Paris Is Burning
Time Out says
This 1990 documentary does for voguing what David LaChappelle’s ‘Rize’ recently did for krumping: provides a fascinating portrait of a complex, materially disadvantaged subculture structured around intensely competitive aesthetic displays later plundered for a Madonna video. The predominantly black gay ball scene of late-’80s New York is the focus, with ‘upcoming legendary children’ from numerous ‘houses’, or gang-families, competing in dozens of ball categories. The House of Ninja pioneered the voguing that so appealed to Madge, but more categories were based on looks than moves, from student chic to formal eveningwear. Others – military, business executive, label-heavy high fashion – speak to the sincerely conformist aspirationalism that marked this scene as much as the decade’s mainstream pop culture. Rather than being alienated from ‘the great white way of living or looking’ that has made their lives so painful, these ‘children’ long for it: ‘I would like to be a spoiled, rich white girl,’ one smiles. It’s an attitude with aesthetic repercussions: as a house mother observes, it’s ‘not about what you can create, but what you can acquire’.