Gender, Race, Class - Steven Schacht
“When gay black men convincingly present themselves as successful business executives....it throws into question some of our society’s more fundamental values and corresponding realities.”
This distorts reality by completely destroying the categories that define us as people and the world around us. While in reality many of these contestants are gay black men, when at the balls and dressed to the nines, they are straight white women. In this way, Paris Is Burning is able to entirely turn upside down the system of categorization that normative society is based on.
“That which was previously thought of as so meaningful is shown to be nothing more than a charade and farce. If men can be women, black can be white, the poor can be rich and gays can be straight, then the necessity and inevitability of these boundaries becomes suspect.”
This is part of the reason why Paris Is Burning is able to put audiences reality into question, because while showing the contestants “realness”, the audience begin to question their own “realness”. Because of this, the documentary is able to entirely break down the hierarchical structure that our cultural norms are based on, blurring the lines between not only gender, but also social classes. If someone, who by culture norms is an outcast, can perfectly imitate someone who is accepted by society, then are they accepted by society? If society can’t recognize that they’re an outcast, then they aren’t anymore. And therefore, cultural norms are essentially nonexistent.