Kennedy McCann Week 9 Paris is Burning

I really enjoyed the Hooks and Hilderbrand readings for the week. I liked Hooks’ analogy of Jennie Livingston as, “the tender-hearted, mild-mannered, virtuous white woman daring to venture into a contemporary ‘heart of darkness’ to bring back knowledge of the natives,” (Hooks 151). Looking back on some of the queers films and avant- garde shorts we’ve watched in class, a majority of them take you and put you in a jungle-like territory. From the jungle mania of show biz in All About Eve to the origins of the circus in Fox and His Friends and even to the Wild West in Johnny Guitar, the settings for queer films throughout the ages–specifically demonstrated by these films in fictional settings–seem to be set in places that challenge pre-determined notions of genre and setting (for example, you thought you knew the Ol’ West until you saw Johnny Guitar). In documentary form, it seems no different. In both cases, the audience members are innocent bystanders of what they witness on the screen. However, the discprepancy in audience reception occurs in the rearticulation of the subject from a fictional format to a very real format in the documentary. While in Hooks’ experience of the film, she felt that it was not taken seriously by outsiders of the minority group in the film, Hilderbrand calls Hooks out for being too dominating and thus shortsighted in her discounting of certain audience members’ reception. Although Hildebrand cites a Robert Ried-Pharr’s differing experiences of the film with a queer black audience vs a white one, the question stands whether the film invites such polarized responses from radically different groups. Hooks’ argues that the washing out of heartfelt testimonial scenes with drag show snippets is the filmmaker’s way of cutting the perhaps too left field issue in the butt. However, Hilderbrand argues that the ball scenes themselves feature several shots of the ball audience members (mostly “masculine gay men of color” 127) responding emphatically, uncomfortably, challengingly, and so forth. This begs the question if the responses of the in group and the out group are held to equal standards? Also, I feel an interesting point of view that was not addressed by any of the readings is the various audeince’s response to the death of Venus Xtravaganza. Would white audience’s feel that the cause of her death (it is suggested that she was murderd while working a sex job when her client found out that she was really a he) was plausible, or even somewhat understandable?

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