The Importance of ‘Paris Is Burning’ Documentary (Watch the Entire Film)

Not too long ago I did a blog post on the history of house music and a documentary that I highly recommend people watch. It’s important to truly understand the history of the things you love, so if you appreciate house as much as I do, then be sure to check out my blog post on the documentary Pump Up the Volume: The History of House.

Since I’m such a huge fan of house music and the vibe of universal love within the house community, I’m a huge advocate of learning the history of the culture. But for those of you who may or may not know the history of house, a large portion of the culture began with the LGBT community. Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, and many other prominent figures in the community were openly gay men who just wanted to spread the love of good music. So that’s one of the reasons why I get really upset when I meet people that are anti-gay and just so close-minded to the community; acting as if those who are in the LGBT are weird, gross, and should be ostracized or treated like crap. That’s not cool.

This stigma associated with house, vogueing, and the LGBT isn’t just prevalent in our current society, but it’s been around since the early foundations of house music. Not only has it been around since the creation of house, but also since the creation of the ballroom subculture. It’s easy to think that this hatred & ambiguity is just around today, but the documentary film Paris Is Burning reminded me that the stigma of “gay culture” has been around since the early 80s.

The documentary Paris Is Burning is a riveting film that was released in 1990. Throughout the course of the documentary, filmmaker Jennie Livingston gives viewers an insight on the gay culture and the evolution of “houses.” If you know anything about vogue-ing and the gay community, then you’ll know that within the community their is a subculture that hosts “balls.”  At these balls usually different “houses” -groups of gay men that are “family”-compete against other houses. But it’s not just about the rivalries amongst the houses. The ballroom events are a place for openly gay men (including transgenders, transexuals) to come into an environment where they can feel accepted, feel at home, and show off their “assets” that might not be so celebrated in the straight world. What I mean is, they can dress up and flaunt themselves as women or anything they want to be, and its okay. At the balls, your at home. It’s a safe haven.

Even though I’m a straight female, I’m a huge fan of the vogueing culture. I mean, it is definitely apart of the early days of house music and a lot of the ballroom events play house, so I can’t hate on it. It just wouldn’t be right. I may not be good at the art of vogue, but I still appreciate the culture & love learning the history of it. And Paris Is Burning gave me even more insight on the history of vogue. It was amazing to see the legendary Willi Ninja, the mother of House of Ninja (he passed away in 2006) and hear him explaining how he first got started vogue-ing.

The documentary is absolutely fierce! Of course it focuses on vogue-ing, but the film brings together all aspects of the underground ballroom culture during the 80s. It’s a refreshing look at the Black & Latino gay community in New York during the early 80s, and how the balls were a place for them to feel at home. Of course there was the usual drama & rivalries between the houses, but there was still a sense of community that bonded everyone together.

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