Film Quarterly - Gary Hentzi
“What could be more paradoxical then a subculture that celebrates the fanatically precise imitation of the mainstream?”
In this quote from his review Gary Hentzi is questioning the nature of the balls and the concepts on which they are judged. The balls, judged based on “realness” create a sort of paradox through this. This subculture is worshipping the very social norms that have betrayed them and excluded them from mainstream society to begin with. And through this, we must question whether or not this actually moves the gay community a step backwards. Because although they created their own culture and identity through the balls, they are still yearning to conform to societal norms.
“Now the ultimate measure of success is to be able to walk out of a ball and into the crowd on the street without being identified and bashed”
This leads us to question the societal norms that we, as a mainstream society, live by because of how easily these norms can be imitated. If anyone can walk into public and believably be something their not, then in theory the cultural norms that we live by mean nothing.
“This is not a gay equivalent of passing, but rather a way of refining ones difference from the mainstream to the point where the signs of that different have been totally effaced and it assumes a kind of real existence.”
This brings into question not only the reality that we, as the audience, live in, but also the reality that these ball contestants know. The “realness” leads us to wonder about society’s reality of these stereotypes and, subsequently, gender roles. If a man can impersonate a woman so perfectly, then where does the line between male and female really lie? If a man walks out into public dressed as a woman, and everyone believes that he is a woman, then is he a woman? This brings the audience to question whether we are defined by the way we are perceived.
“The irony is that the very real experience of difference should help to create a disguise so immaculate that nothing remains but the in-joke of one’s private knowledge.”
Similar to the last quote, this leads us to question whether we are defined by how we are perceived. In the end, it’s only the person themself who knows who and what they are. Outwardly, they are defined by the society’s perception of them. But if that perception is wrong, then what really are we? And do these norms we’re judging people by really exist if they’re so easily twisted?