Week 9: Blackness as spectacle

In her article “Is Paris Burning?”, bell hooks introduces the idea of white voyeurism of blackness, where on the surface the movie Paris Is Burning would appear to be progressive and subversive of white patriarchy, it actually in effect turns its subject matter into a spectacle for white audiences. This process exploits the subject matter rather than celebrates or offers a more objective look at this subculture without the invasion of whiteness in the film. hooks writes that “those of us who have grown up in a segregated black setting where we participated in diverse pageants and rituals know that those elements of a given ritual that are empowering and subversive may not be readily visible to an outsider looking in” (hooks 150). Livingston does not direct the film or display her subject matter in a nuanced way that escapes the confines of a white-dominated society. hooks discusses how Livingston does not address or take into account how her whiteness would influence the way the film comes out and mentions how this is due to a “cultural arrogance”. This cultural arrogance translates to the white audiences who consumed the movie as hooks mentions her experiences in the theater where audience members were laughing at certain scenes that depicted pain. This overarching whiteness of the film hinders the ability for the movie to honestly portray its subject matter in a subversive or progressive way.

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