chapter 3: Love Hangover (Debates)” by Lucas Hilderbrand many critiques of the film are analyzed. I found this particular excerpt to be the most interesting and easy to understand out of all the posted readings. Hilderbrand discusses the idea that “With whom you saw the film and to whom you talked about it afterward shaped how you saw it, and it created a common groundwork for thinking through a range of social issues” (120). I took this note down because I want to be cognizant of with whom I discuss the film with after viewing in this weeks class. The final reading titled “Black Looks Race and Representation” by Bell Hooks discusses the subject of Paris a bit more. In one particular section discussing drag. I, myself, do not understand what it is like to engage with drag or to cross-dress, and Hooks’ analyzation of this mindset was very intriguing and helpful in understanding. Hooks states “To cross-dress as a women in patriarchy–then, more so than now–was to symbolically cross from the world of powerlessness into a world of privilege. It was the ultimate, intimate, voyeuristic gesture” (145). This insight is great because it highlights the empowering attitudes cross-dressing can provide. Ultimately, these articles have given me a bit more context in which to watch Paris this week. I’m glad to now understand the gravity this film has carried.


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