Paris is Burning is the definitive documentary that chronicles the intricacies of the then underground drag world. The titular accomplishment makes reference to the goal of making the city of Paris burn by the sheer extravagant display of femininity. Balls, pioneered in the 60s and 70s by previous generations of men with the penchant of dressing in women's clothing, have become quote elaborate affairs as displayed in this 1990 cult classic. The importance of drag queens and the very drag they work so tirelessly to perfect is chronicled through the experiences of a few members of the scene in late 1980s New York. The environment where this community developed was essential to fostering a safe space where predominantly LBTG youth could thrive and commune over their shared interest in breaking gender boundaries. The work of drag queens is steeped in valor and bravery that is a shining leadership to the LTBG community and its supporters.
The film explores the nuances of the verbiage of the ball world. It presents frames with the different terms in bold white over black and proceeds to have the self-proclaimed legends determine how they define these various terms. Subversion of aristocratic ideals by the minorities longing to be accepted into the higher strata of society leads the pack in terms of how this group defines itself. The actors in this documentary spend their days struggling against the oppression that represses their inner identities. Then, they proceed to celebrate aspects of femininity glorified by misogyny in their own subversive way.
The self-expression is both rigidly constructed and absolutely freeing at the same time. This film ultimately documents the way these people deal with the dichotomy of pursuing prescribed misogynistic female traditions and concurrently shattering perceptions of these same outdated and suffocating norms.