Through the viewing of the documentary Paris is Burning, I began to understand the context and foundation of what we see drag as today. My only experience with drag had been through RuPaul’s Drag Race around my middle school years. It was not until I had seen the Drag Show that Haven hosts each semester, that I experienced Drag in person. I never understood how much drag related to Muñoz’s ideas of the stage as an escape. After seeing how the people featured in Paris Is Burning would treat the Balls as an escape allowed me to understand drag in a different perspective. Pepper LaBeija said, “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that… it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” This statement relates to the idea that partaking in the Balls helped make the disadvantaged participants feel like they were part of to social elite. A specific thing said in the movie that I remember was that the young people of color would feel like white executives by wearing fancy looking, upper-class clothing. I never had thought of drag outside of the context of pure performance. I didn’t see it as an encouraging place where anyone could be what they wanted to be. Drag used to be something that confused me, but after seeing a Drag Show for myself and watching Paris is Burning I understand that Drag holds an important place for those who feel like they cannot represent who they really want to be outside of a Ball, or the stage itself.
I really latched onto Munoz’s reading this week. Maybe because it was a hopeful reading whereas previous readings have been kind of not hopeful, to say the least. I really enjoyed see pictures of stages and how Munoz described them. All the stages were completely empty- just as they naturally are without interference. My personal rendering of these stages is the utopian that Munoz is describing. It’s there, but it’s not there. Like, the physical stage is there but the ideas that bring the stage to life aren’t shown. I love theater, and I love seeing live performances. A make believe story is brought to life and then ends, until the next play. For example, Munoz visited La Plaza, one of the oldest Latino gay clubs in LA. Munoz describes it as having a country-western feel to it, and being humble. However, as soon as the stage is brought to life the club transforms, and glamorous drag queens take the stage. They created their own utopian and when they finish their show, it’s gone. However, I also think it’s important to think as a utopian as a safe place- one can go there without any fears. In terms of drag shows, you know when you go you enter the world of drag- the outside world does not exist so long as you’re in there (or until the performance is over). In class we defined utopian as “no place and a good place.” I honestly still don’t know why I find this whole idea so amazing. The stage is the greatest Utopian we currently have. Also how could I not add one of my favorite songs as the title when we’re talking about punk culture??
Today in lecture we discussed Munoz’s writing about “stages” and the Utopian performative. This reading really caught my eye to talk about for this blog post because it’s an idea/theory that I’ve never pondered on before. To be honest, when I first read the title and even once I got a good way through the writing, I thought there was only a negative connotation to the idea of “stages”. Munoz touches on this when he explains how the idea of “stages” intersects with unaccepting, or confused parents dealing with their child coming out as homosexual. He writes, “…how they sometimes protect themselves [parents] from the fact of queerness by making it a “stage,” a developmental hiccup, a moment of misalignment that will, hopefully, correct itself or be corrected by savage pseudoscience and coercive religion, sometimes masquerading as psychology.” I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever came out as gay, lesbian, or anything straying from heteronormativity has dealt with this very real “stage”. But I do think that with time this stage will probably/hopefully start to occur less and less, because I am an optimist and hope that queerness will eventually be more accepted. However, not all stages are as somber. We discussed in class how these stages can represent opportunity, the spot light, and performance in a really positive light. There’s opportunity to perform on a stage where you can be yourself and who you are in that moment. Most people are fluid and constantly changes and a stage is a snapshot or performance of ones self at a particular time, but not permanent. Punk/ queer people intersect with their ability to not conform to societal norms, and I think that’s why Munoz picked these two subcultures and expanded on the idea of using a stage to “perform” and aim for this utopia. I overall thought that he was saying there are stages in which queer/punk men perform/go through, aiming to reach this idea of a true utopian performativity, although all stages may not be perfect. I feel like this reading could have been interpreted many different ways, so please let me know what you guys think, am I way off??
The Munoz reading really took my eye this week for a blog post. The “it’s just a phase” movement by delusional parents has no only affected myself, but countless other approval-seeking coming of age youths. While that example caught my eye, I found the idea of how one stages a utopia to be more intriguing. In his work Munoz says, “Utopia is not prescriptive; it renders potential blueprints of a world not quite here, a horizon of possibility, not a fixed schema. It is productive to think about utopia as flux, a temporal disorganization, as a moment when the here and the now is transcended by a then and a there that could be and indeed should be.” It made me develop the linkage between the delusion unknowing parents craft when dealing with wild queer youths and such. It’s only a hypotheses but I believe that the notion that Munoz was intentionally grabbing at is that we should focus more on the manner in which we script and cast our version of Utopia and how some utopias while different, could prove dissatisfactory for others. At least in the situation regarding discouraging parents and the notion of the “its just a phase”. Additionally, I enjoy the other idea that he presents pertaining to the temporality, spatial, and potentiality of one’s utopia. It goes without saying that everyone’s utopia is different however, not everyone consciously constructs their utopia in the same mentality. That mentality being the conscious crafting of one’s utopia while incorporating the philosophical yet realistic aspects that could prompt a more accurate Utopia. Do you feel the same way? Or am I just a nut who is reading way into a reading?