Paris is Burning – 1990 documentary about the Golden Age of NYC Drag Balls

This amazing documentary is available on Youtube and also on Netflix streaming. I highly recommend it.

This film explains the 1980s ball competitions that were in many ways the precursor for what you see today on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The most striking thing is that it appears that this movement was largely created by black and hispanic gay men. These balls meant so much for the community and provided a moment of respite from isolation, poverty, and hardship.

Those of you familiar with Madonna’s Vogue video will be able to see the origins of Voguing here. I now realize why a lot of people in the scene were angry at her appropriation of Voguing when this video first came out. Still, it’s amazing and heartening that gay culture has influenced mainstream culture to a very high degree. This documentary is a time capsule of gay life in the 1980s. We can see how far we have come as a society and unfortunately how much farther we need to go.

Unfortunately most of those featured in the film met unfortunate and sometimes grisly ends with a small exception – maybe. It also got a little weird when upon Upon Dorian Corey’s death they found a mummified human in his apartment that they believe was someone who broke into his apartment. (?!?!) :(

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