Monday, December 22, 2008

Paris Is Burning

Image via The New York Times.

The Times recently published a tribute to Ball culture at Club Remix. This was especially a tribute to Willi Ninja, who made voguing look so good even Madonna was in. (Watch his SHOULDERS in this video. The man is incredible.)

We watched Paris is Burning, the documentary of the Ball scene. This was my parents' New York: the mid-eighties, gay culture influencing everything trendy and exciting and getting remarkably little credit for it.

Now Willi Ninja's successor Benny Ninja is featured on America's Next Top Model, training girls like Isis to strike a pose.

It's not a perfect world - certainly the documentary hits issues that are alarmingly resonant in 2008, and the ending is deeply sad. But the fact that the people who were playing dream roles in underground clubs are on television strutting their stuff - well, TV isn't the be-all, end-all, but it's publicly viewed and accepted. And modern choreographers, dancers, actors, etc. are more likely to be open about their sexuality, without fear of ruining their careers (I hope). It's not as much progress as I wish we'd had in the twenty years since this documentary was released (the homeless man on my subway tonight still used the words "the virus" to describe his condition), but it's something.

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