Living in this generation where marriage equality is a thing, where a show like RuPaul’s Drag Race is a mega hit show that people across the sexuality spectrum adore, it’s almost hard to imagine a time before Stonewall. A time in which drag was illegal, let alone being ‘gay’. Perhaps the scariest part of all is that while it seems like such a long time ago, really it was just under 50 years ago that all of this was still very much the norm. In this way it’s almost poignant to see this story all these years later when, the world seems so different and yet, so similar all the same. The prejudices of this time have hardly abated, but they seem sometimes quieter now.
Two decades before Paris is Burning, the New York drag scene was documented in the 1960’s (before Stonewall) in a documentary called the Queen. It’s an amazing and surprisingly positive look at the LGBT community from 1968, and considering the time frame in which the documentary takes place there’s a certain calm sensibility all things considered. When we think of that time in comparison to now there’s a very clear image we have of Pre-Stonewall America, and yet, in this little slice of Americana you would almost think it was from a totally different era.
Of the two films, Paris is Burning is the more well known, however one of the most iconic scenes in queer cinema did take place in the film the Queen (as seen below).
Overall this was a fabulous film that I’m thrilled I was able to see, I love getting to experience things that I probably would not have otherwise, and getting to see classic queer cinema like this is so important to our history and our understanding of where we come from.