Goldie Sirkis 11/6/12
Code and Language: Professor Gorin Date Due: 11/7/12
Dressing for Success?
In the film “Paris is Burning” by Jenny Livingston and in the article “Virtuality and Its Discontents,” by Sherry Turkle, we are introduced to a “subculture” that at one time was not openly discussed as we didn’t want children to be influenced by a “different type of behavior.” This “subculture” represents some of the many individuals who have given up on society because they have been rejected by society because of their strange, lonely existence (virtual discontents). Some also belong to minority groups such as African American and Latino gay/lesbian community who are already at a disadvantage and have joined with their peers in order to cope with society’s rejection.
There are similarities in the film “Paris Is Burning” to the article “Virtuality and Its Discontents” in that the article discusses the virtual world and those who escape to this virtual world through their computer screen. These people fantasize of being someone else, or of being somewhere else. They find it difficult to cope in the real world. They are also misunderstood by society as either psychopaths or predators who can be harmful to society. In the film, “Paris is Burning,” the African American and Latino gay subculture are also fantasizing, of becoming successful because the real world they have to live in does not offer them anything. They escape to their fashion balls to feel important. They don’t hurt anyone, yet they are misunderstood by society.
Additionally, the “discontents” referred to in Turkle’s article are the individuals who hate how society has treated them and therefore use the internet as a way of voicing their opposition to it. In the same way, “Paris is Burning” shows the gay subculture also as discontents of society because of the prejudice against them. Their only outlet is to play act as show girls or models at their fashion balls. It is interesting to note that in this film any of them put on the fanciest clothes or dream of being rich which reflects mainstream society. Yet, they are against this society of luxury because they can’t afford it unless they stole the clothes or spend their entire paycheck on those clothes.
On the other hand, “Virtuality and Its Discontents” is very different than “Paris is Burning.” “Virtuality” deals with cyberspace. “Paris is Burning” deals with humans. In Virtuality, there is an escape and you can live in this virtual world when you come home from work. Paris however features those of us who do not work a regular job other than possibly show girls or male models for gay magazines. At the end of the day, they gay/lesbians are still outcasts of society and their communication with the outside world involves taunts and harassment from “straight” people. At night, they join their peers at their own clubs, bars and fashion shows where they feel accomplished.
It is also interesting that the “subculture” in Paris claim that they are treated badly by society, yet they do not treat each other well within their own competitive environment. I also disagree with comments made by the African American and Latino gays that they are not accepted by the “straight”, White society and therefore they feature a businessman category at their fashion shows. They can at least think they are businessmen. Since the 1980’s, there has been greater acceptance of gays and lesbians since many of their talents including their artistic dance movements were showcased in Madonna’s “I’m Breathless” album in the late 1980s.
The American society has come a long way in understanding the “discontents” of these two subcultures. It is important to keep open communication with these individuals in the hope that they will possibly take on a positive attitude towards society and therefore society as a whole will benefit.