What You Need To Know:
(L, SSS, AC, PN) Roughly 7 or 8 obscenities, couple of profanities; the film promotes homosexual lifestyle--all actors are homosexual; and, some nudity (homosexual men with breast augmentation).
Unbelievably sordid and despicably evil best describe the documentary film PARIS IS BURNING that deals with homosexual “Voguing” and the drag balls of Harlem. The film, with its excellent craftsmanship and cinematography along with its unusual subject, claims two other distinctions as well: Winner of the 1990 L. A. Film Critics Award for Best Documentary and 1991 Sundance Festival Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary.
Partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the film, set in New York City, traces the origins of both Voguing and the Harlem drag balls. According to director Jennie Livingston, “The Black and Latino gay men that participate in the balls are people excluded from the mainstream in every way–by virtue of race, class and sexual orientation–yet their whole subculture is based on imitating the very people who exclude them: the schoolboys and schoolgirls, the executives, the military men, the models,” so the balls are a “response to homophobia and racism, yet are full of optimism and spirit.”
Throughout the film, a series of commentators like Pepper Labeija, Head of the House of Labeija, offer continuous information about Voguing and ball contestants and categories. Watching these commentators (some are transvestites repeatedly daubing at their heavily layered makeup and exhibiting forced, stilted mannerisms, while others pridefully boast that they have the best “mother” and the best “House” because their “mother” will do anything for them), is to put it mildly, revolting. In one utterly despicable scene, we are treated to these grown, homosexual “children” (THEIR TERM) nursing from their homosexual House “mother’s” augmented breasts.
Voguing, it turns out, is a dance invented by Black and Latino homosexual men that combines poses struck by fashion models with acrobatic spins and dips. Some of the moves have been inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics. Others involve a style called pantomime voguing where the voguer enacts a little drama or story with his hands and feet.
Voguing began in New York’s nightclubs and parks and on the street, and the voguers themselves formed “Houses,” patterned after fashion designers or media images, and use the balls to compete against one another for trophies.
At the time PARIS IS BURNING was filmed, most of the balls took place in Harlem, but with their growing popularity, many have moved downtown. Each ball is made up of various categories which resemble the divisions of a fashion show (Swimwear, Eveningwear, Sportswear). Some of the more popular categories are Voguing, Town and Country, Executive Realness, Upcoming Pretty Girl, Face, Body (Luscious, Model-type, or Muscular), and Model’s Effect, although there are numerous other categories as well.
The world of these homosexual balls and the contestants that participate in them turns out to be nearly unbelievable. Dressed in costume to suit their category, each of these contestants seems phony and unreal. In fact, it’s difficult to tell where the pose of being a contestant at a ball ends and the homosexual individual’s actual life takes over. Repeatedly, the contestants state their aim: to look straight, to look like a real woman or a real man. For example, in the Venus category, a contestant announces gleefully as she goes undetected as a male (the judges even feel the facial skin for smoothness): “I don’t feel there’s anything mannish about me.” A hard-to-describe sense of evil pervades this film and repels as one observes these terribly mixed-up, lost, and confused individuals. Finally, we have the distinct impression that these are hollow, empty individuals, possessed by another, evil personality.
Throughout PARIS IS BURNING, the camera frequently leaves the balls and eavesdrops on homosexuals in their daily lives. One extremely distressing segment focuses on two fifteen-year-old boys on New York’s streets who are being lured into the homosexual lifestyle. Because they are bereft of parental guidance, the homosexuals assure them they will love them and care for them. Such scenes as this one show how the film will be used to educate its audience.
Seeing PARIS IS BURNING (named after an original ball) affected the reviewer to the point of nausea. Not only was it revolting and distressing to observe the wretched lifestyles of formerly unacceptable-to-society homosexuals paraded in all their glory on the screen, but it is also sobering to realize that this is an educational film, one that promotes the homosexual way of life as a viable lifestyle for young people.
Of course, as Christians, we know God detests homosexuality: “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones…the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (Romans 1:26, 27). However, we also realize that we are to hate the sin but love the sinner, which is not always easy to do.
What impressed the reviewer about the individuals espousing the homosexual lifestyle in PARIS IS BURNING was their unhappiness with their own identity, and their desire to be someone else–hence, the poses and affectations at the balls. One contestant says wistfully: “In the ballroom you can be anything you want, a business man, a military general, or a schoolgirl; but you need to be ‘real.'”
Perhaps saddest of all is the desire for these homosexual ball contestants to be “real,” to be, in reality, the sex and the person they desire to be. As one extremely feminine, diminutive homosexual who dresses as a woman and hustles for a living, remarks: ” Hopefully, in the near future, I’ll be a full-fledged woman.” He was murdered a short time after completion of the film.
At present, however, these individuals live in an unreal, illusory world, not possessing a sense of identity; they are held in bondage by their master, Satan. We need to pray for them to come to know Christ’s love for them, for only His love can set them free from posing and voguing.